Health benefits of delicious winter squash

Whether baked, boiled or steamed — consider using winter squash as a healthy addition to fall and winter cuisine.

Various kinds of winter squash.
Photo: Flickr/Anewme Meant-tobe.

If you like the taste and texture of summer squash, you’re bound to love the fall harvest varieties that are now available — which include pumpkin, spaghetti squash, acorn squash and butternut squash. Each type exhibits differences in shape, color, size and flavor, but all have shells that are hard and can be more challenging to cut and peel. This allows winter squash to have a longer storage life.

According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, squash provides numerous health benefits that may help reduce the risk of many diseases, such as heart disease and stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer. Squash is a good source of: 

  • Carotenoids (which converts to vitamin A).
  • Protein.
  • Vitamin C.
  • Fiber.
  • Magnesium.
  • Potassium.

Winter squash can be baked, boiled or steamed and is delicious served chunky and sprinkled with coarse salt or whipped with a touch of butter or cream for a rich, smooth side dish. Puréed squash can add a natural sweetness to soups, casseroles and baked goods. The quickest and healthiest way to prepare winter squash is to steam it.

Michigan State University Extension recommends thoroughly rinsing winter squash under running water before it is peeled or cut. If you choose to steam winter squash, make sure it is peeled, the seeds are removed and it is cut into cubes — steaming time takes about seven minutes. If you want to bake your squash, it doesn’t need to be peeled. Remove the ends and cut the squash in half, lengthwise down the middle. Pierce the meat of the squash a few times and bake in a pan until tender. The seeds and the skin can easily be removed after it has been baked.

Don’t forget to save those seeds that are scooped out of your winter squash! Seeds are a healthy and delicious snack food that can be prepared the same way as pumpkin seeds. Separate your seeds from the pulp, lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake at 160 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender.

To learn more about preparing a variety of seasonal produce, visit our Michigan Fresh website for factsheets, recipes and more.

Did you find this article useful?