It happens every autumn
It happens every autumn. The air cools, leaves turn brilliant shades of gold and red, and whimsically shaped varieties of winter squash arrive in abundance at farmers’ markets everywhere.
Delicious, sweet, and brimming with vitamins and minerals, these colourful gourds are by far the healthiest pick of the season.
Like carrots and mangoes, winter squash derives its deep orange and yellow flesh tones from the powerful antioxidant beta carotene, which not only fights free radicals, cancer, and heart disease, but may also slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration.
When needed, our body converts beta carotene into vitamin A, which is essential for maintaining a strong immune system, healthy skin, and good vision.
Unlike most fruits and vegetables, winter squash does not lose any of its nutritional value after being picked. The levels of vitamin A in these hardy gourds actually increase during storage.
In addition to beta carotene and vitamin A, winter squash is an excellent source of immune-boosting vitamin C. This heart-healthy vitamin may help lower blood pressure and has been shown in some studies to protect arteries from damage.
Butternut squash in particular is exceptionally high in these two vitamins, providing almost 300 percent of the daily value of vitamin A and close to 50 percent of the daily value of vitamin C.
Potassium and fibre
Winter squash is also a good source of potassium and dietary fibre. Potassium is essential to keep our
hearts, kidneys, muscles, and digestive system functioning properly, while dietary fibre maintains a healthy intestinal tract.
Diets rich in fibre (specifically soluble fibre) have been shown to help reduce cholesterol levels, which may help prevent heart disease and stroke. Evidence from clinical studies also suggests that a high-fibre diet may be helpful in preventing type 2 diabetes as it is thought to lower insulin and blood sugar levels and may improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people who already have the disease.
Containing nearly 6 g of fibre per cup, butternut, Hubbard, turban, and banana squash are great sources of dietary fibre.
Both delicious and nutritious, it’s easy to see why humans have been eating winter squash for over 10,000 years.
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|Squash||Defining Features||How to Cook It|
BAKE IT: cut in half, remove seeds, pierce rind in several places
MICROWAVE IT: pierce rind in several places
GRILL IT: peel, cut lengthwise, and remove seeds
||PURÉE IT: peel, cut lengthwise, and remove seeds
-cut into cubes and boil until tender
-purée cubes in blender
-makes an excellent addition to baked goods
||MICROWAVE IT: pierce rind with a fork in several places
-cook on high for 8 to 10 minutes
-let cool; slice in half lengthwise and remove seeds
-use a fork to twist out strands
||STEAM IT: peel, cut lengthwise, and remove seeds
-cut into cubes or wedges and steam until tender
Save the Seeds
Toasted winter squash seeds are a great, healthy snack. Simply spread them over a cookie sheet, drizzle them in extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and bake at 350 F (180 C) until toasted golden brown (about 15 to 20 minutes). Remember to flip halfway through.