Health & Nutrition

February 1, 2013

Winter Squash Health Benefits

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Winter Squash Health Benefits
Photo by Amy Ross.

Guest Post by Lisa Masé, of Harmonized Cookery

Winter is here! Now is the time to savor sweet, earthy foods like winter squash, a versatile vegetable that warms our whole being and helps our bodies rejuvenate.  Squash is available in a variety of colors and flavors; however, it is the deep orange color that reminds us of the brilliant sun under which it grew all summer long.

Health Benefits

This power-packed member of the cucurbitae family offers a great deal of dietary fiber, folate, vitamin C, and beta-carotene; all of which are essential to cardio-vascular health.  Although all varieties of squash provide good nutrients, it is the winter squash that is considered nutrient dense.  Nutrient dense foods generally contain more vitamins or minerals, and winter squash is packed with more beta-carotene and B vitamins than summer squash.

winter squash and beta-carotene

Due to its high anti-oxidant content, winter squash has the anti-inflammatory capacity to soothe the nervous and digestive systems, thereby easing joint pain, soothing the stomach, and reducing stress.

Common varieties of winter squash include:

  • Acorn: this orange, acorn-shaped squash has a nutty, slightly peppery flavor. It goes well as a stuffing for dumplings – just add a little nutmeg!
  • Butternut squash: this delicious, pear-shaped squash has cream-colored skin orange flesh and keeps longer than most other varieties. It is excellent roasted with turmeric and cinnamon or baked and puréed into soup.
  • Delicata: this oblong variety is yellow with green stripes. Possibly the sweetest of all squashes, it speaks for itself! Easy to slice when raw, it is terrific when cut in half length-wise, de-seeded and roasted with vegetable oil. After baking it, you can stuff it with cooked rice and almonds to create a simple, grounding meal.
  • Hubbard: this larger squash that can be dark green, grey-blue or orange-red in color. Its flavor is less sweet than other varieties, so it pairs well with spices such as cumin, coriander, and chili.
  • Turban: Green in color and either speckled or striped, this winter squash has an orange-yellow flesh whose taste is reminiscent of hazelnuts.
  • Kabocha: this Japanese heirloom variety is dense, sweet, and wonderful for pie. It has deep green skin and orange flesh.
  • Pumpkin: this sweet variety of squash is just as delicious in soup as it is in baked goods. Choose one that is heavy for its size and remember to save and toast the seeds!

Cooking Squash

Because of its thick skin and dense interior, raw squash can be hard to chop. One easy way to cook squash is to place it on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 45 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove it from the oven. Peel and de-seed to enjoy in soup, risotto, custard, or on its own.

Seeds from winter squash also make a great snack food, just like pumpkin seeds.  Simply, scoop the pulp and seeds, separate, place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and lightly roast them at 150 degrees for 15 minutes.

Rich in nutrients and so versatile try one of these winter squash recipes from Harmonized Cookery:

Source information:

  • Bland, Jeffrey S. et al. (1999). Clinical Nutrition: a Functional Approach. Gig Harbor, WA: Institute of Functional Medicine.
  • Whitney, Eleanor Noss., & Rolfes, Sharon Rady. (2011). Understanding Nutrition. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.
  • Wood, Rebecca. (2010). The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia. Penguin Books.

About Lisa Mase

Lisa is a whole foods cooking educator, food writer, translator, and herbalist living between Italy, Vermont, and New Mexico. She tailors shopping lists and recipes, to meet her clients’ current needs and to focus on healing foods. She specializes in foods that are free of gluten, dairy and sugar and taste terrific!

She may be contacted through her website Harmonized Cookery.

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