Many of us decorate our fall tables and porches with squash and pumpkins, but did you know these “winter squashes” have tremendous health benefits?
Acorn, spaghetti and butternut squash and pumpkin are considered “super foods” because they contain large amounts of fiber and vitamins, specifically A and C. Many also have the important minerals of calcium, potassium and magnesium, along with Vitamin B. Winter squash also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, and for that reason may help in the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Early studies also suggest that vegetables in this family may block the formation of cholesterol in cells and help regulate blood sugar levels. And on the diet front, spaghetti squash – which resembles pasta when cooked – is a good low-carb substitute for spaghetti. And pumpkin seeds are a rich source of plant-based protein.
You can use winter squash in a variety of ways:
- Puree it and add it to soups and pasta dishes. Squash can be a great filling for lasagna or ravioli. Chop squash into tiny pieces and “hide” it in your regular spaghetti sauce. You’ve added “invisible” vegetables to the mix. (We promise not to tell your kids.)
- Steam cubes of squash for only about 7 minutes for a quick side dish that’s still filled with vitamins. (Remember that cooking veggies too long in water can remove important nutrients.)
- Stuff squash with other healthy ingredients for a savory side dish or meal. Acorn squash is great with apples and other fruits. Many types of squash can be filled with rice and low-fat stuffing or sausage mixtures.
- Remember, these kinds of squash have hard skins. So be careful when cutting them.