Winter squash : nutrition, amazing 2 medical uses & tips

musky winter squashes 61289 1920

(Acorn, butternut, Hubbard, spaghetti squash)
See also Pumpkin.

Winter Squash Nutritional Profile

• Energy value (calories per serving): Low
• Protein: Moderate
• Fat: Low
• Saturated fat: Low
• Cholesterol: None
• Carbohydrates: High
• Fiber: High
• Sodium: Low
• Major vitamin contribution: Vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C
• Major mineral contribution: Potassium

How Much  Nutrients in This Food

• Winter squash has sugar, some fiber (mostly gums and some pectins, with a bit of cellulose), a little protein and fat, and no cholesterol.

• All winter squash are hard-skinned but they come in different shapes and colors. Acorn squash is round, ribbed, and green. Spaghetti squash is round and creamy. Hubbard is bumpy and orange. Butternut looks like a yellow-orange gourd, broad at the bottom, with a narrow neck.

• An average one-half cup serving of orange/yellow baked winter squash cubes has 3 g dietary fiber, 5,354 IU vitamin A (2.3 times the RDA for a woman, 1.8 times the RDA for a man), 29 mcg folate (7 percent of the RDA), and 9.8 mg vitamin C (13 percent of the RDA for a woman, 11 percent of the RDA for a man).

• However, the vitamin A content of winter squash varies enormously depending on the variety of squash.

How To Serve Nutritious This Food

• Ounce for ounce, baked winter squash has more vitamin A than boiled squash because in boiling the squash absorbs water that displaces some of the nutrients.

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How To Buying This Food

Look for:

Firm, heavy squash is smooth and unblemished skin. Acorn squash should have a wide-ribbed, dark green shell. The longer the squash is stored, the more orange it will become as its green chlorophyll pigments fade and the yellow carotenes underneath show through.

• Butternut squash should be a smooth, creamy brown or yellow. Hubbard squash has a ridged and bumpy orange red shell flecked with dark blue or gray. Spaghetti squash is smooth and yellow.

• If the squash is sliced, the flesh inside should be smooth and evenly colored.

 How To Storing This Food

• Store winter squash in a cool, dry cabinet to protect its vitamins A and C. Squash stores well. Hubbards, for example, may stay fresh for up to six months, acorn squash for three to six months.

• Do not refrigerate winter squash. Winter squash stored at cold temperatures convert their starches to sugars.

How To Preparing This Food

• Wash the squash and bake it whole, or cut it in half or in quarters (or smaller portions if it is very large), remove the stringy part and the seeds, and bake or boil. Baking is the more nutritious method since it preserves the most nutrients.

What Happens When You Cook This Food

• When you bake a squash, the soluble food fibers in its cell walls dissolve and the squash gets softer. Baking also caramelizes and browns sugars on the cut surface of the squash, a process you can help along by dusting the squash with brown sugar.

• If you bake the squash long enough, the moisture inside its cells will begin to evaporate and the squash will shrink.

• When you boil squash, its starch granules absorb water molecules that cling to the amylose and amylopectin, molecules inside, making the starch granules (and the squash) swell.

• If the granules absorb enough water they will rupture, releasing the moisture inside and once again the squash will shrink.

• Neither baking nor boiling reduces the amount of vitamin A in squash since the carotenes that make squash yellow are impervious to the normal heat of cooking. Vitamin C, on the other hand, is heat-sensitive. Cooked squash has less vitamin C than raw squash does.

How Other Kinds of Processing Affect This Food


According to the USDA, canned “pumpkin” may be a mixture of pumpkin and other yellow-orange winter squash, all of which are similar in nutritional value.

winter squash
winter squash

Amazing Medical Uses and/or Benefits

Lower risk of some birth defects.

As many as two of every 1,000 babies born in the United States each year may have cleft palate or a neural tube (spinal cord) defect due to their mothers’ not having gotten adequate amounts of folate during pregnancy.

• The current RDA for folate is 180 mcg for a woman and 200 mcg for a man, but the FDA now recommends 400 mcg for a woman who is or may become pregnant.

• Taking folate supplements before becoming pregnant and continuing through the first two months of pregnancy reduces the risk of cleft palate; taking folate through the entire pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube defects.

Possible lower risk of heart attack.

In the spring of 1998, an analysis of data from the records for more than 80,000 women enrolled in the long-running Nurses’ Health Study at Harvard School of Public Health/Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, demon strated that a diet providing more than 400 mcg folate and 3 mg vitamin B6 daily either from food or supplements, might reduce a woman’s risk of heart attack by almost 50 percent.

• Although men were not included in the study, the results were assumed to apply to them as well.

• However, data from a meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in December 2006 called this theory into question. Researchers at Tulane University examined the results of 12 controlled studies in which 16,958 patients with preexisting cardiovascular disease were given either folic acid supplements or placebos (“look-alike” pills with no folic acid) for at least six months.

• The scientists, who found no reduction in the risk of further heart disease or overall death rates among those taking folic acid, concluded that further studies will be required to ascertain whether taking folic acid supplements reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.


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