The Healthy Spaghetti
Botanical name: Cucurbita pepo
Spaghetti squash possesses an uncanny resemblance to spaghetti strands when cooked, and for this reason is known as vegetable spaghetti, noodle squash, vegetable marrow, and squaghetti.
Spaghetti squash is a long, oblong vegetable that measures between 8 and 14 inches in length, weighs 2 to 3 pounds, and has flesh with a very pale yellow color.1 It is a variety of the winter squash and has a mild taste similar to pasta.2 This squash variety is often used as a healthful substitute for pasta due to its low carbohydrate levels.3
Spaghetti squash originated in China.4 In 1921, it was introduced to Japan by a Chinese agricultural research firm and was brought to the United States fifteen years later. It was commonly planted during World War II but only gained popularity in the late 20th century.
Spaghetti squash can be added to a variety of dishes, such as soups and stews, or eaten raw. When served as “spaghetti,” it can be topped with a wide variety of pasta sauces.
The best spaghetti squash possesses a deep yellow color. An unripe spaghetti squash will be marred with green marks and is best avoided. It can be stored at room temperature for several weeks.5
Health Benefits of Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash is nutritionally superior to regular pasta, which doesn’t contain any vitamin and has a very limited nutritional content. This versatile squash6 contains about 457 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A and 52 percent of vitamin C,7 which can help prevent free radical damage to cells. Other antioxidants found in this squash variety are beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which are all linked to healthy vision and optimal eye health.
Spaghetti squash is also rich in the B vitamins riboflavin, niacin, and thiamin, which promote optimal cellular function.8 Folate is also found in this bright-colored vegetable. Folate supports the formation and development of new cells and may help prevent birth defects, making this squash an ideal food for pregnant women. This nutrient can also help filter out homocysteine from your blood and promote cardiovascular health.
Potassium, a mineral that maintains proper muscle and nerve function, is also present in spaghetti squash, making it helpful for people with high blood pressure. Manganese, a mineral that assists in bone and tissue heath, metabolism, calcium absorption, and nerve function, is another key component.9 Spaghetti squash also contains the essential minerals calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc.
Another reason to consume spaghetti squash is for its omega-3 and omega-6 fats content. Omega-3 fats are associated with the prevention of inflammation, which may cause heart disease, arthritis, and certain types of cancer. On the other hand, omega-6 fats are linked to proper brain function. It is critical to maintain the ideal 1:1 ratio of these fats.
Spaghetti Squash Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 100 grams of spaghetti squash
Amt. Per Serving
Studies on Spaghetti Squash
One study10 screened the seed extracts of spaghetti squash to detect the presence of phytochemicals, such as alkaloids, saponins, tannins, phlobatannins, steroids, glycosides, and terpenoids. To extract the spaghetti squash, solvents like methanol, chloroform, acetone, benzene, and petroleum ether were used. When tested against microbial strains such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Proteus vulgaries, Staphylococcus aureus, and Escherichia coli, it was found that extracts derived with methanol and acetone showed the most potent antimicrobial properties.
Spaghetti Squash Healthy Recipes: Spaghetti Squash with Wicked Good Sauce
- 1 spaghetti squash, about 3 pounds
- ¾ to 1 cup of wicked good sauce (recipe as follows)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Wash the spaghetti squash, then poke with fork or metal skewer in about six places. Place in shallow baking pan with sides.
- Bake for 90 minutes or until fork tender. Allow the squash to cool for about 10 minutes, then transfer it to the cutting board. Cut it in half, lengthwise. Remove the seeds and pulp with a large spoon or an ice cream scoop, then discard. Using a fork, rake the flesh onto a large platter or bowl to create the spaghetti-like strands.
- Tosh the squash with the Wicked Good Sauce and serve warm.
Wicked Good Sauce Ingredients:
- ¼ medium-sized onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ teaspoon minced ginger
- ¼ green bell pepper
- 1 Tbsp. almond butter
- 1 Tbsp. tamari soy sauce
- ½ cup of water (or more)
- 2 Tbsp. chopped celery leaves
- 2 Tbsp. toasted pumpkin seeds
- Sauté onion in oil with the whole garlic. When the onion is tender, smash the garlic with a fork. Add the ginger and bell pepper and cook gently a minute more.
- Stir in the almond butter and tamari, and then add the water and celery leaves. Stir the mixture until smooth, then simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin seeds and heat through.
Note: This recipe makes four servings.
(From: Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type by Dr. Mercola)
Spaghetti Squash Fun Facts
Both pasta and spaghetti squash have low amounts of fat, salt, and fiber. However, pasta has over 100 calories, while spaghetti squash has only about 20 calories, is richer in protein, and has far fewer carbs than pasta’s 31 grams. Creating vegetable spaghetti from spaghetti squash is simple. First, cut the squash in half, lengthwise. Remove the seeds and place the squash side down in a glass container or dish with about ¼ to ½ inch of water. Either boil or bake the two squash halves until they’re tender.
Scrape a fork across the baked flesh to separate it into pasta-like strands. Serve this as you will any pasta and use any type of pasta sauce – such as an oil-based one – over the top. You may also sprinkle some parmesan cheese for added flavor.
Spaghetti squash is not only low in carbohydrates but is also rich in antioxidants, such as vitamins A and C, B-vitamins, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and essential minerals. It also contains the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6, and has potent antimicrobial properties. It is a guiltless treat and definitely a better choice than your regular pasta.
Aside from serving as a substitute to pasta, this squash variety can also be roasted and eaten by itself, added to casseroles and even included in desserts.
- 1 QA International Collectif, The Visual Food Encyclopedia, p.79
- 2 Journal Gazatte& Times-Courier, February 17, 2014
- 3 FabFood, February 5, 2010
- 4 eHow.com, What Is the Origin of the Spaghetti Squash
- 5 University of Illinois Extension Family Nutrition, Spaghetti Squash (PDF)
- 6 SFGate, Nutrition of Spaghetti Squash vs. Pasta
- 7 Jillian Michaels, Butternut Squash vs. Spaghetti Squash
- 8 New Health Guide, Spaghetti Squash Nutrition
- 9 Chef Cathy the Nutritionist, March 4, 2013
- 10 International Journal of Science and Research, March 2014;3(3):2319-7064 (PDF)