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What Is Squash Good For?

The Skinny on Squash
Botanical name: Cucurbita morschata

Squash Nutrition Facts

With names like buttercup, banana, turban, Hubbard, along with various crook-necked and green and white striped varieties, squash is technically a fruit, belonging to the pumpkin family. Squash varieties include butternut (pale orange and keyhole-shaped), acorn (green and squat), Hubbard (green and taller with tiny surface bumps), delicata (pale orange with thin, green horizontal stripes). When selecting, choose one that's heavier, which translates into more edible flesh. All thriving on long trailing vines, squashes have a creamy texture, a luscious, nutty flavor and aroma with just a hint of sweetness.

Baked or steamed in halves or chunks with a pat of butter and salt, skin intact (best in a pan with an inch of water to retain moisture) squash renders a lovely side dish or main attraction paired with a salad. With additions like honey, cinnamon, walnuts, dried fruits, fresh coconut, or orange juice, or with onions, carrots, or other vegetables, it’s easy to see how this plant-based food could open a whole new vista of culinary opportunities. The tough skin is great for storage for up to a few months when stored in a cool, dark place. Once cut, refrigerate unused portion. Butternut squash can be a stand-in substitute for pumpkin in certain recipes.

Health Benefits of Squash

Some vegetables offer different nutrients than others. Some, however, have truly impressive amounts, which is the case with squash: 457% of the daily value per serving in vitamin A - more than pumpkin and possibly more than any other vegetable. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant, essential for good skin, vision, and mucous membranes. What's more, polyphenolic carotenoid/flavonoids such as betacarotenes, cryptoxanthin-ß, and lutein convert to vitamin A in the body for a "one-two punch" of protection. Research reveals that vitamin A may protect against the risk of lung and mouth cancers.

You get a 42% daily value in vitamin C in every cup of squash, providing infection protection, among other things. The potassium and manganese content in squash is good, too, with 17% and 18% daily values respectively, along with healthy amounts of vitamins E, B, B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, niacin, folate, calcium and magnesium, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and pantothenic acid.

Although squash is considered by some to be a starch, not all starch are created equal. Fewer than 15% of the calories in winter squash come from fat, compared with almost 90% of the calories in walnuts, for instance. With winter squash, we have a fantastic anti-inflammatory food opportunity in which we can get a valuable amount of our anti-inflammatory omega-3s. This veggie is also cholesterol-free.

Summer Squash Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
  Amt. Per
Serving
% Daily
Value*
Calories 16  
Calories from Fat 2  
Total Fat 3 g 0%
Saturated Fat 0 g 0%
Trans Fat    
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 2 mg 0%
Total Carbohydrates 3 g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1 g 4%
Sugar 2 g  
Protein 1 g  
Vitamin A 4% Vitamin C 28%
Calcium 1% Iron 2%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie

Studies on Squash

Squash, which has a high level of carotenes per serving, has built-in anti-cancer benefits. While studies show carotenoid concentrations in blood are biomarkers of fruit and vegetable intake offering cancer protection, one study in particular explored a possible association between carotene presence and breast cancer. Researchers concluded that among six carotenes tested, only β-carotene intake was significantly associated with reduced breast cancer risk.1

Squash seeds provide lots of good-for-your-heart dietary fiber and unsaturated fatty acids, along with protein, minerals, and vitamins. Squash seeds also contain tryptophan, an amino acid that converts to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter that concentrates (no pun intended) on motor decision speed.2 The tryptophan in squash seeds also may be crucial in regulating the endocrine pancreas,3 which in turn regulates the blood glucose in the body.

To bake your own squash seeds, separate them from the squash, spread them out on a cookie sheet, and toast them lightly at 160-170°F for 15 to 20 minutes. The low temperature decreases damage to healthy oils like linoleic acid (polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid) and oleic acid - the same non-hydrogenated substance found in olive oil.

Squash Healthy Recipes:
Hazelnut Squash Soup

Squash Healthy Recipes

Ingredients:

1½ cups mashed cooked acorn squash

1 cup finely chopped hazelnuts

½ cup finely chopped onion

1 quart chicken or veggie stock

Salt, to taste

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons sherry (optional)

1 teaspoon white miso

Procedures:

  1. Combine squash, hazelnuts, onion, and stock in saucepan. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in salt to taste, pepper, sherry, and miso. Puree mixture in a food processor and spoon into dishes. Garnish with sour cream if desired. Makes 4 servings.

Note: Hazelnuts are also known as filberts.

(From Recipes for Your Nutritional Type by Dr. Mercola)

Squash Fun Facts

The word "squash" comes from the Narragansett Native American word askutasquash, which means "eaten raw or uncooked." Squash are one of the oldest known crops -10,000 years old according to some estimates, thought to have originated in Mexico, but they may have served as food and water containers for Indian tribes after being hollowed out and dried.

Summary

Beta-carotene is the star in squash, providing powerful antioxidants. The colorful hues in squash and other vegetables hint at this attribute, which is important for blocking and zapping harmful free radical activity. This nutrient turns into vitamin A in the body, which is another desirable benefit for healthy skin, bones, vision, and immunity from disease and infection.

Bake squash with butter, salt, and pepper to get the true essence of this lovely garden offering. It also makes one of the most delicious soups; try it baked and processed with a softened Granny Smith apple, onion, and a large carrot - yum!


References:

  • 1 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22760559, Dietary compared with blood concentrations of carotenoids and breast cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies, Sept. 2012
  • 2 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20512136, More GABA, less distraction: a neurochemical predictor of motor decision speed, Sept. 2012
  • 3 plays a specific role in the regulation of endocrine pancreatic function, Effects of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) and muscimol on endocrine pancreatic function in man, Sept. 2012

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