What Is Acorn Squash Good For?

Amazing Acorn Squash
Botanical name: Cucurbita pepo var. turbinate

Acorn Squash Nutrition Facts

The squash (Cucurbita) genus is a diverse family of vegetables that are used for human and livestock consumption. Depending on the species, they can grow anywhere from 18 to 30 inches in length and come in a variety of shapes. The surfaces may be smooth, ridged or scalloped as well.1

You’re probably familiar with (and have eaten) squashes such as zucchini and pumpkin before. But there are more varieties out there that must be explored and recognized. One such example is acorn squash, which offers a different flavor than other squashes, but is just as healthy.

What Is Acorn Squash?

Acorn squash (Cucurbita pepo var. turbinata) is a plant native to the Americas. Historians believe that acorn squash was first cultivated by the Native Americans, making it part of the “Three Sisters,” which are the three most important crops (which include beans and corn) in their culture.2

One of the most distinguished features of acorn squash is its appearance. It has a dark green skin, but there may be harvests that have blotches of green and orange. The name is derived from the fact that the shape looks like an acorn.3

Health Benefits of Acorn Squash

Acorn squash contains a rich mixture of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants working together to help benefit your health. Some notable examples include:

Boosting the Immune System: Acorn squash is rich in vitamin C, which is one of the most important nutrients that can help boost your immune system.4

Taking sufficient amounts of it may help stimulate the production of white blood cells to defend your body from foreign contaminants.5

Promoting Healthy Vision: Consuming acorn squash may help maintain healthy vision, as it contains generous amounts of vitamin A (514 IUs per cup).6

This nutrient has been linked with reduced oxidative stress in the eyes, which may help promote better eyesight.7

Promoting Skin Health: Aside from promoting eye health, vitamin A may also help keep your skin in optimal condition.

According to The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, vitamin A may help prevent skin damage caused by ultraviolet light (photoaging).8

Boosting Digestive Health: A single-cup serving of acorn squash already contains 2.1 grams of dietary fiber.9 This can help promote digestive health by adding bulk to your stools, thereby promoting regular waste elimination.

As a result, the risk for common digestive problems such as constipation and diarrhea are reduced.10

Regulating Blood Pressure: Acorn squash contains potassium (in fact, 486 milligrams in a single cup11) that acts as a vasodilator.

This means that potassium may help relax blood vessels and arteries, which may lower the stress in your cardiovascular system.12

Building Strong Bones: A total of 46 milligrams of calcium is found in a cup of acorn squash,13 which may help build strong bones.14

How to Cook and Prepare Acorn Squash

Before you are able to cook acorn squash, you will need to know how to prepare it. To begin cutting an acorn squash, you will need to use a chef’s knife or another heavy-duty knife with some weight.15

Start slicing on one side of the stem while cutting straight through the squash. Continue this motion all the way down until you don’t encounter resistance and you’ve reached the hollow portion. Afterward, pull apart the squash with your hands. From there, you can prepare the squash as you see fit.16

While baking acorn squash is one of the most popular ways to prepare it, there are other culinary options, as long as you have the imagination. Some ideas you can try include:17

  • Soup: Chop up the flesh of acorn squash to create a broth, or puree it for a creamy texture.
  • Casserole: Place acorn squash into a lasagna, or add it into your favorite casserole recipe.
  • Salad: Mix chunks of acorn squash flesh with your salads to create new flavors.

Another reason to cook acorn squash is because of its high lectin content. Lectins are sugar-binding plant proteins that attach to cell membranes, which can negatively affect your health, such as causing leaky gut syndrome. Cooking acorn squash properly lowers the amount of lectins in squash and reduces its health risks, while simultaneously helping you gain the nutrients that may actually promote better well-being.

Keto-Friendly Roasted Acorn Squash Recipe

This recipe by Paleo Leap, which is very easy to make, can introduce you to new flavors that may soon become a staple in your diet. Not to mention it also contains healthy fat, making it a keto-friendly dish.18

Keto Friendly Roasted Acorn Squash Recipe

Ingredients:

2 acorn squashes

3 tablespoons of clarified butter, tallow or coconut oil

2 onions, thinly sliced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground

1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

 

 

Procedure:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cut each squash in half but keep the seeds intact. Place the cut ends on a baking sheet then roast for an hour to tenderize the flesh. Remove the squashes from the oven let them cool for a few minutes.
  3. In a skillet, sauté the onions using the cooking fat of your choice over medium heat. Cook for 10 minutes until the onions begin to be golden brown.
  4. Add the garlic, coriander, nutmeg, salt and pepper, then continue cooking for another two minutes.
  5. Remove the seeds then spoon out the tender flesh. Discard the skin. Mash up the flesh and add it to the skillet with the other ingredients. Mix well until the flavors blend.

Acorn Squash: Nutritional Facts

Acorn squash is rich in vitamins A and C, as well as being a low-calorie food. However, one drawback of this vegetable is its high carbohydrate content. While acorn squash is nutritious, consuming too much of it may eventually have negative effects on your health due to the carbohydrates being converted to sugars. When eating, always ensure that your servings are calculated appropriately. The table below provides a good overview on what to expect when eating acorn squash: 19

Squash, winter, acorn, raw

Serving Size: 1 cup — 140 g
  Amt. Per
Serving
% Daily
Value*
Calories 56.0 3%
Calories from Fat 1.2  
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0.0g 0%
Trans Fat    
Cholesterol 0.0mg 0%
Sodium 4.2mg 0%
Total Carbohydrates 14.6g 5%
Dietary Fiber 2.1g 8%
Sugar    
Protein 0g 0%
Vitamin A 514 IU 10%
Calcium 46.2mg 5%
Vitamin C 15.4mg 26%
Iron 1.0mg 5%

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

Possible Side Effects of Acorn Squash

Squash is safe to eat for most people, and can be enjoyed as a part of a healthy diet. However, be sure to estimate your servings accordingly. As you can see in the image posted above, a single cup already contains 14.6 grams of carbohydrates. If you’re on a ketogenic diet, consuming too much acorn squash may throw you off ketosis. Consuming smaller portions may be better in this regard.

Give Acorn Squash a Try and You Might Just Like It

If you haven’t tried acorn squash before, now is the perfect opportunity to do so. Aside from being nutritious, it also offers a different flavor than other squashes. What’s more, it’s easy to prepare and you can even eat the skin.20 But before anything else, make sure that your acorn squash comes from a reputable organic grower to help you lower your risk of ingesting dangerous contaminants that can potentially harm your health.

Frequently Asked Questions About Acorn Squash

Q: Can you eat acorn squash skin?

A: Yes, it’s possible to eat the skin of acorn squash if it is roasted, braised or simmered, depending on your needs.21

Q: What does acorn squash taste like?

A: Acorn squash is described to have a mild, buttery taste.22

Q: How can you tell if acorn squash is ripe?

A: Ripe acorn squashes have a dark green appearance, as well as a hard skin. In addition, the stem attached to the fruit will become withered.23