Don’t Let Your Gourd Down on Your Health

Fall’s bounty includes a wonderful assortment of winter squash. Let’s talk about some of the nutritional benefits of several different types of winter squash.

Acorn Squash
Acorn squash is small, round and has a dull, dark-green rind with orange markings. Generally, avoid choosing acorn squash that has too much orange—they tend to be tougher and more fibrous. Acorn squash has sweet yellow-orange flesh with a mild sweet and nutty flavor that’s perfect for baking, roasting, steaming, sauteing or even microwaving (be sure to pierce the skin first). Store acorn squash for up to 1 month. Acorn squash is rich in fiber, vitamin C, potassium and magnesium. It is particularly rich in plant pigments called carotenoids, which may protect against type 2 diabetes, lung cancer, mental decline and eye-related disorders.
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Buttercup squash
Buttercup squash is dark green with light-green stripes and a protruding lighter gray-green “button” surrounded by a circular scar at the blossom end of the squash. Its bright orange flesh is very mild in flavor and much sweeter than other types of winter squash. Its flesh tends to be dry, so steaming and baking are the best methods for cooking this squash. Store whole buttercup squash for up to 3 months. Buttercup squash is rich in fiber, vitamins A and C as well as magnesium.
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Butternut Squash
One of the most popular types of squash, butternut squash has a creamy, pale orange exterior. (The more orange the skin, the riper, drier and sweeter the flesh will taste.) The easiest way to prepare butternut squash is cut it into two sections—the slim neck and the bulbous, bell-shaped bottom—and handle each separately. Both the skin and the seeds are edible. Whole butternut squash will keep for up to 3 months when stored properly. Butternut squash is rich in fiber, potassium, vitamins A and C and manganese. Because of its high antioxidant content, it may help with anti-inflammatory effects.
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Delicata Squash
This type of squash, also known as Bohemian or sweet potato squash, is cylindrical in shape and features pale-yellow skin with green stripes. Its skin is delicate and edible. When cooked, its orange flesh tastes like sweet potatoes with an earthy flavor. Delicata squash has a rind that’s more delicate than most squash varieties, making it easy to work with. Store whole delicata squash for up to 3 months. Delicata squash is rich in fiber, potassium and vitamin C.
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Hubbard Squash
Large and bumpy, Hubbard squash has very hard orange, green or grey-blue skin, and sweet orange flesh. Because of its size, it’s usually sold pre-cut and seeded. Hubbard squash is best for mashing or pureeing and turning into pie. You can also peel and boil, roast, bake, or steam it. Store it whole for up to six months. Besides containing vitamins A and C, Hubbard squash is rich in potassium, which may assist with blood pressure control, with the exception of those with kidney disease.
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Spaghetti Squash
If you’ve been searching for a low-calorie option to serve in place of pasta, this is it. Spaghetti squash is cylindrical in shape with pale to bright yellow skin (the yellower the skin, the riper the squash). Once cooked, you can scrape the flesh into strings that resemble spaghetti noodles—except they have about 165 fewer calories and 30 fewer grams of carbohydrate per cup. You can store whole spaghetti squash at room temperature for several weeks. Spaghetti squash is a good source of pantothenic acid and a decent source of fiber, vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B6 and niacin.
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