Winter Squash - A Potpourri of Healthy Goodness
It won’t be long before the grocery store bins’ overflow with a variety of shapes and colors of squash. Butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash are the most common. There are other varieties, which include ambercup, autumncup, banana, buttercup, carnival, delecata, and others. These squash have thick exteriors with yellow to brilliantly orange colored interiors. Generally, they have large seeds inside.
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When considering how to cook winter squash, since the vegetables have a thick outer shell, they are best peeled prior or after cooking. The seeds are removed and can be toasted for a healthy and crunchy snack. Just separate them from the pulp, place them on a cookie sheet with a small amount of some healthy oil, add some salt or other seasoning, and toast in the oven at a low temperature.
Nutritional Value in Winter Squash
Winter squash contains lots of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. In order to preserve the nutritional value of winter squash, it’s important to know how to cook winter squash. It should be cooked at a temperature that softens the flesh gradually, usually 350 degrees fahrenheit.
One serving of winter squash, about one cup, is very low in both fat and cholesterol, but filled with vitamins and minerals. These include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium sodium, zinc, vitamin A, C, E, K, and many of the B vitamins.
Eaten daily, according to traditional Oriental Medicine, squash can help to strengthen the spleen meridian. A deficiency in the spleen meridian can lead to fatigue, water retention, diarrhea, and lack of appetite. There are many health benefits of eating winter squash.
Winter Squash Dishes
Squash can be baked, boiled, fried, or broiled. It can be cut into small cubes or left whole. It is quite a versatile vegetable. It is a hearty vegetable and can be used in vegetarian chili. Simply cut into cubes, and fry in some heart-healthy oil seasoned with coriander, cumin, and a small amount of red pepper. Add tomato sauce and simmer, and a hearty vegetable dish is quickly available for the family. Butternut squash is a good choice for this dish as it holds its form well.
Butternut squash can be halved and baked in the oven with pineapple or cooked apples as a topping. It could be seasoned with Mexican or Indian spices and baked as well.
Acorn squash can be halved and baked in the oven with a mixture of cinnamon, butter, raisins, and turbinado sugar, which makes a delicious sweet side dish. Acorn squash usually has a milder flavor than butternut and absorbs the sweet mixture’s flavor.
Spaghetti squash is best boiled or baked, then peeled. Use a fork to separate the strands of spaghetti and serve with a nice Italian red sauce and fresh basil.
Squash is a versatile and hearty vegetable that can be served various ways, and it takes on many different flavors simply by using varied seasonings. It absorbs seasoning readily and can be make sweet or savory depending on the type of seasoning used. Using dried or fresh herbs as a seasoning brings a unique and healthy flavor to the table. Cooks who know how to cook winter squash will always be able to put a healthy meal together quickly.
For more information on preparing or storing winter squash, please read “How to Freeze Winter Squash,”
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference