By: Just Minnie
Butternut squash is one of the most common varieties of winter squash. It also offers a good supply of vitamin A, potassium, and fiber. Contrary to the name, winter squash is grown in the summer and harvested in the fall. Its thick, tough exterior and firm flesh make it suitable for storing over several months. This means it can be eaten during the winter season.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, one cup of cooked, cubed butternut squash, containing around 205 grams, contains:
1.8 grams (g) of protein
0.18 g of fat
21.50 g of carbohydrate, including 4 g of sugar and 6.6 grams of dietary fiber
It also provides:
84 milligrams (mg) of calcium
1.23 mg of iron
582 mg of potassium
59 mg of magnesium
55 mg of phosphorus
31 milligrams of vitamin C
1144 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A
The recommended daily allowance of vitamin A is 900 mcg for men and 700 mcg for women. For vitamin C is it 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women.
Butternut squash is also a good source of vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, and manganese.
A cup of cubed butternut squash also provides 582 mg of potassium, more than the amount available in a banana.
Nutrition and Health Benefits of Butternut Squash
1. Prevents high blood pressure
A one cup serving of butternut squash contains almost 500 mg of potassium, which can help decrease your blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium in your diet. Keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range can help you steer clear of serious health issues like heart disease and stroke.
2. Promotes regularity
One cup of butternut squash contains almost 7 grams of fiber, which can help prevent constipation and maintain a healthy digestive tract by supporting healthy bacteria in the gut.
3. Improves eyesight
Butternut squash is literally loaded with vitamin A—one cup of squash has over 350 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA), which is uber-important for healthy eyesight. It’s a great source of zeaxanthin and lutein, two powerful antioxidants that can also protect your vision.
4. Keeps bones strong
Since it contains about 17 percent of your RDA of manganese, butternut squash can help your body maintain healthy bone structure, calcium absorption, and improve the mineral density of the spinal column. Meanwhile, vitamin C takes part in the production of collagen, which is important for building bone mass. Other minerals found in squash, such as iron, folate, and zinc, all contribute to bone health and protect against osteoporosis.
5. Protects your skin
Butternut squash also contains nearly half of your daily dose of vitamin C, which has been linked to healthier skin: A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined links between vitamin C and skin aging in 4,025 women aged 40-74 and found that higher intakes of the vitamin were linked to a lower likelihood of wrinkles and dryness.
6. Boosts immune function
While vitamin C may not cure the common cold, it may help reduce your risk of developing further complications, such as a lung infection or pneumonia. It may also help protect you from other immune system deficiencies, such as cardiovascular disease.
7. Reduces inflammation
Because of its high antioxidant content, butternut squash may have anti-inflammatory effects, helping you to reduce your risk of inflammation-related disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. For example, a study by the University of Manchester found that those who had the highest intake of the antioxidant beta-cryptoxanthin were only half as likely to develop arthritis over a seven-to-15-year period, compared to those with a lower intake. Another study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention followed nearly 400,000 people for up to 16 years and found that a higher intake of beta-cryptoxanthin also reduced the risk of lung cancer by more than 30 percent.
8. Aids in weight loss
With less than 100 calories, 26 carbohydrates, and almost no fat in a one cup serving, it goes without saying that butternut squash is the cheese to your diet’s macaroni. The fiber content alone helps increase satiety (the feeling of fullness), which can help you manage your weight. Add this nutrition-packed food to a larger portion of your meals, and your weigh scale won’t even know you’re standing on it.
How to Peel Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is known for its thick, tough skin. Peeling it can be quite an arm workout, but there are a few ways to make it easier:
- Cut a thin slice off the bottom and top so the butternut squash will stand flat on a cutting board. Then use a knife or peeler to slice the skin off from the top to the bottom. Always cut away from your body.
- If the skin is too tough to manage, pierce the squash a few times with a fork and put it in the microwave for a minute or two. This will soften the skin and make it easier to peel.
- Cut it in half and bake the squash with the skin on. It will easily peel away after it’s done cooking.
How to Cook Butternut Squash
After it’s peeled, it’s time to prep the butternut squash. Cut it in half the long way and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. You can throw them away or spread them out on a cookie sheet and roast them in the oven — just like you might do with pumpkin seeds.
There are so many delicious ways to eat butternut squash. Here are four to get you started.
Boil it: Cut the squash into cubes and boil them until soft.
Roast it: Cube the squash, spread the cubes on a baking tray, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then roast in the oven until cooked through.
Mash it: Do either of the above. Then mash the squash with a fork or masher.
Soup it up: Butternut squash makes a delicious addition to soup. Puree cooked squash with a little broth or cream and add seasonings of your choice.