Rich in antioxidants and other nutrients, Butternut squash is a perfect addition to a healthy and nutritious meal. With its sweet and nutty taste, together with the numerous health benefits it offers, this winter squash has become one of the most liked vegetables by many people, kids and adults alike. In spite of the fact that butternut squash is referred to as a vegetable, it is actually a fruit because of the presence of separate seeds. Although often discarded, the seeds of butternut squash are packed with protein and unsaturated fats, making it a nutritious and healthy snack. Once known as “the apple of God,” the butternut squash was highly valued by the American Indians because they believed that the seeds of this squash helped in increasing fertility. In Australia and New Zealand, they are known as butternut pumpkins.
Nutritional value of butternut squash
Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata) is an extremely healthy option because it is a low calorie food that does not contain cholesterol or saturated fats. However, it is a rich source of dietary fiber, protein, antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. In fact, this vegetable is often recommended by nutritionists and dieticians to control cholesterol and overweight.
Butternut squash is high in poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds like alpha and beta carotenes, lutein and cryptoxanthin-ß. In addition to these compounds, this vegetable is also a wonderful source of many essential vitamins and minerals that helps your body stay healthy and fit. It is a good source of vitamins like A, C, B6, E, K, thiamin, niacin and folate. Butternut squash contains high levels of minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and good amounts of other minerals like zinc, copper, manganese and selenium.
Health benefits of butternut squash
Butternut squash is a nutrient dense vegetable that offers several health benefits without adding extra calories. Some of the health benefits of this wonderful vegetable are listed below:
Skin benefits of butternut squash
Everybody wishes to have beautiful and flawless skin. A healthy and nutritious diet is a very important factor when it comes to attaining healthy skin. Being a wonderful source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, butternut squash is one of those vegetables that can do wonders to the health and beauty of your skin. Eating butternut squash is a great way to get plenty of vitamin A into your body. This vitamin is important for cell repair and maintenance of your skin. It helps to keep the pH of your skin slightly acidic, which prevents the growth of bacteria, thereby preventing acne and other infections. The abundance of Vitamin C and vitamin E in this vegetable helps in tissue repair and prevents skin damage. Moreover, these nutrients have antioxidant properties that help in fighting off free radicals and thus preventing the signs of ageing such as wrinkles, pigmentation and fine lines.
Butternut squash for healthy hair
Just like the skin, your hair also requires proper nutrition for its healthy growth. Some of the common hair problems that most people deal with are hair fall, breakage, dry scalp, split ends and dandruff. Along with the numerous benefits of butternut squash, another feature to add is its ability to promote the growth of strong and healthy hair. The high levels of beta-carotene in this squash helps in strengthening your hair and preventing breakage and hair fall.
Hearth health and Butternut squash
Butternut squash is heart healthy and is known to lower the risk of heart disease because of its low fat and cholesterol content. This vegetable contains high levels of magnesium, a mineral that has been found to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks. High blood pressure and cholesterol are two important factors that can lead to cardiovascular problems. Butternut squash is rich in potassium which works along with magnesium to lower high blood pressure. Other nutrients like vitamin C and beta carotene help in preventing cholesterol oxidation and also the buildup of cholesterol in the walls of arteries, thus preventing conditions like atherosclerosis. The fiber in this vegetable also helps in lowering the levels of cholesterol in the blood. Butternut squash contains folate that helps in protecting the heart by removing homocysteine, an amino acid that can cause heart attack, if found in excess levels in the blood.
Butternut squash and cancer cure
The free radicals in your body can cause oxidation stress to cells and DNA damage, leading to premature aging and many deadly diseases like cancer. Butternut squash is an excellent source of potent antioxidants that help in getting rid of these free radicals from your body, thus playing an important role in preventing cancer. It also contains high levels of vitamin C and beta carotene that increases your immunity.
Butternut squash and weight loss
For people trying to lose weight, butternut squash is a great food choice to be included in their weight loss diet, as it is low in fat and calories. Squashes have a good reputation of being rich in dietary fiber. Eating butternut squash satiates your hunger as the fiber adds bulk and fills you up. This feeling of fullness stays with you for a longer time, preventing you from frequent snacking and overeating. If you want to lose weight, try replacing higher calorie food items with butternut squash.
Butternut squash good for eyes
Butternut squash is particularly great for your eye health. It is high in beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A inside your body. Vitamin A is vital for maintaining good eye health and as such a deficiency of this vitamin may result in vision problems. Beta carotene is beneficial in preventing eye problems, such as night blindness and dry eyes. Butternut squash also contains antioxidants like vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin, all of which play a vital role in lowering the risks of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Butternut squash for strong bones
Butternut squash is an excellent source of bone building nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and manganese. Manganese in this vegetable helps in improving calcium absorption, building strong bones, enhancing the mineral density and maintaining the health of the bones. Vitamin C is associated with collagen production, which is necessary for building bone density. Other nutrients found in this squash all work together to improve the health of bones and prevent the occurrence of conditions like osteoporosis.
Butternut squash for pregnant women
Butternut squash is an excellent food choice for pregnant women as it is a storehouse of nutrients that are beneficial for the health of both the mother and the fetus. It is rich in folate, a B group vitamin that is essential for the healthy growth and development of the baby and also for preventing neural tube defects.
Butternut squash for PMS relief
Studies reveals that women who consumed diets with high amounts of magnesium experienced less PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome) symptoms such as stomach cramps and mood swings. Lower levels of this mineral can affect the hormonal balance leading to these uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms. Since butternut squash is a good source of magnesium, adding it your diet is a great way to get relief from the symptoms of PMS.
Butternut squash for digestive health
Butternut squash contains an ample amount of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber that aids in improving your digestive health. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the digested food and makes it easy for the food to pass through the digestive tract, thereby preventing constipation.
Butternut squash enhances your immune system
Butternut squash is abundant in vitamin C, which is known to help in strengthening your immune system and thereby preventing colds and flu. In addition to vitamin C, this vegetable is also loaded with other immune boosting nutrients such as beta carotene and vitamin E. Soluble polysaccharides in butternut squash offers anti bacterial propertie as pointed out by a study.
Butternut squash maintains prostate health in men
The nutrients found in butternut squash have been found to promote a healthy prostate gland in men. The extracts obtained from this winter squash are a popular remedy for reducing the symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), a condition commonly found in men. This condition is characterized by an enlarged prostate gland, due to which men experience difficulty in both urinating and performing sexual functions.
Healthy recipes using Butternut Squash
Try out thee healthy recipes using Butternut Squash.
Butternut squash custard – The recipe start with one cup of butternut puree. Add to this about 2/3 cup of sugar. Add couple of beaten egg. Stir well till mixture is consistent. Now add the flavors – about quarter tsp of salt, ½ tsp of ginger, ¼ tsp of cinnamon and nutmeg each. Mix well. Add to this a cup full of whipped cream. Stir till you get consistent mixture. Add to this two tbsp of raw mango marmalades. Place this mixture in buttered custard cups and place in over at 3500 C for 45 minutes. Butternut squash custard with textured hard crust and soft inside taste really great.
Butternut squash soup – Saute one chopped onion in two tablespoon of hot olive oil till they are light brown. Now add about 4 cups of cut butternut squash with one diced carrot and one diced celery stalk. Allow them to cook till vegetables are soft. Now add to this 4 cups of water. Add some thyme, salt and black pepper as per taste. Bring this to boil. Allow it to simmer on low heat thereafter for about 30 minutes. Blend the mixture to get fine butternut squash soup. Add to this ½ cup of milk cream. Garnish with roasted butternut squash seeds or pumpkin seeds.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that the nutrients provided by vegetables like butternut squash may help in lowering the risk of developing many chronic diseases. Butternut squash is an extremely versatile vegetable that can be used to replace foods that have high fat content. From the numerous health benefits of butternut squash mentioned above, it is definitely worth making this healthy and tasty vegetable a part of your meals. If you haven’t started cooking with this wonderful vegetable yet, it’s high time that you incorporated it into your diet.Image Credits: Wikimedia - George Chernilevsky, Flickr - Aubrey Dunnuck, Flickr - Kristin Rosenau