With a wide range of important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and significant amounts of digestive fiber, acorn squash is considered one of the healthiest and most nutritious vegetables you can lay your hands on. Acorn squash, also known as Des Moines squash or pepper squash is a variety of winter squash that has its origin in North and Central America. As the name suggests, this vegetable resembles the acorn in appearance. The most common variety of the acorn squash is green in color with longitudinal ridges and a sweet orange colored flesh. The most common way of cooking this squash is baking it, but it can also be steamed, sautéed or microwaved. You can use the acorn squash for making sweet as well as savory dishes. Just like pumpkin seeds, the seeds of acorn squash also make a wonderful and healthy snack item. This squash is one of the richest sources of antioxidant carotenoids, which makes them beneficial for preventing many diseases.
Nutritional value of Acorn squash
Just like all the other squash varieties, the acorn squash also a nutrient dense vegetable. It is a great source of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, antioxidants and other nutrients. An exceptionally high source of vitamin C, acorn squash also contains a good amount of vitamins like vitamin A and B complex vitamins such as niacin, thiamine, folate and vitamin B-6. It is also high in various minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and zinc. Every half cup serving of this vegetable provides about 5 grams of dietary fiber, which is approximately 18 percent of the recommended daily intake of fiber. According to studies, diet containing fiber rich foods such as acorn squash could help reduce your risk of diabetes, stroke, heart disease, obesity and various types of gastrointestinal disorders. Acorn squash is one of the best sources of antioxidant beta-carotene. Antioxidants prevent the damage caused to cells and DNA by the unstable free radicals by inhibiting their activity. This helps lower the risk of conditions like diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders, and prevents the development of age related macular degeneration.
Health benefits of Acorn squash
In addition to being a delicious vegetable, the acorn squash is a storehouse of powerful nutrients that makes it a beneficial addition to a health and well balanced diet. Not only does it have low calories, it tastes delicious and is surprisingly very filling too. Let’s look at the many health benefits this winter squash has to offer you:
Acorn squash strengthens your immune system
Acorn Squash is a wonderful source of vitamin C, an essential nutrient that is associated with boosting the health and functioning of your immune system. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C increases the body’s resistance against disease causing pathogens by stimulating the production of white blood cells. These cells protect the body from the invasion of germs and other harmful pathogens. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that helps lower the risk of developing more serious conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancers. Incorporating acorn squash to your regular diet can help protect your body against common ailments such as flu, cough, cold, and other such infections.
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Acorn squash helps get rid of digestive issues
One of the nutrients found in high amounts in acorn squash is dietary fiber that accounts for numerous health benefits including the improvement of your digestive system functions. Acorn squashes are easier to digest and the dietary fiber in them helps regulate your bowel movements by adding bulk to the stools and eliminating them easily from the intestines. This in turn helps in preventing digestive problems like constipation, diarrhea, bloating and cramping. Acorn squash is loaded with vitamin A, which helps in supporting the mucosal membrane that lines the digestive tract. It also contains nutrients that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which help prevent inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Acorn squash strengthens the bones
Acorn squash is rich in a wide range of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, copper and iron, all of which play a vital role in the growth and development of strong and healthy bones. While calcium is the nutrient involved in keeping the bones strong, magnesium enhances the ability of the body to absorb calcium better. As you age, you may experience loss in bone density, which leads to reduced bone strength and the development of bone related disorders like osteoporosis. The regular consumption of bone healthy foods like acorn squash helps preserve the strength of the bones and keeps them healthy and strong even as you grow old.
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Acorn squash improves your eye health
A high level of the antioxidants such as beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin are found in acorn squash, which are known to be exceptionally good for your vision. These antioxidants protect your eyes from the oxidative stress caused by the harmful free radicals that are formed in the body. They also help in preventing eye problems like cataract and age related macular degeneration. It has been found that a poor dietary intake of these nutrients often leads to dry eyes, eye strain and deteriorating vision.
Acorn squash helps you lose weight
A low calorie vegetable with high fiber content, acorn squash is one of the healthiest foods that can be incorporated into a weight loss diet. Fiber helps you lose weight by making you feel fuller for longer hours, thus satiating your hunger and preventing overeating. The regular intake of acorn squash is a good idea if you are serious about natural and long term weight loss.
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Acorn squash lowers your blood pressure
When it comes to maintaining a healthy blood pressure, it is important to increase your potassium intake and at the same time lower your sodium intake. Acorn squash is a rich source of potassium that not only neutralizes the effects of sodium but also acts as a vasodilator. This means that it helps dilate the blood vessels allowing more blood to flow easily through them, without causing a strain on the cardiovascular system. A healthy blood pressure is of utmost importance in preventing serious conditions like stroke and heart attacks. A high intake of potassium has also been associated with a lowered risk of death from all causes.
Acorn squash lowers the risk of asthma
The high consumption of foods contains good amounts of beta carotene has been found to lower the risk of developing asthma in people. Beta carotene is metabolized into vitamin A inside the body and this vitamin helps prevent asthma by supporting the lungs, improving the health of the mucous membranes and preventing infections of the respiratory tract. According to some studies, exercise-related asthma attacks might occur due to free radical damage brought about by the exercise. Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant that protects against free radical damage and hence supplementing the body with foods containing beta carotene, such as acorn squash may help prevent the occurrence of these attacks.
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Acorn squash comes with anti-diabetic properties
Although winter squash like acorn squash has the reputation of having mostly starchy carbohydrates, studies reveal that it in addition to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, it has anti-diabetic properties as well. Most of the carbs in this vegetable come from polysaccharides such as pectin (specially structured polysaccharides that are made up of special chains of D-galacturonic known as homogalacturonan) that can be found in the cell walls. According to several animal studies, these starch-related components in acorn squash have anti-diabetic and insulin regulating properties. Furthermore, the dietary fiber found in this vegetable is also beneficial in preventing the development of diabetes by helping to regulate the levels of blood sugar in the body. Fiber is a very important nutrient that helps people suffering from diabetes to maintain stable and healthy glucose levels.
Acorn squash for preventing cancer
Acorn squash is blessed with a high level of two important antioxidants vitamin C and beta carotene, both of which neutralize the harmful effects of free radicals and prevent mutations of healthy cells and DNA. Foods high in beta carotene have always been linked to cancer protection. This antioxidant compound has been found to be beneficial in preventing the growth and proliferation of cancer cells by turning on a gene responsible for promoting the communication between cells that controls the normal growth of the cells. Beta carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body, which offers protection against the risk of oral and lung cancers. Studies also indicate that the intake of beta carotene is significantly associated with lowered risks of breast cancer. The high amount of fiber in acorn squash is another factor that protects your body against certain types of cancers like colon cancer.
It is a delicious and versatile vegetable that is easy to store and prepare. A diet comprised of vegetables like acorn squash, when taken on a regular basis provides you with all the nutrients that may help decrease your risk of a number of serious medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease while promoting a healthy weight, complexion and increased energy.