It's winter squash time! Winter squash varieties, like acorn and butternut, are named so not because of their growing season—they are grown in the warm summer weather—but because they are most frequently used during the cold winter months. The tough, strong peel and firm flesh of winter squashes make them an excellent choice for storing all winter long. A properly cured winter squash stored in a cool, dark place can last for six or more months.
There are over 40 varieties of squashes grown in the United States every year. Let's brush up on some of the uses and nutritional benefits of four of the most popular winter varieties.
Quite possibly the best-known of all winter squash varieties, pumpkins aren't just for Halloween decoration. Roasted, pureed pumpkin can be used in a a wide variety of sweet and savory dishes—including pies, soups, and breads. Pumpkin is chock-full of carotenoids—powerful antioxidants that help block free radicals that may cause cancer. Pumpkins are also high in lutein and zeaxanthin, which may help stop common eye problems like cataracts and macular degeneration.
One of the most versatile of all the winter squash varieties, butternut squash is readily available, easy to prepare, and works wonderfully in a ton of dishes.
Try subbing pureed butternut squash for half of the cheese sauce the next time you make macaroni and cheese. Or add some diced and roasted butternut in your next burrito. Butternut squash is low in fat and calories—ringing in at about 80 calories and 0 grams of fat per cup—but provides a hefty amount of dietary fiber, potassium and vitamin B6.
Often forgotten and sometimes hard to find in grocery stores, these small, green and yellow-skinned squash are worth the work to track down. The flavor of acorn squash is second-to-none—the roasted flesh is a nice balance of sweet, savory and nutty. The small size of these squash make them perfect for individual servings.
Simply slice the squash in half, roast until tender and then serve with a spoon for scooping. Some recipes will even pack flavorful rice, quinoa or other grain dishes in the squash before roasting for a perfect all-in-one fall meal. Acorn squash is an excellent source of magnesium—which helps regulate the blood pressure. If you suffer from frequent headaches, a diet rich in magnesium may help reduce the severity and frequency by relaxing arteries in the body.
If you're one of those people who can't live without a big bowl of pasta, this large, yellow-skinned squash is for you. When roasted and then shredded with a fork, spaghetti squash resembles it's namesake—spaghetti. But unlike traditional pasta, spaghetti squash is low in calories and high in nutrients. By swapping in spaghetti squash for one cup of pasta, you can save around 180 calories. The roasted squash is smooth, buttery, and tastes great under your favorite pasta sauce.
What's your favorite of the winter squashes?
10/10/2012 at 12:00 PM