The wonders of Winter Squash!

Fall harvest is upon us and winter squash is everywhere! This colorful vegetable draws our attention quickly and for good reason! The benefits to our bodies our extraordinary…

The benefits of winter squash:

1. Important for Vision, bone growth and reproduction! Winter Squash,particularly the denser, deeper colored varieties, boast high levels of Beta Carotene. Beta Carotene helps our bodies make Vitamin A, with is critical for eye health.

2. Helps to maintain joint health:  The seeds of winter squash are rich in manganese, which helps joints and also acts as an antioxidant. They are great for any one with an active lifestyle, especially athletes in high-impact sports (e.g. runners, gymnasts).

3. Supports lung health: The deep, richly colored varieties boast tremendous support for lungs: It is rich in Beta carotene, vitamin A, C, E, this truly is a powerhouse vegetable. Studies have shown this winter vegetable can reduce the risk of lung cancer.2

4. A great source of carbohydrates! Forget the pasta, winter squash is fabulous fuel for cold winter days! About 90% of its calories come from carbohydrate, about half of this carbohydrate is starch-like in its composition. Recent research shows not all starch is not the same; and  the winter squash starch brings along some key health benefits. An increasing number studies now show that these starch-related components in winter squash have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, as well as anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties. 1

The next question for most people is what to do with them?! Winter squash is remarkably easy to work with; the first step is to cook it and here is how: 

  1. Slice into half, scoop out the seeds, place cut side down into a glass-baking dish with about ½ inch water. Then bake in the oven at 375 degrees F, until the squash is soft enough to poke through with a fork.
  2. Remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool you can scoop out the soft flesh, discard the outer skin, and store in a sealed container in the fridge or freezer until ready to use, or serve warm with your favorite seasonings.

My favorite uses? Muffins and cookies! Every kid I know loves banana bread, muffins and cookies. What better way to increase their nutrition than to swap out the bananas for our local, nutrient rich squash…High in fiber, flavor and moisture, it contributes to some of the best baked quick breads ever.

Short on time? Bake the squash while you make other dinner items. Then it will be ready for use in baking or soups for the next day or week. Just freeze if you cannot use it right away.

 

1 http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=63 

2 http://canceranddiet.nl/lung-cancer/squash-pumpkins-zucchini.html

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