It’s that time of year when winter squash varieties appear at farmers’ markets or on grocery store shelves. Squash fall into two categories: winter and summer. The category they fall into depends on whether they’re harvested and consumed when they are immature or fully developed. Winter squash varieties include butternut, acorn, kabocha, and Delicata, to name a few.
When mature, winter squash have a hard exterior (rind) that protects them from the elements, such as frost, snow, wind, and rain. That is why they are ideal for long-term storage. The squash you acquire will dictate the type of dish you can make with it. Some squash varieties, such as spaghetti squash, can be the star of the show, while others work for appetizers or sides. Continue reading to learn about some excellent winter squash that exhibit impressive health properties.
Trying to avoid pasta? Spaghetti squash is a great alternative that offers much more nutrients than packaged pasta. When you cook spaghetti squash, the flesh takes on a stringy texture, which resembles noodles. It is much lower in carbs than other squash in this list, providing just 29.9 grams of carbs per cup. Additionally, spaghetti squash offers B vitamins, vitamin C, manganese, and fiber, but is lower in nutrients when compared to butternut or acorn squash varieties.
The kabocha squash, or Japanese pumpkin, has a dark green exterior and bright orange flesh that is surprisingly sweet. You can roast, steam, or boil kabocha squash and add it to stews, soups, baked goods, and even salads. Because of its inherent sweetness, kabocha squash is a common ingredient in sweet dishes like pies and cakes. Nothing beats a savory kabocha squash winter soup, though! Kabocha squash exhibits impressive antioxidant activity, being high in vitamins A and C. It is also a great source of potassium, calcium, beta-carotene, and fiber.
Blue Hubbard Squash
Quite an interesting name for a squash, don’t you think? This unique winter squash has a beautiful bluish-green rind and sweet, yellow flesh that is rich in fiber, potassium, vitamins A and C, and other nutrients. One cup of this squash provides 10 grams of fiber, which satisfies 35% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of fiber. Eating more fiber helps promote digestive health, regulating bowel movements and fueling the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
The acorn squash belongs to the same plant family as zucchini, pumpkins, and butternut squash. Shaped like an acorn, this squash can vary in color, with the exterior ranging from white to dark green. The flesh is yellow-orange and offers a slightly sweet yet nutty flavor, making it great for fall and winter dishes. Acorn squash is a great source of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin, all of which work to fight oxidative stress. Finally, acorn squash is rich in vitamins A and C, some B vitamins, potassium, and magnesium.
The Delicata squash isn’t quite as popular as acorn or butternut squash, but it does have a naturally sweet flavor. The flavor is very similar to that of the pie pumpkin, but it has a thin, tender skin, making it easy to peel. It is low in calories and rich in potassium, making it a great food for people who aim to control blood pressure. One cup of Delicata squash provides 13% of the RDI of potassium. Delicata squash is also highly versatile and a great source of complex carbohydrates.
Butternut squash is one of the most popular types of winter squash, exhibiting a sweet, nutty flavor. Packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protective plant compounds, butternut squash needs to be on your fall and winter grocery list. One cup of cooked butternut squash provides 100% of the RDI of vitamin A, and over 30% of the RDI of vitamin C. Both of these vitamins act as antioxidants, working to neutralize free radicals in the body. That process helps protect cells against damage that may potentially cause disease. In addition to the vitamins A and C, butternut squash contains potassium, manganese, magnesium, and plant pigments.
Red Kuri Squash
This type of Hubbard winter squash is quite striking and has an interesting tear-drop shape with a vibrant reddish-orange exterior. The flesh is highly sweet and packs a serious nutritional punch, offering lots of vitamins A and C, and minerals like potassium. The skin becomes very tender and edible when you thoroughly cook this squash, making it very easy to handle. It is a common ornamental squash for common decor, but don’t forget that you can eat it too!