Naturally, we should all be eating more fruits and vegetables, so why don’t we start with one of the healthiest sounding options of the bunch – squash.
In Need of Some Healthy Squash Options?
You’ve come to the right place.
It turns out, winter squash varieties (think butternut) tend to be healthier than summer squash varieties (think zucchini). Well, the more you know.
This is because they’re higher in nutrients – they have lots of beta carotene in them, as showcased by their typically yellow or orange color. Beta carotene is a precursor to vitamin A, which is incredibly important for your immune system and it also helps with healthy skin.
Winter squashes also have plenty of magnesium and potassium, which are electrolytes and help you maintain a healthy blood pressure level. They’re also packed with vitamin C, folate, and calcium to your body’s benefit.
The high amounts of soluble fiber in winter squashes are also great for regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Three of some of the healthiest different types of squash are acorn squash, butternut squash, and spaghetti squash. Here’s a little bit about each squash, and a few solid recipes to use them in:
Acorn Squash: For You, Not the Squirrels
Acorn squash takes the gold for healthiest squash due to its particularly high amounts of folate, calcium, magnesium, and potassium compared to other winter squashes. Acorn squash also boasts vitamin C, vitamin A, niacin, thiamine, vitamin B6, and a little iron, zinc, and phosphorous.
The recommended amount of potassium is 4700 mg per day and just a cup of cooked acorn squash will give you up to 896 mg of potassium.
Need some inspiration on what to do with your acorn squash after you pick it up from the store?
No problem, we’ve got you.
Acorn Squash Two Ways: Sweet and Savory
Here are the basics of how to cook acorn squash with two different flavor profiles.
1 acorn squash
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
to your preferred taste
1 acorn squash
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/8 teaspoon of salt to your preferred taste
Pepper to your preferred taste
Place your oven rack right below the middle position in your oven. Preheat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Wash your squash and then cut it in half from the stem to the bottom (specific notes in above recipe link). Don’t try to cut through the stem, when you get to the stem, just crack the squash in half to get it to separate.
Scrape out all the seeds and the stringy bits (a grapefruit spoon is recommended for this, if you’ve got one).
Prepare your squash either the savory way or the sweet way. For savory, rub the inside of the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. For sweet, rub the inside of the squash with butter and sprinkle the inside with brown sugar or coconut sugar. When you’ve done that, pop your squash on your baking sheet.
Put the squash in your preheated oven and roast those puppies for 50 to 60 minutes or until they’re very tender to the poke of a fork.
Enjoy immediately or store them covered in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
A Happy Dollop of Butternut Squash
Butternut squash takes second place for healthiest squash with the highest amounts of vitamin C and beta carotene compared to the other winter squashes. This squash also has calcium, iron, phosphorous, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin E, thiamine, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, and manganese.
Ready for recipes? Good – there are some great butternut squash recipes out there!
Butternut Squash Mash with Smoked Paprika
For this recipe you’ll want to start off gathering your ingredients:
1 large butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
Salt to taste
½ a cup of milk
2 tablespoons of melted butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with foil. Rub your butternut squash halves with oil and sprinkle them with the spices and salt. Place the squash flesh side down on the baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes to
an hour or until tender.
Once the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and put it all in a large bowl. Add butter and milk and use a potato masher to mash the squash until you are satisfied with the squash consistency.
Burrito Butternut Squash Boats
It’s time to get excited for these butternut squash boats and gather your ingredients.
2 small butternut squash, halved and seeded
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 pound of ground beef (preferably organic and grass-fed)
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
½ a teaspoon of chili powder
2 ears of sweet corn with the kernels removed (that’s about 1 ½ cups)
1 can of black beans, drained (should be 15.5 oz.)
1 can of enchilada sauce (should be 10 oz.)
1 ½ cups of shredded Monterey jack cheese
½ a cup of quartered cherry tomatoes
Freshly chopped cilantro (optional for garnish)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Put your squash halves on two large rimmed baking sheets and drizzle them all over with olive oil. Season them with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until almost tender. Let the squash cool, then scoop out the flesh while leaving a ½ inch border around the edges of the squash to fill them back up later.
Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then stir in the beef while breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Cook to an internal meat temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder and cook until the meat is no longer pink – about 6 minutes.
Stir in the corn, black beans, enchilada sauce, and scooped-out butternut squash. Cook until the sauce is warmed through.minutes.
Fill the butternut squash boats with the mixture and top them off with cherry tomatoes and cheese. Bake until the cheese is all melty, for about 2 minutes.
Top the boats off with your cilantro garnish if you want to and enjoy!
Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs
Spaghetti squash is another great squash choice for healthy eaters. Spaghetti squash is particularly notable as a high fiber, low carb swap-out for traditional spaghetti noodles and other pasta. Some nutrients include vitamin A, vitamin C, various B vitamins, manganese, potassium, and various antioxidants.
Ready for a recipe?
Spaghetti Squash Tacos
It’s time to get excited for these spaghetti squash tacos and gather your ingredients.
1 large spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
1 package (about 1.25 oz.) of dry taco seasoning
1 small onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1 pinch of salt, to taste
12 crisp taco shells
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place your two spaghetti squash halves face down into a baking dish.
Bake the squash for 30 to 40 minutes until tender.
Strip the squash from the rind by using a fork to scrape the flesh into short strands, then set that aside.
Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion and jalapeno pepper in the hot oil until the onion is browned and soft, which will be about 7 to 10 minutes. Next, pop the squash and taco seasoning into the skillet with the rest. Cook and stir the mixture for 5 more minutes. Season with salt to taste. Fill up your taco shells with the mix to serve.
Ready to Fill Your Plate with Different Types of Squash?
With all the different types of squash out there, there are plenty of options to add the vegetable to your dinner plate as either the main dish or a side dish.