Winter Squash – Nutrition Tidbits

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Winter Squash

Pumpkins in the autumn

Nutrition:  Recent research studies have shown that winter squashes are an excellent source of key antioxidants. Those with deep-orange flesh inside are especially high in beta-carotene, other carotenoids, and a variety of protective phytochemicals. Although these squashes could be considered to be starchy vegetables, research is showing that the type of starches in the squash are different than those found in bread and potatoes. Several research studies have shown that the starches in winter squash are complex sugars found in the cell walls and have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties.

Identification & Storage:  Winter squashes can be identified by their hard skin, with soft orange-colored flesh inside. Choose squash that are firm and heavy for their size. The rind should be hard. Store whole winter squash at a cool room temperature. Once cut, however, store in the refrigerator, covered, for one or two days.

Preparation:  Wash the squash before cutting. Use a sharp knife and great care in cutting through the squash. For Butternut squash, it’s usually easiest to cut off the stem end, about 1” from the stem. Then, cut the squash in half lengthwise or cut into chunks.

Steaming:  One-inch pieces can be steamed in 7-10 minutes. Of course, halved squashes would take longer to steam, depending on their size. (If steaming small pieces, cut off the outer skin before steaming.)

Baking: Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and bake it. Or, you can leave the squash whole, pierce it a few times with the tip of a sharp paring knife, and bake until the squash is soft.

Squash and pumpkin ready to bake

Do not eat the skins. As for the seeds, they can be scooped out of the squash before cooking, spread out in a shallow pan, and slowly roasted at 160-175 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes. Slow roasting will help preserve the essential amino acids that are in high amounts in the seeds.

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