Enjoy The Flavors And Health Benefits Of Winter Squash

Sweet dumpling, kabocha, carnival, delicata, curi, butternut, and blue hubbard are some of the poetic names given to varieties of winter squash.

With a moderate glycemic index of 51, winter squash should be consumed in moderation, but its outstanding nutritional qualities have a positive overall effect on our health.

Winter Squash and Diabetes

Though higher in calories and carbohydrate than non-starchy vegetables, winter squash has fewer calories and carbs than potatoes, and squash properties aid diabetes care by supporting our digestive, immune, and cardiovascular systems:

  • Fiber. The fiber in winter squash helps us feel full and satisfied, promotes good gut health, slows the absorption of sugars into our bloodstream, and aids elimination. One cup of squash has about 2 to 3 fiber grams.
  • Vitamins. Winter squash’s vitamin C helps the immune system ward off or fight infection, and works to prevent free-radical cell damage; its vitamin A also supports the immune system, and is necessary for eye and skin health. The vitamin K in winter squash aids the absorption of calcium to keep our bones strong, and its supply of B vitamins - B1, B3, B6, pantothenic acid, and folate - plays a role in blood glucose regulation.
  • Minerals. Our bones benefit from winter squash minerals such as manganese, calcium, copper, and zinc. Copper also has antibacterial, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties; it facilitates wound healing, and the production of new cells. The substantial potassium in winter squash promotes normal blood pressure, and heart health.
  • Carotenoids. The carotenoids that give winter squash a lovely orange and yellow coloring are powerful antioxidants that protect our cells, and help prevent cardiovascular disease. No one food offers a higher percentage of certain carotenoids than winter squash.
  • Healthy Fats. Though fewer than 15 percent of winter squash calories are from fat, a cup of baked squash gives us about 340 mg of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats.

Winter squash may also have health benefits barely recognized. For instance, they contain certain polysaccharides that were found to lower blood sugar, improve glucose tolerance, and raise insulin levels in animals with diabetes.

Winter Squash Tips

For longevity and best flavor, choose winter squash that is firm, heavy for its size, and has a dull, hard rind. Store it away from direct light and extremes of heat or cold. Cover cut pieces of squash in plastic wrap and refrigerate—it will keep for one to two days.

The quickest, and most nutrient rich way to prepare winter squash is to steam 1-inch cubes of it for about seven minutes. All varieties - except kabocha and butternut - require peeling before steaming, which can be accomplished with a potato peeler, or knife. One serving option is to dress the steamed cubes with some olive oil, soy sauce, ginger, and a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds.

Cubes of winter squash can also be added to veggie soups, or puree them and top with cinnamon and a bit of maple syrup. There are plenty of winter squash recipes on the Internet to explore as well.

Sources: Health Benefits Times; Diabetes Meal Plans; World’s Healthiest Foods
Photo credit: Rudi Riet

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