Butternut Squash

47150d61f12bd7763c1ca1957893a50d

Butternut Squash97d5065e6302046653abf56ff395f137

Like all members of the gourd family (which includes pumpkin, melon, and cucumber), butternut squash is technically a fruit because it contains seeds. Cut into its pale, yellow-beige hard skin, though, and you’ll discover a vibrant flesh that’s much denser than that of its relatives.

Rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants — and succulent enough to warrant the moniker “butternut” — this graceful, hourglass-like gourd is the perfect addition to an autumn meal.

Health Benefits
Low in fat, butternut squash delivers an ample dose of dietary fiber, making it an exceptionally heart-friendly choice. It provides significant amounts of potassium, important for bone health, and vitamin B6, essential for the proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems. The folate content adds yet another boost to its heart-healthy reputation and helps guard against brain and spinal-cord-related birth defects such as spina bifida.

Squash’s tangerine hue, however, indicates butternut’s most noteworthy health perk. The color signals an abundance of powerhouse nutrients known as carotenoids, shown to protect against heart disease. In particular, the gourd boasts very high levels of beta-carotene (which your body automatically converts to vitamin A), identified as a deterrent against breast cancer and age-related macular degeneration, as well as a supporter of healthy lung development in fetuses and newborns. What’s more, with only a 1-cup serving, you get nearly half the recommended daily dose of antioxidant-rich vitamin C.

As if this weren’t enough, butternut squash may have anti-inflammatory effects because of its high antioxidant content. Incorporating more of this hearty winter staple into your diet could help reduce risk of inflammation-related disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.

Cooking Tips
Butternut squash presents the home cook with incredibly easy culinary possibilities. You can just place it on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for about an hour, or until you can pierce it with a sharp knife. Or remove the skin using a vegetable peeler and cut the flesh into chunks for steaming or sauteing. Once cooked, mash it, puree it for soup, fold it into a pasta or risotto dish, or simply savor your butternut squash as is.

How to Buy
Choose an unblemished fruit that feels heavy for its size with a matte, rather than glossy, skin. A shiny exterior indicates that the fruit was picked too early, and it won’t be as sweet as a fully grown squash. Most winter squash is available late into the fall. Store whole butternut squash in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator) with plenty of ventilation; it should keep for up to three months. Cut squash will stay fresh for up to a week, wrapped, in the fridge.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s