By: Susan K. Wilkerson, RD, LD
Squash comes in many different shapes and sizes. Different varieties are available throughout the year. Summer squash arrives in stores soon after harvest is meant to be eaten shortly there after. Winter squash is available in the summer and late fall. Winter squash are “good keepers” and became known as a winter vegetable because they would “keep” until December back in the days when refrigerators were not around. Winter squash is harvested when the “fruit” is fully matured. The skin is a deep, solid color with a hard skin. When you purchase them, the stem should be attached.
All varieties of winter squash are low in calories and are good sources for complex carbohydrates and fiber. They are excellent sources of Vitamin A and a very good source of Vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese. They are also a good source of folate, omega 3 fatty acids, thiamin, copper, tryptophan, vitamin B6, niacin and pantothenic acid. They contain healthy supporting antioxidants – lutein and zeaxanthin.
It would take a whole page to describe all the healthy reasons to eat winter squash!
All varieties of winter squash are easy to prepare. For butternut and acorn squash, just cut the squash in half, remove the seeds and place in a baking dish with one inch of water to “steam.” The squash is ready when it is fork tender. Remove the flesh from the skin with a spoon or just eat it out of it natural container. Spaghetti squash can be steamed whole in the oven or microwave. Once tender to touch, cut it in half, remove the seeds, and “rake” out the flesh with a fork. The flesh will look like spaghetti. You can serve it hot, tossed with a drizzle of olive oil and parmesan cheese or use it in place of spaghetti noodles and top with your favorite pasta sauce.
So, eat a variety of squash. They are delicious, good for you and add more color to you plate.