6 Health Benefits of Squash
Tasty food is generally not healthy. So, finding a food item that is highly nutritive and offers great health value, is quite a feat. Squash is just that! Squash are highly nutritive and low on calories with anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties. Since a very long time, different types of squash like Butternut, Spaghetti, Pumpkin and Zucchini have found its place in a number of finger-licking exquisite dishes. Read on to know more about squash!
Even though most people identify squash with vegetables, botanically speaking they’re fruits as they contain the seeds of the plant. Squashes belong to one of the four varieties of the Cucurbitaceae family of vegetables. It is said to have originated about 7500 years ago in Mexico and Central America.
Summer squashes, such as zucchini, globe squash, pattypan, and yellow crookneck squash, are quick-growing, small-fruited, bush varieties of Cucurbita pepo. The plants are upright and spreading, 45 to 75 cm (18 to 30 inches) high and produce a variety of fruit forms, ranging from flattened, oblong elongated and even crooked fruits!
Summer squashes can have a variety of colours. Their colours can range from white, cream, yellow, green to even variegated! Fruit surfaces or contours may be scalloped, smooth, ridged, or warty. The fruits develop very rapidly and must be harvested a few days after they form (before the seeds and rinds harden) and used soon after harvest. The rind is generally considered edible.
Winter squashes are vining, generally large-fruited, long-season plants that are characterized by fruits that can be stored many months if kept dry and well above their freezing point. Common winter squashes include the butternut squash, delicata, acorn, spaghetti squashes, buttercup squashes and giant pumpkins. The rinds of winter squashes are relatively harder than those of the summer squash and are usually considered inedible.
Did You Know?
– Many squashes were grown to be used as containers when they dried up
– Florida is the biggest squash producing state, followed by New York, California and North Carolina
– Native American tribes use squash seeds to get rid of parasites like tapeworm and roundworm
– The entire squash plant can be eaten such as the leaves, tendrils, shoots, stems, flowers, seeds, and fruit
Squash packs a serious punch in terms of health and medicinal benefits. Different varieties of squash have the ability to improve vision, aid in skin care, strengthen the immune system, build strong bones and reduce the symptoms of insomnia. It also prevents inflammatory conditions, treats arthritis, eliminates ulcers, parasites and infections, improves prostate health, protects against birth defects, boosts respiratory health, and reduces blood pressure.
Squash consists of various organic compounds, vitamins, and minerals, which are responsible for its impressive health benefits. It contains vitamin A, as well as significant amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, B vitamins and folate. In terms of minerals, squash contains magnesium, potassium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, calcium, and iron. It is also a very good source of carotenoids and other important anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.
Health Benefits of Squash
Some of the health benefits of squash are as follows:
Inflammation is a localized physical condition in which part of the body becomes reddened, swollen, hot, and often painful, especially as a reaction to injury or infection.
The anti-inflammatory activity of squash is due to the presence of omega-3 fatty acids and carotenoids like lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene. The somewhat unusual anti-inflammatory polysaccharides called homogalacturonan also contribute to the overall anti-inflammatory properties of squash.
Squash is an important source of vitamin C, magnesium, and other antioxidant compounds. These vitamins and minerals have important antioxidative roles in the body as they help to neutralize free radicals throughout the body.
Free radicals are the dangerous by-products of cellular metabolism, and they have been connected with a wide variety of illnesses, including cancer, heart diseases, and premature aging. Furthermore, it contains high levels of vitamin A, including carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, which helps in boosting the body’s immunity.
Maintains Bone Health
The high levels of essential vitamins present in squash help in developing bone matter and bone mineral density. Squash also contains zinc, calcium, manganese, and other important trace elements, which help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Additionally, these nutrients ensure strength and durability of the bones.
Consuming squash will give your body all the vitamin A and beta-carotene it requires. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant compound essential for good eye health. High levels of beta-carotene have been connected to reduced chances of macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, and other vision issues.
Certain types of squash contain good amounts of dietary fibers as well as the polysaccharide pectin. Pectin helps in blood sugar regulation throughout the body, ensuring that the insulin and glucose activities within the body remain constant and smooth. This ultimately results in a reduction in blood sugar fluctuations that can make a diabetics’ life easier.
Supports Newborn Health
Squash has significant levels of folate, which has long been known as an essential vitamin for pregnant women. Folic acid or folate plays an integral role in developing the nervous system of the developing infant. Neural tube defects have been directly linked to a deficiency in folic acid. So adding squash to your pregnancy diet is always a good idea.
How can you include squash in your diet?
When it comes to culinary applications, squash is extremely flexible and is commonly used in salads when fresh. They can be baked with meat, flattened into patties, fried or included as a base flavour for soups. The seeds of squash are also edible and their oils can even be extracted for cooking purposes. The shoots and tendrils of squashes can also be eaten as greens in a salad.
All varieties are great for pureeing, roasting and baking. Once you cook or mash squash, you can use it in soups, curries as well as in bread, muffins, custards and pies.
Summer Squash has a high water content and hence they do best when cooked with dry-heat methods such as stir-frying, grilling, or sautéing to avoid the mush factor. But, cooking by steaming, simmering in a sauce, baking, or deep-frying is also perfectly acceptable. You can roast, braise, steam, boil, microwave or simmer winter squash.
Disclaimer: Squash fruits can lower blood pressure to a dangerous level, so people with hypotension should avoid consuming it.
100g of squash, all varieties, raw, winter provides 34 Calories, Carbs – 8.6g (Dietary Fiber – 1.5g, Sugar – 2.2g), Protein – 1g, Fat – 0.1g, Sodium – 4mg
And a percentage daily value of Vitamin A – 27%, Vitamin C – 20%, Iron – 3%, Calcium – 3% (based on a 2000 Calorie diet).