When you think of classic autumn dishes, pumpkin might come to mind—especially because it seems everywhere you look, there’s another item flavored “pumpkin spice.”
But this fall, don’t pass by other winter squash varieties, with harder skins and brighter flesh than summer zucchini. Acorn, butternut and more are perfect picks fit for fall feasts.
The Wonders of Winter Squash
In the past few editions, we’ve been featuring healthy foods that are in season this autumn. So far we’ve covered pears, fish and mushrooms. This week we’re looking at the superfood powerhouse, winter squash.
It’s named after “winter” because of it’s cool weather harvest and ability to be stored over the cold winter months. Varieties of winter squash come in many shapes, sizes and vibrant colors. Three of our favorites that are easy to find are acorn, butternut, delicata.
If you think of squash as a starch (it is—about 90% of its calories come from carbohydrates; half of them the starchy kind) you might assume you should avoid it if you’re counting carbs. But that’s not necessary. Studies on squash have helped researches learn that not all starches are alike. In fact, winter squash starch is rich in polysaccharides in its cell walls, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and insulin-regulating properties.
Another common trait among winter squash is the deep orange/gold color of its flesh. Like other items in the produce aisle, the bright color usually tips off rich nutrient content. For squash these healthful properties include:
- Vitamin A: The human body converts beta carotene into vitamin A, which boosts the immune system, protects against heart disease and supports healthy vision.
- Potassium: A diet rich in potassium can hedge against high blood pressure, and along with sodium and calcium, it works as an electrolyte, to transmit nerve communication that is central to muscle contraction.
- Magnesium: Aids in absorption of calcium which is a help for building strong teeth and bones, which can help avoid injuries in your active lifestyle.
- Fiber: Fiber in your diet helps fill you up, and can aid with portion or calorie control—not to mention fiber is a real benefit to your digestive process.
While winter squash is a delicious choice for simply baking or steaming in the half shell, the recipe below brings even more flavor and color to your healthy autumn eating plan.
Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash
- 1 large butternut squash peeled and cut in 1” cubes
- 2 – 3 tablespoons of olive oil or melted coconut oil
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Sea salt and ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss all ingredients in a large bowl and spread in an even layer on the baking sheet. Cook for 35 – 45 minutes, turning cubes halfway through, until squash is browned and tender.