5 Good Reasons to Eat Winter Squash

These hearty fall varieties are full of nutrition and wellness benefits.

Several varieties of winter squash.

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The crisp fall weather means that it’s time for hot chocolate, pumpkin pie, and an abundance of winter squash. These hearty vegetables – which are actually characterized as a fruit –  are more flavorful and nutritious than summer squash. In fact, the winter varieties are chock full of vitamins and minerals, according to Eating Well.

All of the nutrient-dense winter squash varieties have a heavy flesh, tougher skin and larger seeds. You can save the seeds for roasting and enjoy a healthy snack. There are many different types of winter squash with the most popular being butternut and acorn, but spaghetti squash is gaining in popularity. Pumpkins are also considered to be squash by many.

Butternut squash contains the most vitamin A with over 400 percent of the daily requirement found in just one cup and is full of the antioxidant beta-carotene. This squash has a sweeter flavor.  Acorn squash – named for its shape – can be halved and roasted, and eaten plain, stuffed or mashed. And spaghetti squash can be pulled into strands and can be used to replace pasta.

Packed Full of Nutrition

Eating winter squash is extremely good for you. That’s because these seasonal gems contain a large amount of immune-supportive vitamins A and C, folate, dietary fiber, manganese, potassium, copper, iron, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids, according to the healthy eating website Organic Facts. The vitamins A and C help boost your immune system and promote healthy eyes and skin.

Roasted acorn squash.

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Contains Powerful Antioxidants

Winter squash contains the powerful antioxidant beta-carotene that prevents cellular damage from free radicals, according to Cleveland Health. “Your body creates free radicals naturally as it converts food into energy or in response to environmental factors like pollution. Free radicals are missing an electron, so they’re constantly looking to steal them from other cells,” registered dietitian Amber Sommer, RDN, LD told Cleveland Health. She explained that free radicals create oxidative stress which could cause chronic diseases like heart disease and some cancers.

Basket of striped yellow and green delicata squash.

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Promotes Heart Health

Rich in potassium, winter squash could help reduce your blood pressure. Almost half of Americans have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). High blood pressure causes blood vessels to constrict and contributes to heart disease. But eating foods that are potassium-rich help to relax the blood vessels and lower blood pressure, explained Everyday Health.

One cup of cooked butternut squash provides almost 20 percent of the daily value of potassium,” Jenna Volpe, RDN, told Everyday Health. “Eating butternut squash on a regular basis (a few times a week) could help to significantly boost potassium in the diet, naturally supporting more balanced blood pressure.”

Uncooked butternut squash,

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Good for Your Gut

Almost 95 percent of Americans do not eat the daily recommended 28-34 grams of fiber. Winter squash contains seven grams of fiber and could play an important role in your gut health. That’s because dietary fiber helps to prevent constipation and support healthy gut bacteria. Eating foods rich in fiber has many other benefits including helping to lower cholesterol, and promoting heart health.

Preparing spaghetti squash.

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Helps Eye Health

The vitamins in winter squash help to protect your eye health, explained the Cleveland Clinic. Vitamin A can help prevent night blindness and age-related macular degeneration (a leading cause of blindness)  while vitamin C may also protect your eyes by helping to prevent cataracts. A review of studies, published in the journal Antioxidants, found that consuming food high in beta-carotene offers protection from eye diseases.