Butternut squash is a strange looking “vegetable” or should I say technically a fruit since it contains seeds. It is a cousin to the acorn and spaghetti squash. Beige in color and shaped like an hourglass, they are rich in phytonutrients, vitamins and antioxidants. They have a thick peel and can be kept for up to 3 months in a cool, dry place. Once cut, they only last for a week in the refrigerator. They can be a tough “squash” to handle since their peel is extremely thick and requires a very sharp knife to peel and cut up if not cooked. Today though, it is common to find this squash already peeled, cubed and ready to be used in a variety of recipes. They can be roasted, pureed for soup or just split in half and baked in the oven. Let’s learn a little more about the health benefits of the butternut squash.
They are low in fat and rich in anti-oxidants, which make them an anti-inflammatory food to help us decrease inflammation in our body that leads to chronic disease. One cup contains approximately 60 calories, 16 grams of carbohydrate and 3 grams of fiber. Rich in beta-carotene that our body converts into vitamin A. Beta-carotene gives the flesh its rich orange hue. Vitamin A is important for eye health. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that maintains healthy mucus membranes, soft tissue and vibrant skin. Butternut squash is also rich in Vitamin C necessary for wound healing, development of ligaments, blood vessels, and cartilage plus supports our immune system. Vitamin C also helps our body absorb iron to prevent anemia. Potassium is also abundant which is important as an electrolyte for cellular function, protein synthesis to aid muscle development and healthy blood pressure. Lastly, it contains fiber, which provides satiety, regularity and a healthy digestive system.
How do you pick a ripe butternut squash? Look for one with unblemished skin, matte in color and heavy for it’s size. If the skin appears shiny put it back since this means it is not ripe and will not taste as sweet. Below is an easy recipe to go along side lean protein for dinner tonight.
3 pounds butternut squash peeled and sliced into 1 inch chunks
3 tbsp of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tbsp. of balsamic vinegar or fresh squeezed orange juice
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place the butternut squash in a large bowl and toss with the oil, seasonings and vinegar or orange juice.
Place the squash in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes tossing gently a few times while baking. Add additional sea salt and pepper if needed before serving.