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Incredibly Versatile Winter Squash

Elena Harrington

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Nov 18th, 2015

1WINTER

Diabetes Food Spotlight: Winter Squash

Diabetes Food Spotlight: Winter Squash: Main Image
All varieties of winter squash have some things in common: they all contain beta-carotene and other carotenes and carotenoids

Winter squash are sweet, nutty, and creamy, making them the comfort food of choice in the vegetable world. The yellows, oranges, and greens of pumpkins and other squash help us look forward to hunkering down for a cozy winter. Like other vegetables harvested in the fall, such as potatoes and parsnips, squash are starchy and filling, but their brightly colored flesh is a clear sign that they are also especially nutritious.

The skinny on squash

There are many varieties of winter squash, each with a slightly different nutritional profile, but they all have some things in common: all squash contain beta-carotene and other carotenes and carotenoids which give squash their yellow, orange, and green hues. Our bodies convert carotenes into vitamin A, an important nutrient that helps maintain the immune system. And don’t throw away the seeds—just a quarter cup of roasted squash seeds is a good source of magnesium. Although squash is high in carbohydrates, it is a rich source of fiber and has a relatively low glycemic load, exactly the type of food the ADA recommends people with diabetes increase their intake of. Reasonable portions of squash and their seeds (about a cup) can be a smart addition to a balanced diet to help manage diabetes and blood sugar levels.

Eat the whole squash

Winter squash are incredibly versatile. Once you’ve removed the seeds and baked or roasted the fruits until soft, you can serve them simply with a little butter and salt, or puree them to make creamy soups and sauces. Most squash have skin tender enough to eat (once cooked), so there’s no need to peel them. Some cooks like to remove the skins and bake them into crisps. Another option is to steam your squash, cut it into cubes, and dress it with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, a sprinkle of soy sauce (exclude if you're allergic to soy), and a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds. These squash cubes can be added to vegetable stews and soups, or mixed into brown rice or whole grain pasta dishes. And don’t forget the seeds—lightly salt and roast them for a savory snack.

(Nutr Res Rev 2010;23:184–90)

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