Fall Harvest: Winter Squash

It’s about that time of year when we can all admit that fall is here. One of the best parts of autumn is that there are so many fruits and vegetables that are harvested at this time of year, which means there is an abundance of fresh, delicious foods just waiting to be eaten.

One of the quintessential autumn foods is the winter squash. There are several varieties - the tried and true butternut and acorn squash, along with the less-well-known varieties like delicata, kabocha, kuri, and hubbard. Even though they can look pretty different, many of these winter squash are related and have similar health benefits. Some of the nutritional highlights of winter squash include:

  1. Winter squash contain antioxidants, which can help protect against conditions like heart disease and cancer.
  2. Squash also contains a variety of carotenoids, which are the molecules that make the flesh of the squash appear yellow or orange (and they’re also antioxidants! See #1). Carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which are found abundantly in winter squash, are great for eye health, prevention of cancer and for optimal immune function.
  3. Vitamin C is found in winter squash, and is often touted for it’s immune boosting qualities. Vitamin C is also useful for tissue repair! It helps collagen lay properly, helping us have smoother skin with improved elasticity.
  4. Winter squash has plenty of dietary fiber, which supports digestive health, and can even help to lower cholesterol levels when eaten regularly.
  5. Manganese is a mineral that is found in winter squash (and in their seeds, which are often delicious when toasted!). While we don’t need lots of it, manganese is important for bone health, skin integrity and blood sugar control.
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There are lots of ways to prepare winter squash - you can bake it, blend it into a creamy soup, stuff it, or mash it (and more!)

Below is a simple recipe that will work for almost all types of winter squash, so you can try out new varieties for yourself!

Ingredients:

  • Any type of winter squash (make sure it’s for eating and not for decoration or carving!)
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Grass-fed butter (to serve, optional)
  • Baking sheet

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 375F
  • Cut your squash in half lengthwise, and use a regular spoon to remove the seeds
  • Drizzle olive oil on the fleshy side of the squash, trying to coat it evenly
  • Sprinkle cinnamon and a pinch of salt to the squash (over the butter)
  • Place squash face down on the baking sheet
  • Bake for 30-50 mins (times vary widely depending on type and size of squash)
  • Squash is done when a fork or a knife easily pierces the skin

To serve:

Add a little butter, a little more cinnamon and another pinch of salt to the squash for a sweet and savory side dish. You can eat it as a side dish right out of the skin, or scoop it out! Enjoy!

Katy Morrison, ND, LAc