The Well being Advantages of Winter Squash (Plus, 7 Sorts to Attempt)

Fall and winter convey a few of our favourite seasonal substances, resembling apples, cranberries, Brussels sprouts, and winter squash. Tender and nutty with undertones of sweetness when cooked, winter squash refers to pumpkins, butternut squash, acorn squash, and different squashes which might be prepared for harvest in fall, beginning round late September. Not solely is it versatile and diverse, winter squash additionally packs well being advantages, because of its vitamin and mineral content material.

Winter squash vitamin

The various winter squash varieties you’ll discover in shops are vastly totally different in form, measurement, texture, and coloration, however usually share the identical dietary content material. 

They’re wealthy in alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, which the physique converts into vitamin A (retinol). It’s additionally why winter squashes vary from yellow to orange on the within. The deeper the orange hue, the upper the beta-carotene content material.

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“When pondering of nutritional vitamins, I wish to group them into colours. Often every coloration, in broad phrases, represents a unique nutrient,” Rhyan Geiger, RDN and proprietor of Phoenix Vegan Dietitian, tells VegNews. “That’s why it’s so essential to eat the rainbow to get a wide range of nutritional vitamins and vitamins.”

Winter squash additionally comprises essential vitamins, resembling vitamin C, dietary fiber, and minerals like folate, magnesium, and potassium. 

Well being advantages of winter squash

Your physique converts alpha-carotene and beta-carotene into vitamin A (retinol), a vital vitamin that helps with wholesome pores and skin and mucous membranes, imaginative and prescient and eye well being, and your immune system. 

Like different carotenoids, they’re additionally antioxidants, a compound that inhibits oxidation, a chemical response that may result in the manufacturing of free radicals. Excessive ranges of free radicals are linked to a better threat of most cancers, diabetes, and coronary heart illness.

Vitamin C, additionally an antioxidant, is thought to spice up your immune system and combat irritation, a precursor to many power ailments. It might assist decrease hypertension and defend in opposition to coronary heart illness. This highly effective vitamin additionally helps enhance iron absorption, significantly for individuals who comply with a vegan weight loss program.

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Folate, or vitamin B9, is critical for producing purple and white blood cells in your bone marrow, changing carbohydrates into vitality, in addition to making DNA and RNA. Potassium metabolizes carbohydrates, synthesizes protein, helps regulate your heartbeat, and ensures that your muscular tissues and nerves are in working order. Magnesium turns meals into vitality, creates protein, and regulates the nervous system.

Typically, a weight loss program wealthy in plant-based meals is related to a decrease threat of a number of power ailments, together with sure types of most cancers, coronary heart illness, and Kind-2 diabetes in addition to decrease blood strain. They’re additionally wealthy in fiber, which helps enhance digestive well being and is thought to diversify your intestine microbiome, Geiger says.

“Some research have additionally proven improved insulin sensitivity and diminished irritation when consuming fiber-rich meals like pumpkin or acorn squash,” she provides.

The best way to use winter squash seeds

Don’t throw away the seeds while you purchase a complete winter squash, like pumpkin or butternut squash. Geiger says that “seeds are a supply of protein and fats and have nutritional vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, potassium, calcium, and iron.”

Roasted seeds can be utilized as a topping for soup, salads, grain bowls, and stuffed winter squash. To make roasted seeds, preheat your oven to 350 levels Fahrenheit. 


Scoop out the seeds and switch them to a colander. Rinse the seeds, below chilly operating water, utilizing your fingers to loosen the gunk and strands. Pat them dry—extra water will flip into steam within the oven and forestall the seeds from browning.

Add the seeds to a bowl and toss them with salt, pepper, and olive oil. You can additionally add extra seasonings, resembling a pinch of chili powder or smoked paprika. Unfold the seeds evenly throughout a baking sheet, then bake them within the oven till golden brown round 13 minutes, stirring often and rotating midway by. 

How to decide on and retailer winter squash

When choosing a winter squash, choose one that’s agency to the contact with no blemishes or tender spots. Search for a squash with uninteresting pores and skin and a dry or drying stem, each of that are indicators of ripeness. Make sure you verify the stem for indicators of mould. Retailer winter squash in a cool, darkish place for as much as a month.

The best way to prepare dinner winter squash

Winter squash could be roasted, steamed, or pureed and can be utilized in all kinds of vegan recipes, from stuffed squash to risotto.

To purée winter squash

Puréed squash is sweet for soups, dairy-free cheese sauces, and desserts. Begin with steamed or roasted squash. The latter will add extra taste to the completed dish. Mix till easy, including a bit little bit of water if essential.

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Some varieties are good for mashing or including to seasonal grain bowls whereas others make for stunning stuffed squash centerpieces. Listed below are seven sorts of winter squashes and the right way to prepare dinner them.

To roast squash

Preheat the oven to 400 levels Fahrenheit. Winter squash pores and skin is usually edible when cooked, however you may need to peel the tougher-skinned varieties like butternut squash and kabocha. Halve the squash, then lower into smaller items if desired. Toss with a fats (like oil or dairy-free butter), salt, and pepper or, for a sweeter selection, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar, or maple syrup. Relying on the range, roast the squash for 20 to 45 minutes, till tender. 

To steam winter squash

Peel the squash if desired, take away the seeds, then lower it into one-inch cubes. The smaller the cubes, the longer it takes to steam. Add a couple of inches of water to a pot fitted with a steamer basket. Deliver it to a boil, add the squash, cowl the pot, and steam for about quarter-hour. The squash is prepared when it’s simply pierced with a fork.

7 sorts of winter squash and the right way to use them in vegan cooking


1 Butternut squash

The oblong-shaped butternut squash has easy, uninteresting, pale yellow pores and skin that’s edible when cooked however is normally peeled or eaten round. It has moist, shiny orange flesh that’s mildly candy and nutty-tasting.

The best way to use it: Butternut squash is scrumptious when stuffed, roasted, or mashed and paired with seasonal herbs, like sage and thyme. Try our information to cooking butternut squash for 15 methods to make use of it.


2 Spaghetti squash

This large, spherical yellow squash will get its identify from the best way its golden flesh could be “shredded” into pasta-like strands (paying homage to angle hair pasta) with a fork when cooked. It has a light, barely candy taste.

The best way to use it: It’s typically baked entire, then separated into “spaghetti” strands and served with sauces or used to make a casserole. It might absorb all the flavors of this vegan mushroom bolognese.


3 Sugar pumpkin

This iconic winter squash is usually used for adornment, but it surely’s versatile within the kitchen. Sugar pumpkin varies in measurement, but it surely has agency, thick, shiny orange pores and skin and candy, agency flesh.

The best way to use it: Roast it, steam it, stuff it, purée it for sauces, or use it for vegan fall desserts, resembling pumpkin pie, bread, muffins, or cookies.


4 Acorn squash

Though it may be discovered amongst pumpkins, butternut squashes, and delicata squashes in fall, acorn squash belongs to the identical household as zucchini. It has darkish, shiny pores and skin with longitudinal ridges and a gentle, nutty, buttery taste. The pores and skin is edible when cooked.

The best way to use it: Because of its buttery taste, acorn squash is scrumptious while you toss it with a impartial oil, cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, and a bit little bit of brown sugar. It’s additionally scrumptious when stuffed, pureed, or utilized in risotto, and shines when halved and roasted with oil, salt, and pepper. 


5 Kabocha

Also called Japanese pumpkin, kabocha is a winter squash with uninteresting, darkish inexperienced pores and skin and candy, barely dry flesh with notes of chestnut. Its pores and skin is notoriously tough to chop by, so just remember to use a pointy knife.

The best way to prepare dinner it: Attempt it on this roasted kabocha squash soup and modify the seasoning to your liking. It pairs effectively with thyme, sage, and rosemary.


6 Delicata squash

Some winter squashes, like kabocha and butternut, could be robust to chop by, however that’s not the case with the candy and nutty delicata squash. Knives lower simply by this groovy, cylindrical, yellow-and-green squash, which has a creamier texture in comparison with different varieties. 

The best way to prepare dinner it: Halve it and stuff it or lower it into half-ring shapes, scooping out the seeds. Dairy-free butter, salt, and cracked black pepper convey out a deeper nuttiness.


7 Buttercup squash

With its darkish inexperienced flesh and spherical, squat form, buttercup squash appears prefer it might be kabocha’s sibling. It has darkish orange flesh that tastes candy and creamy.

The best way to prepare dinner it: Buttercup squash is flexible, so you possibly can roast it or steam it. Its creamy texture enhances pureed soups, like this pumpkin soup with white beans.

These are among the most typical winter squash varieties. However, the farmers’ market or your native grocery retailer could have choices that aren’t on this record, together with carnival squash, hubbard squash, turban squash, and candy dumpling squash. If you wish to prepare dinner with these, comply with the roasting, steaming, or microwaving directions above.

For extra on vegan vitamin, learn: