Food Spotlight: Winter Squash


Along with the colorful leaves and the nip in the air, one of my favorite things about fall is winter squash. Winter squash can be differentiated in looks from their summer counterparts (such as zucchini) by their thick, tough skin.   In addition, winter squash can be stored for several months if kept in a cool dry place. There are many different types of winter squash, some examples are  pumpkins, butternut, acorn and delicata.

Why Winter Squash is Good for You:

Winter squash all have flesh that is a soft yellow to a deep orange in color. The color of a food, in most cases, can tell you what beneficial vitamins and minerals you’ll from eating it. The yellow-orange color means they all have carotenoids which includes lutein and zeaxanthin that help protect vision. They also have beta-cryptoxanthin which studies have shown,  help protect against lung and prostate cancers as well as improving joint health.

Another bonus to eating winter squash is the beta-carotene your body will be getting. Beta-carotene has antioxidants which help reduce signs of aging, as well as anti-inflammatory properties to help prevent swelling, especially in the joints. Throw in the fiber content of winter squash which helps keep the digestive system working properly, especially helpful for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Winter squash is good for your heart as well! A few of the benefits  include lowering your “bad” cholesterol, raising your “good” cholesterol, reducing plaque buildup in your arteries, lowering blood pressure and it also improves glycemic control as well. Add up all the health benefits that winter squash provides and I do believe we have a winner!

Including Winter Squash in Your Diet:

So now you know it is  good for you and you even know why it’s good for you, but how do you incorporate it into your daily diet? Here’s some ideas:

  • When you make shepherds pie, use mashed butternut squash instead of  mashed potatoes on top.
  • Next time your family is craving spaghetti, top spaghetti squash with meat sauce instead of pasta!
  • Wash and cut in half the squash. Scoop out the inside seeds and dispose of them. Place the squash halves in a baking pan and bake  at 350 until fork tender. Serve as a side dish with dinner.
  • Roast several varieties of squash, cubed and placed on a baking sheet, together and see which are your favorite.
  • Try out the recipe below.

Creamy Chipotle Squash  Soup

Again, I’m going to mention that I’m cooking for a whole herd of people, but you might not be. Remember to adjust the recipe to fit your needs. The recipe written the way it is below will make 10, one cup servings.

  • 10  c. of cubed butternut squash
  • 8 c. fat free, low sodium  chicken broth
  • 3 1/2 c. onions, chopped
  • 3 whole chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 7  T. fat free non dairy coffee creamer
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1tsp. chipotle chili powder
  • 1 1/2 T. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350. Place squash cubes in a baking pan and bake for 25 minutes, then remove from oven and set aside. Meanwhile in a  stock pot, cook onions over medium heat until softened, about 4-6 minutes or so. Add the squash cubes, chicken broth, chipotle peppers, and seasonings. Reduce the heat to low. Bring  it to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender, about 30-35 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool for several minutes. Place the squash  mixture in a blender and puree until smooth, keep in mind you’ll need to work in batches. Transfer the pureed mixture to a large  bowl and add the creamer, mix thoroughly and serve. You may need to add a little bit of salt, to taste. Enjoy!

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