When it comes to vegetables, squash may not be at the top of your shopping list. Green leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli have received more hype over the years than squash. However, the vegetable offers variety along with a host of health benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Not only do the vitamins and minerals in squash keep your body functioning well, but it also can help you look your best. From preventing wrinkles to keeping your physique at a healthy weight, squash may aid in maintaining a youthful appearance. It also may help prevent certain diseases and ailments. Read on to see what this underrated veggie can do for you.
Fight A Cold With Winter Squash
Winter squash didn’t get its name from being harvested in the winter. It’s called winter squash because its skin is thick (think of pumpkins) and can, therefore, last through the cold months. Another reason winter squash is an ideal pick for the holidays is that it’s high in Vitamin C and A.
One of the most popular winter squashes is butternut squash, which has half a day’s worth of Vitamin C and three days worth of Vitamin A in a one-cup serving. Both vitamins help keep your immune systems functioning at its best so that you can fight off the common cold.
Get Summer-Ready With Summer Squash
Summer squash, in particular, is incredibly low in calories while containing a good amount of fiber and protein. They can also be eaten whole since their skin is softer than winter squash, and therefore have an added crunch that keeps you chewing longer.
While they’re low in fat and carbohydrates, they’re also high in potassium. If you increase your exercise regimen in preparation for summer months, the potassium in squash will come in handy by preventing cramping. Cut up squash and sprinkle some salt, pepper, and lemon juice on it for a healthy and simple snack.
Squash contains magnesium and fiber, it can be an effective aid in digestive troubles. Both nutrients are effective at preventing constipation and keeping the colon healthy. Squash also contains vitamin B-6, a vitamin commonly used to help morning sickness.
A study published in the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research found that magnesium combined with vitamin B-6 was significantly effective at treating PMS. It eases symptoms including bloating, nausea, and abdominal discomfort, to name a few.
Maintain A Healthy Prostate
A recent study involving more than 30,000 men found that fruit and vegetable intake had inverse effects on BPH, benign prostatic hypertrophy. The disorder refers to an enlarged prostate that is common in older men.
Particularly vegetables high in vitamin C, lutein, and beta-carotene were found to be effective, suggesting that these ingredients are important in the healthy function of the prostate. Since squash contains all of these, it’s wise for men to incorporate it into a vegetable repertoire.
Feed Your Heart
Squash contains magnesium and potassium while staying low in fat and cholesterol-free, all of which are beneficial to those at risk for heart disease. It also contains high amounts of folic acid.
A study published in the US National Library of Medicine found that folic acid, also known as folate or vitamin B9, is associated with healthy cholesterol levels. Managing cholesterol levels helps moderate the risk of cardiac disease and stroke.
See The Difference
Yellow and orange squashes, such as pumpkins and butternut squash, get their pigment from beta carotene. This substance eventually turns into vitamin A, so it’s not surprising that squash has high levels of it!
Beta carotene is an antioxidant that has a host of health benefits, including preventing night vision loss. Researchers at Harvard have also found that those who took beta carotene supplements for 15 years or more were less likely to experience cognitive decline.
Keep Your Eyes Protected
While we know that beta-carotene has a positive impact on your sight, squash also contain substances that may prevent your eyes from becoming damaged as you age. A Korean study placed squash at the top of the list for foods containing lutein and zeaxanthin.
These two ingredients work together to protect your eyes from high-energy light rays, according to WebMD. Also, they may help prevent eye disease that’s related to aging, such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Squash may help prevent those crow’s feet near your eyes, too.
Keep Your Skin Tight
Sagging skin and wrinkles are a natural part of aging that occurs as skin loses its elasticity. One contributing factor to aging skin is the damage done by free radicals. Antioxidants such as vitamins A and C prevent this kind of damage.
Wrinkles also result from dehydration. Imagine what happens when fruit is dried out. The same thing happens to our skin over time. Since squash is primarily made up of water, eating the vegetable provides these necessary ingredients at the same time that it helps keep you hydrated.
Lengthen Your Locks
Squash contains a host of vitamins that help hair growth. Amongst these is Riboflavin, a compound that researchers have found aids in collagen, a protein found in skin and hair. It also helps increase red cell production.
Red cells carry oxygen to the scalp and hair follicles, which is why it is helpful in producing long, luscious hair. Naturally Curly suggests peeling a winter squash and incorporating the insides into a mixture of yogurt and honey. Apply the substance to damp hair and leave for 20 minutes to enrich your hair from the inside out.
Keep Your Blood Sugar Levels At Bay
Squash has a low glycemic index, meaning that it won’t spike your blood sugar rapidly. Foods ranked below 55 (squash is 50) on the glycemic index scale are low, while foods ranked 70 and above are high.
The lower the rank, the slower the body absorbs the sugar into the bloodstream. The benefit of consuming these low-ranked carbs is that they won’t give you the sugar spike and crash that some foods do. These foods are especially vital for diabetics.
Splurge On Spaghetti
Pasta has a reputation for being delicious yet dense in calories and carbohydrates. That’s because one serving is just half a cup of cooked pasta, which can make it easy to overdo it. The stress over whether or not to grab seconds ends with spaghetti squash.
When cooked, the inside of the spaghetti squash transforms into noodle-like strings. The subtle taste and texture make it the perfect match for your favorite sauce and protein. And the best part is that one full cup of spaghetti squash is only 42 calories and ten carbs.
Build Lean Muscles
It’s common knowledge these days that if you want to build muscle, you need protein. The amino acids help the muscle that’s been torn from a workout regrow, this time stronger. However, it’s important to note where you get your protein from.
If you get all of your protein from animal products, you may be overdoing it on fats while skimping on vitamins and minerals. That’s why it’s important to get protein from veggies, as well. Squash has 2-to-3 grams of protein per serving, making it a high-protein vegetable.
Keep Your Bones Strong
However fit you may be, you’re only as strong as your bones are. Preventing bone loss is vital as you age and become increasingly at risk for developing osteoporosis. While calcium often gets the attention for being bone-healthy, another vital component is manganese.
Manganese is a mineral that contributes to bone formation. It also helps your body absorb proteins and utilize vitamins, both of which further aid your bones. Other minerals present in squash such as iron, phosphorous, and zinc also aid in bone health.
Endure Fewer Migraines
Anyone who has experienced a migraine knows how debilitating it can be. Headache medicine doesn’t always have the impact we’d hope on the vicious migraine. That’s why doctors are exploring methods to prevent migraines before they start.
One effective method, according to WebMD, is to incorporate more Magnesium and Riboflavin into your diet. Research shows that a daily dose of both compounds together can significantly reduce your likelihood of getting a migraine. Since squash has both ingredients, it’s a good food to incorporate into your regimen.
Protect Against Harmful Free Radicals
According to the National Cancer Institute, free radicals are a normal part of certain cellular processes. Too many free radicals, however, can damage the DNA, protein, membranes, and other components of the cell. For this reason, they are believed to play a role in cancer and other health conditions.
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, preventing them from causing said damage. Since each one has unique properties, it’s best to get an array of antioxidants. Squash contains several antioxidants, most notably lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, and beta-carotene.
Many understand that electrolytes are important, especially after a workout. But what exactly do they do? As their name suggests, they are minerals that have an electric charge. They play a variety of roles, such as controlling pH balances in tissues and muscle contractions.
Some of the most common electrolytes are calcium, potassium, and magnesium, all of which are present in squash. Balance is key, but it’s unrealistic to measure every ounce of the minerals you get each day. That’s why incorporating an array of whole foods into your diet, such as squash, helps ensure that you’re getting the right amount of everything.
Lay Off The Sodium
While sodium is an important electrolyte, it is one of the few minerals that many Americans consume far too much of. The CDC states that adults in America consume, on average, 3,400 mg of sodium per day. That’s more than 1,000 mg over the recommended daily maximum of sodium.
Squash contains very little sodium. On the higher end, zucchini has 16 mg per serving. That means you’d have to eat more squash than you could possibly stand to come near the standard. Swap out a few salty snacks for squash to balance out your sodium intake.
A study conducted by the Department of Biochemistry at King Saud University evaluated more than 400 asthmatic children and their antioxidant levels. It concluded that “reduction of vitamin A in asthmatic children may have etiological implications for the disease.”
Translation: lowering Vitamin A intake may make asthma worse. Like everything, it’s important to have balance. Too much Vitamin A has negative impacts. However, deriving these vitamins and minerals from natural foods like squash makes it hard to overdo it, and easy to get just the right amount.
Get Your Copper From Pumpkins
Diet & Fitness Today named the pumpkin on its top 221 foods for copper intake. While all squash contains copper, pumpkin has about double the average and roughly 8% your daily suggested intake per cup.
Copper has been linked to cardiovascular and neuron health, immune function, and collagen production. It also may lower or prolonge the risk of developing arthritis and osteoporosis. It also may help reduce the production of free radicals. In other words, copper helps with most of the things on this list, so eating squash can attack these issues from multiple angles.
Get The Most Out Of Your Fats And Carbs
While diet wars have swayed back and forth on whether carbohydrates or fats are the enemy of your waistline, in the end both are vital for healthy body functions. The key is not overdoing it and making sure you are utilizing all that you put into your body.
The manganese found in squash helps your body metabolize fats and carbohydrates. Squash does more than just offer you a wealth of vitamins and minerals. It helps your body use up what you’ve put into it.