When we think of boosting our immunity, and bolstering our systems for winter colds and flu, we often think of drinking orange juice for vitamin C or sipping syrups with elderberry extract. Our first thought is not to cook and eat the lowly winter squash. Studies have shown, however, that the carotenoids in winter squash can have superb antioxidant benefits. Carotenoids such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin give winter squashes their distinctive yellow-orange color. Compounds in the carbohydrates in winter squash function as antioxidants also. Additionally, these compounds act in anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic (regulating insulin) ways.
*Try to buy organic squash. Winter squash roots can leach contaminants from non-organic soil.
*Roast squash seeds in a low oven (160-170 degrees) for 15-20 minutes to prevent compromise of the oil in the seeds.
In one cup of baked squash you will receive vitamins A, C, B6, folate, and B2. You will also be blessed with potassium, tryptophan (an amino acid that is converted into the “feel good” neurotransmitter serotonin), copper, omega-3 fats, and magnesium. Oh, and by the way, this one cup of squash goodness yields a mere 75 calories!
Look for acorn, butternut, spaghetti, and hubbard squashes. Look for ones you never heard of before…..I did! I found a Sweet Dumpling Squash at a local farmer’s market. It’s a small, pumpkin-shaped, cream-colored squash with green stripes. It’s flesh is considered “honey sweet” in flavor according to recipetips.com. My Sweet Dumpling is waiting for me in a cool, dry place. I’m going to stuff it with quinoa and dates. Maybe I should do that right now!