A Little History
Winter squash covers a wide range of vegetables, including acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, pumpkin and Hubbard squash. It is unique to the US, being one of three veggies planted by Native Americans, including corn and beans, that supplemented their diets in seasons when hunting was scarce. Two early settlers who grew winter squash in their home gardens include our founding fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
The term ‘winter squash’ is a bit of a misnomer, since they’re actually available all year round, and some, like spaghetti squash, are ubiquitous in spring and summer! All winter squash are members of the gourd family, and are an excellent addition to a healthy diet.
Butternut squash, one of the most popular and easily available of the winter squash, is also available year round. While actually a fruit, as are all winter squash, it is considered a vegetable and has a nutty sweet flavor like the pumpkin. Like all winter squash, butternuts grow on vines, and are excellent, as are most winter squash, for juicing! There is some dispute as to who developed the butternut. Most claim it was first grown and created in Waltham, Massachusetts at the Waltham Experiment Station by Robert E. Young, while Dorothy Leggett believes it was her husband, Charles Leggett, who actually developed the vegetable in Stow, MA, and later introduced it to the Waltham Experiment Station.
Animal studies have shown that the starches in winter squash are especially helpful as anti-inflammatories, anti-diabetic and antioxidant properties, as well as having insulin regulating abilities. Initial laboratory studies also show that winter squash is also a heart healthy food, as it inhibits the formation of cholesterol in our cells.
Amazing Nutritional Benefits
Winter squash is considered a superfood, and is low in calories, fat, sodium and cholesterol, while providing a rich source of fiber and a host of nutritional benefits. This fruit/veggie is rich in vitamins and minerals. Most notably, winter squash is high in in vitamins A and C, B-6, B-2, pantothenic acid and folate. They’re high in the minerals potassium, copper and magnesium and the antioxidant manganese. Winter squash also offer omega-3’s.
Interestingly, winter squash is an exceedingly abundant source of alpha and beta-carotenes. They’re also rich in zeaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin and lutein.