Winter Squash: Where the Hell Have You Been All My Life?

Curious about the health benefits of butternut, acorn, hubbard, turban, kabocha, and other winter squashes? Need some recipes?

And yes, I believe I am the last health and fitness blogger on the planet to discover that the big piles of gourdy-looking objects on display this time of year at the grocery store are actually edible food items. I thought they were table decorations!

As it turns out, winter squashes are tasty. They are not nearly as caloric as you might think, given the gloriously sweet & starchy nature of them. Though some are scary-looking, they can actually be easy to prepare if you're lazy busy, and they have tons of sneaky health benefits. How did I manage to miss them all these years?

So if you haven't already read a million other posts about sweet winter squashes, or if the posts you read had too much actual information in them and not enough swearing or gratuitous cat pictures (always a problem in nutrition posts, don't you think?) then it looks you've come to the right place!

Photo: aturkus

Winter Squashes and Nutrition:

The "World's Healthiest Foods" website has the full scoop on the nutritional benefits of winter squashes, so I'll steal their content pass along some of their info.

For example, winter squash has:

  • Craploads of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin.
  • Seeds that you can lightly roast (160-170°F for 15-20 minutes) that have lots of linoleic and oleic acid.
  • Particularly virtuous kinds of starch--pectins--that are "specially structured polysaccharides that in winter squash often include special chains of D-galacturonic acid called homogalacturonan."  Um, yeah. Anyway, these are good because they have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties.  And hooray for all that!

But WHF warns you to make sure you get 'em organic, as they are superstars at sucking up nasty soil contaminants, like PAHs.

Squash: A Better Calorie Bargain?

Starches have gotten a lot of bad press nutritionally (unless you're looking at the whole resistant starch issue; a topic for another time).  But check out the nutritional differences when Fitsugar compares squash vs sweet potatoes, and The Washington Post compares kabocha squash and regular potatoes. If you're trying to save a few more calories for inexcusably big slices of cake and big honking cheeseburgers extra portions of healthy fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, then squash may make an excellent potato substitute.

Squash Recipes

Some of these big-ass squash look so intimidating it's hard to think what you might be able to do with them.

But if you'd rather eat them than disguise them, there are lots of ideas out there!

What Crabby Did

I peeled a butternut squash (pain in the ass, by the way), cut it up, & brushed lightly with olive oil. Baked for over an hour at 350 until the pieces were soft, then mashed them with some chicken broth and nutmeg. Easy-peasey, and tasted good!

Photo:  BourgeoisBee

OK, so that wasn't exactly helpful.  Sorry, frowny cat. But I believe that's a summery squash you're dealing with there anyway.  Hmm, is there anyone else out there who has some ideas for winter squash?

Pathetic Bid for Attention From Reaching Out to New Friends at... the Dole Health Summit!

So if you google squash recipes, especially if you have a particular kind in mind, it's not like there's any shortage.  But in honor of the upcoming Dole "Health and Happiness Summit," (which I'm sure you'll be hearing about later, or I'll never get invited to another blogging conference again),  I thought I'd check out the blogs of some of those folks I'll be meeting. Do any of them have any winter squash recipes?  As it turns out, many of 'em do! However, apologies to @APSandy, who is an awesome twitter person to follow but whose blog I couldn't find, and Tish from Luv and Kiwi who has an excellent blog but saw me coming and hid all her winter squash recipes where I couldn't find them and steal them.

So in no particular order:

Check out the fabulous FBG's  Acorn Squash Dip with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds!

Over at Meals and Miles, Meghann gussies up some hubbard squash by adding hummus, cheese, apples, and other tasty ingredients.

At Bookieboo's ginormous and helpful site, there's a tasty looking recipe for Stuffed Acorn Squash with Quinoa that looks really, really tasty.

Iowa Girl Eats has a recipe and nearly-pornographic pictures of a Butternut Squash Lasagna. Visit if you dare.

Tina at Carrots and Cake tried out Hungry Girl's Cheesy Butternut Bake, adding amusing commentary and a picture of a seriously adorable dog.

Over at The Token Fat Girl, yet another great blog, you can find a quick recipe for Recipe for butternut squash fries. And doesn't the world need more non-guilt inducing fries?

And finally, at Run Eat Repeat, there's a super-easy recipe for pumpkin creme which makes a creme to put on waffles. (Is pumpkin a winter squash? What the hell, close enough.  But dangit Monica, with your tasty breakfast pictures.... suddenly I'm in dire need of a waffle!)

BTW, I've been offline much more than I thought this week, what with our cross-country move and the odious unpacking, storing, schlepping, errands and chores exciting organizational challenges and functional fitness opportunities that's brought.  And I realize I may be a bit distracted by the Dole thing as it's my first blog event ever. (Can't imagine why "Crabby McSlacker" wouldn't be a welcome guest at any marketing event!)   So my apologies for unanswered emails, unvisited favorite blogs etc.  Will catch up eventually, I promise!

So, um squash. Or any new food item you recently discovered, or thoughts about conferences or moving or anything on your mind today? And if you've got favorite recipes, please throw in a link!

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