I’m going through a squash obsession this week! The bounty is beautiful and the variety is abundant, but I’m zeroing in on one of my faves, the acorn squash. I have a stuffed acorn squash recipe to die for (it will come out in in my newsletter on Monday), but I also thought it would fun to explore just how healthy this stuff is for you. I turn to the brilliant Bridget Coila. She has been writing professionally since 1998 and specializes in health, science and nutrition topics. Some of her articles have appeared in “Oxygen,” “American Fitness” and “Suite 101.” Coila has a B.S. in cell and molecular biology from the University of Cincinnati and 10 years of medical research experience.
Here’s what she has to say:
Acorn squash is one type of winter squash, a group that also includes butternut squash, Hubbard squash and pumpkin. These vegetables are harvested in the fall and can be stored for up to six months without a loss of nutrition The green speckled skin of an acorn squash is thick and inedible, but the orange-yellow flesh inside is prized for its combination of sweet and peppery flavors.
Acorn squash come in different sizes, so their nutritional value and serving size is typically measured in relation to 1 cup of cubed, cooked squash, which is about 205 g. This single serving of acorn squash has 115 calories and 2 g of protein. There are 30 g of carbohydrate in a cup of squash and 9 g of fiber. Acorn squash has no fat and no cholesterol. The sodium in acorn squash is 8 mg per serving, making it a low-salt food.
Acorn squash is high in vitamin A, having 18 percent of the recommended daily value, and in vitamin C, with 37 percent of the recommended intake. Its 0.3 mg of thiamin provides 23 percent of the necessary daily amount and it has 20 percent of the recommended amount of vitamin B6. Minerals that are especially high in acorn squash are magnesium, potassium, manganese and iron, with 22, 26, 25 and 11 percent of the daily values of these nutrients. Acorn squash also contains niacin, calcium, zinc, phosphorus, copper, selenium, folate and pantothenic acid.
Acorn squash, like other winter squashes, is high in phytochemicals. These compounds provide antioxidant activity and are essential for proper physiological functioning. One powerful compound in winter squash is beta-cryptoxanthin, a pigment that exerts a protective effect on the lungs. Other phytochemicals in acorn squash are beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein.
The combination of nutrients and phytochemicals in acorn squash may be partially responsible for this vegetable’s protective effect on men’s health, according to World’s Healthiest Foods. Acorn squash can keep the prostate healthy and may be protective against diabetes, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. The folate in acorn squash can help prevent birth defects and protect against colon cancer.
Acorn squash has a glycemic load of 8, which means that a single serving does not raise blood sugar significantly. A glycemic load of 10 or lower is considered low and therefore appropriate for a diabetic diet or a low-glycemic diet for individuals trying to lose weight. One reason acorn squash has such a low glycemic load despite being a starchy vegetable is because the overall carbohydrate content is fairly low compared to the entire weight.