Squash is a go-to ingredient for fall and winter cooking. Its rich sweetness makes it a perfect addition to cold-weather comfort foods such as soups, stews, or as part of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Not only that, squash is also a nutritional powerhouse, and a great way to boost your health during fall and winter, when you can find plenty of varieties of squash at your local grocery store or farmer’s market.
Health Benefits of Squash
Squash is packed with vitamins and minerals. It is a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, folate, and more. 1 Vitamin C strengthens the immune system, promotes tissue repair, and is essential for collagen synthesis. 2 Vitamin A also boosts immunity, as well as regulating cell growth, and aiding bone and eye health. 3 Magnesium and potassium play an essential role in bone health. 4
Eating foods high in Vitamin A and beta-carotene, such as squash, can reduce the risk of cancer. 5 Research shows that adding vegetables that contain carotenoids–this includes any squash that has bright orange or yellow flesh–lowers the risk of heart disease by 23%. 6
Types of Squash to Try
Butternut squash is very flavorful, with a rich nutty taste and a lot of sweetness. Butternut squash pairs well with sage, rosemary, and poultry and is a favorite ingredient in fall soups.
Acorn squash has a nutty flavor and mild sweetness. Their small size makes them great for baking. Try cutting them in half, removing the seeds, and stuffing them with a savory filling of your choice.
Delicata squash tastes like a slightly earthier sweet potato. Its thin skin is edible, making it easy to prepare since you don’t have to worry about removing the skin.
Kabocha squash, also sometimes called Japanese pumpkin, tastes like sweet potato combined with pumpkin. Kabocha is popular for use in tempura, but it can also be boiled and mashed, steamed, or added to stews.
Spaghetti squash has a mild taste and flesh that takes on a noodle-like form when baked. Because of this, it is a popular low-calorie, high-nutrient alternative to pasta.
Smoky Ginger Butternut Soup
This creamy autumn soup gains a subtle smokiness from dried dulse seaweed, which is rich in iron. The broth, made with kombu greens, adds minerals. Find these sea greens in a grocery store’s Asian section or order them online.
Recipe courtesy of Bastyr University.
- 2 lb butternut squash
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
- 2 cup sweet potato, diced
- 4 inch piece dried kombu or kelp
- 5 cup chicken stock or water (or vegetable stock to make vegetarian)
- 3⁄4 cup apple cider or juice
- 1⁄2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp dried dulse flakes
- to taste crème fraiche, to serve (optional)
- to taste salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Place halves on oiled baking sheet and bake until tender, about 45 minutes.
Warm oil in a 4-quart soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, onion and ginger; sauté until the onions are golden, about 10 minutes.
Add the sweet potato, kombu and stock. Cover and bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until sweet potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.
Discard the kombu.
Scoop flesh from the cooked squash into the soup, add apple cider, and puree until smooth using a blender or immersion blender.
Return the soup to the stovetop over medium-low heat. Stir in cinnamon, dulse, salt, and pepper. Serve hot with a swirl of crème fraiche and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
If you are interested in pursuing a career in the healing capacity of food and other natural health practices, naturopathic medicine may be a good fit for you.