Health Benefits Butternut Squash

Understanding the Health Benefits of Butternut Squash

After the pumpkin, one of the most common and popular foods associated with autumn is the butternut squash. Also like the pumpkin, the butternut squash is a type of winter squash that has a wide range of uses. From savory favorites like butternut squash soups and stews to sweeter items like pies or muffins, the nutty flavor of this gourd is usable in ways similar to the sweet potato. But besides being a tasty addition to a fall dish, butternut squash is also loaded with nutrients that provide numerous health benefits.

Origin of Butternut Squash

Like pumpkin, acorn squash, zucchini, and various other gourds and melons, the butternut squash plant belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. Scientifically known as Cucurbita moschata, it is believed to have originated in Central and South America where it has a long history of cultivation by Native American tribes. These early cultivators of the crop developed a number of different varieties that were each adapted to their local climate and growing conditions. European colonists in North America later began cultivating the squash themselves, and it eventually made its way across the Atlantic Ocean where it has been integrated into European cuisine.

Butternut Squash Nutrition Facts

Apart from the woody stalk, all parts of a butternut squash are edible; though usually most people only use the familiar orange flesh. One serving of raw butternut squash has 45 calories, 11 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of protein, and trace amounts of unsaturated fat. It is also a nutrient-dense veggie that is loaded with a variety of valuable vitamins and minerals the body uses for everyday functions:

Vitamins (% Daily Value)

  • vitamin A (67%)
  • vitamin C (25%)
  • vitamin E (10%)
  • niacin (8%)
  • folate (7%)
  • thiamine (9%)

Minerals (% Daily Value)

  • calcium (5%)
  • phosphorus (5%)
  • potassium (7%)
  • manganese (10%)
  • magnesium (10%)
  • iron (5%)

Health Benefits Associated with Butternut Squash

As a good source of many nutrients, butternut squash is naturally a healthy plant food that fits well in any balanced diet. Beyond the essential nutrients, though, butternut squash also contains other compounds that have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help protect the body’s cells from oxidative stress and free radicals, which are unstable molecules with unpaired electrons that can damage cells, proteins, and DNA. Antioxidants neutralize these free radicals by donating electrons and making them inert. Butternut squash has a number of substances with antioxidant properties, including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, and the carotenoid pigments that give the squash its bright color.

Between the robust nutrient content and the powerful antioxidants, butternut squash is a great choice for those wanting a healthier diet. Of course, how you cook butternut squash is also a consideration; roasted or pureed preparations, for instance, are generally healthier than those that use a lot of fat or sugar. But just based on the squash alone, there are a wide range of health benefits connected to the compounds found in butternut squash:

  • Chronic disease: While more research is needed, many studies from recent years have shown that a diet high in antioxidants is beneficial for preventing various chronic diseases. This is all believed to be related to the impact of antioxidants on free radicals and oxidative stress. Antioxidants may also have anti-inflammatory properties that also reduce cancer risk.
  • Eye health: Butternut squash is a great source of beta-carotene, which is converted by the body into vitamin A and which is essential for maintaining good night vision and preventing dryness. This beta-carotene, also found in other vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes, protects against the onset of age-related macular degeneration.
  • Immune system: The immune system is a complex bodily system that relies on the regular consumption of different vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A, C, and E are all known to be important for immune health, but it’s really the total package of nutrients that make butternut squash such an effective food.
  • Heart health: There are several ways butternut squash can have a positive impact on the heart and circulatory system, and one of the most important is related to its 2 grams of fiber per serving. Dietary fiber is known to help lower a person’s cholesterol level, which is a major factor in the risk of heart disease. The soluble fiber found in butternut squash and other vegetables like Brussels sprouts and kale binds to cholesterol molecules, preventing their absorption and promoting their elimination from the body.
  • Blood pressure: Another positive effect related to the circulatory system has to do with lowering blood pressure. Butternut squash is a good source of potassium (as are beets), a mineral that helps regulate the balance of fluids in the body and counteracts the effects of sodium, which is a primary cause of high blood pressure. By helping to lower blood pressure, butternut squash supports cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of heart disease.
  • Skin health: Many of the vitamins and minerals found in butternut squash are beneficial for skin health, but one of the most important is vitamin A (derived from beta-carotene). In addition to protecting from UV damage and helping to form new skin cells, vitamin A also promotes the production of collagen, a protein that helps keep the skin firm and less prone to wrinkles.
  • Weight management: Because butternut squash is both low in calories and high in fiber, it is an ideal food to be included in a meal plan or weight loss program. Dietary fiber promotes a feeling of fullness that can help reduce food cravings and lead to a calorie deficit.

Butternut Squash and Other Premium Ingredients

From both a flavor and health perspective, butternut squash is a great choice for home cooks and commercial food producers alike. Available from Silva as either a powder or cut to a custom size, butternut squash is a natural addition to seasoning blends, salad dressings, sauces, stews, ready meals, snacks, or even pet food products. If you’d like to learn more about any of our other high quality ingredients, or if you want to find out more generally how Silva can help, please contact us today to speak with one of our friendly and knowledgeable team members.