Hearty, Healthy Winter Produce
It’s easy to associate winter with a barren landscape and a lack of fresh produce. Never fear, however, if you’re looking for a tasty, nutrient rich way to fill your belly this winter, look no further. Winter squash – of which there are several varieties – are packed full of nutrients that can help to support virtually every aspect of your overall health. They’re also sturdy growers, so planting your own is as great of an option as buying them at the store. We’ll be taking an inside look at a few different varieties of winter squash and their nutritional benefits, as well as making some recipe and preparation suggestions to get you started!
The butternut squash is grown in warmer climates and is used for a great variety of things. They are pear-shaped and golden-yellow in color. Some grocers – mostly those in Australia and New Zealand – may list them as a butternut pumpkin, and they are in the same family, but what you’ll find in butternut squash is a whole different
flavor with a large set of nutrients and a ton of versatile uses. Like in pumpkins, butternut squash seeds are edible and they make a yummy, healthy snack you don’t have to feel guilty for munching on. The flesh of the squash is just as tasty and even more dense with the nutrition you need. A single cup of butternut squash (cubed) has only 63 calories and is virtually fat free with only .1 grams total. In your serving of this delicious squash you’ll also find only 6mg of sodium – that’s a total of 0% of your daily value. There’s really nothing bad about this! What’s better than that for a tasty holiday treat?
Well, if it’s vitamins you want it’s vitamins you’ll get. The same cup-size serving of butternut squash has almost three times your daily recommended dose of Vitamin A and about half of your daily Vitamin C needs. If you’re not interested in taking tablets or supplements, consider adding some butternut squash into your daily meal. Butternut squash does also have a fair amount of Vitamin B-12, Magnesium, and Iron as well, and packs about 14% of your daily potassium needs and 11% of your daily fiber needs into each serving.
Butternut squash is popular for its versatility. It can simply be roasted or you can get more creative by steaming it, peeling and boiling it, baking it, or turning it into a yummy, hearty winter soup that everyone will love. The more kitchen-savvy among us have taken to turning butternut squash into bread, a meat alternative for lasagna, butternut squash chips, pancakes and more!
Banana Squash may be less vitamin-rich than its butternut cousin, but it’s still tasty and healthy all the same! Where Banana Squash lacks (though not by much!) in vitamins, it makes up for it in potassium. Just one cup of this delicious winter squash variety offers 21% – almost a quarter – of your daily recommended potassium intake. It doesn’t get much better than that. Banana squash is popular fare for those following the paleo diet because not only is it low in calories and rich in natural benefits, but tastes great raw!
That’s not to say you shouldn’t cook the squash that packs about 57% of your Vitamin A and 42% of your Vitamin C into each serving. Banana squash is delicious baked, as a pie filling, or simmered in a sweet citrus sauce!
It should be mentioned that the banana squash can top 100lbs and can grow to be over three feet long. The size of the banana squash may make it difficult to grow for at-home gardeners, but you can buy it in reasonably sized portions from most retailers.
Acorn squash is another tasty and popular variety of the winter squash. It’s much smaller than the other two we’ve talked about but the flavor is big and the gourd is a popular treat for people who like something a little less common on their dinner plate. You’ve certainly seen the acorn squash before, most likely in a cornucopia or during an art class where you were drawing a still-life scene, but you might not have eaten one. Back in November 2013 we posted a tasty recipe for acorn squash that might be worth trying if you’re new to dealing with it but don’t want your lack of experience to be the reason you sacrifice flavor. The recipe is simple to prepare and can be found here.
The acorn squash has only 56 calories per one cup serving and still manages to pack a powerful punch as far as vitamins and minerals are concerned. It has a whopping 486mg of potassium, about 8% of your dietary fiber needs, and a whole host of other goodies like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B-C, Iron, Calcium, and more!
Acorn squash is often baked, sometimes into items like bread, but can also be served stuffed, in a pie, roasted, or in raviolis!