A guest blog post by holistic writer Andrea Lewis. Consult with your doctor before making any medical or health decisions.The great thing about squash, besides its varieties, versatility and delicious flavor, is its nutritional content. Nutrients are what make a food healthful, and squash, regardless of variety, has plenty. The most important squash nutrients are vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium. Most squash varietals contain plenty of these three in a 1-cup serving, and they are all essential nutrients. Essential nutrients cannot be manufactured by our bodies.
The Importance of Squash Nutrients
Vitamin A (Beta Carotene) is essential to eye health. It's needed for the formation of visual purple (aka Rhodopsin) in the retina, which allows vision in dim light (or night vision). Long-term deficiency of vitamin A can and does lead to blindness, particularly in infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly. Vitamin A fights off age-related eye disorders, such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Vitamin A prevents the formation of painful urinary stones, by producing a compound called calcium phosphate, which prevents the formation of solid particles in the urinary system. Vitamin A is also a powerful antioxidant; it protects our cells from oxidative stress (aka cellular rust). Our immunity is dictated by vitamin A. White blood cells, which are responsible for fighting infection in the body, require Vitamin A. Without it, we are more vulnerable to infections, and the death they can bring. This is especially true for children.
Some of the same things can be said of vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid), which is also an antioxidant and also important to immune system health. Numerous studies have shown that consumption of vitamin C can help prevent cold and flu, or at least shorten its duration. The potentially fatal disease known as Scurvy is the result of vitamin C deficiency. And more recent studies have proven that vitamin C can protect against endothelial dysfunction, high blood pressure, and the blood vessel changes that can lead to heart disease, as well as reduce the potential long-term risk of atherothrombotic disease. “Atherothrombosis, characterised by atherosclerotic lesion disruption with superimposed thrombus formation, is the major cause of acute coronary syndromes (ACS) and cardiovascular death.”1 It's the leading cause of mortality in industrialized nations and, yet, most people are unaware of its existence. However, if you eat enough squash, and other vitamin C rich food, you may never have to deal with this insidious ailment. Vitamin C is also important for faster healing of wounds and burns. It's vital to collagen production – keeping skin firm, smooth and youthful-looking.
I'm sure you already know how important Potassium is. Potassium is one of the most important nutrients that we must consume from food. We cannot survive without potassium as long as we could without Vitamins A and C. Our nervous system, muscles, brain function, heart, kidneys and metabolism are dependent on potassium. Potassium keeps blood pressure under control and helps to prevent strokes. Potassium helps to maintain the delicate balance of fluid (water) in the body. Potassium is an electrolyte, that helps to control and maintain the balance of other electrolytes in the body. Electrolytes are like batteries for the human body; without them we are quite literally dead. For this reason, potassium is one of the few nutrients mainstream medical doctors prescribe for patients.
Of course, these three are not the only essential nutrients contained in squash. There are many other essential and non-essential nutrients that we need in various squash varietals. To help give you some idea of just how nutritious squash is, I have compiled a short list of the most popular and easy to find squash varietals as examples. I've also included their calorie count per 1-cup serving.
- Raw – 1 cup (cubed, 140g) serving – 63 calories, Potassium 493mg (14% DV), Vitamin A 14,883 IU (298% DV), Vitamin C 29.4mg (49% DV), Calcium 67.2mg (7% DV), Iron 1mg (5% DV), Vitamin B6 0.2mg (11% DV), Magnesium 47.6mg (12% DV), Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol) 2.0mg (10% DV), Folate 37.8mcg (9% DV), Manganese 0.3mg (14% DV), Omega-3 Fatty Acids 36.4mg and Omega-6 Fatty Acids 22.4mg
- Cooked, without salt – 1 cup (cubed, 205g) – 82 calories, Potassium 582mg (17% DV), Vitamin A 22,869 IU (457% DV), Vitamin C 31.0mg (52% DV), Calcium 84.0mg (8% DV), Iron 1.2mg (7% DV), Vitamin B6 0.3mg (13% DV), Magnesium 59.4mg (15% DV), Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol) 2.6mg (13% DV), Folate 38.9mcg (10% DV), Manganese 0.4mg (18% DV), Omega-3 Fatty Acids 49.2mg and Omega-6 Fatty Acids 28.7mg
- Raw – 1 cup (cubed, 140g) – 56 calories, Potassium 486mg (14% DV), Vitamin A 514 IU (10% DV), Vitamin C 15.4mg (26% DV), Calcium 46.2mg (5% DV), Iron 1mg (5% DV), Vitamin B6 0.2mg (11% DV), Magnesium 44.8mg (11% DV), Folate 23.8mcg (6% DV), Manganese 0.2mg (12% DV), Omega-3 Fatty Acids 36.4mg and Omega-6 Fatty Acids 22.4mg
- Cooked, without salt – 1 cup (cubed, 205g) – 115 calories, Potassium 896mg (26% DV), Vitamin A 877 IU (18% DV), Vitamin C 22.1mg (37% DV), Calcium 90.2mg (9% DV), Iron 1.9mg (11% DV), Vitamin B6 0.4mg (20% DV), Magnesium 88.2mg (22% DV), Folate 38.9mcg (10% DV), Manganese 0.5mg (25% DV), Omega-3 Fatty Acids 75.9mg and Omega-6 Fatty Acids 45.1mg
- Raw – 1 cup (chopped, 124g) – 20 calories, Potassium 325mg (9% DV), Vitamin A 248 IU (5% DV), Vitamin C 21.1mg (35% DV), Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol) 0.1mg (1%), Calcium 18.6mg (2% DV), Iron 0.4mg (2% DV), Vitamin B6 0.3mg (14% DV), Magnesium 21.1mg (5% DV), Folate 36.0mcg (9% DV), Manganese 0.2mg (11% DV), Vitamin K 5.3mcg (7%), Omega-3 Fatty Acids 58.3mg and Omega-6 Fatty Acids 34.7mg
- Cooked with skin, without salt, boiled and drained – 1 cup (sliced, 180g), 29 calories, Potassium 455mg (13% DV), Vitamin A 2,011 IU (40% DV), Vitamin C 8.3mg (14% DV), Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol) 0.2mg (1%), Calcium 23.4mg (2% DV), Iron 0.6mg (4% DV), Vitamin B6 0.1mg (7% DV), Magnesium 39.6mg (10% DV), Folate 30.6mcg (8% DV), Manganese 0.3mg (16% DV), Vitamin K 7.6mcg (9%), Omega-3 Fatty Acids 23.4mg and Omega-6 Fatty Acids 14.4mg
Yellow Summer Squash (Crookneck and Straightneck)
- Raw – 1 cup, sliced (130g) – 25 calories, Potassium 276mg (8% DV), Vitamin A 195 IU (4% DV), Vitamin C 10.9mg (18% DV), Calcium 27.3mg (3% DV), Iron 0.6mg (3% DV), Vitamin B6 0.1mg (7% DV), Magnesium 27.3mg (7% DV), Folate 29.9mcg (7% DV), Manganese 0.2mg (11% DV), Omega-3 Fatty Acids 80.6mg and Omega-6 Fatty Acids 49.4mg
- Cooked without salt, boiled and drained – 1 cup (sliced, 180g) – 36 calories, Potassium 306mg (9% DV), Vitamin A 293 IU (6% DV), Vitamin C 9.9mg (16% DV), Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol) 0.2mg (1%), Calcium 39.6mg (4% DV), Iron 0.7mg (4% DV), Vitamin B6 0.2mg (8% DV), Magnesium 27.0mg (7% DV), Folate 36.0mcg (9% DV), Manganese 0.3mg (16% DV), Vitamin K 7.9mcg (10%), Omega-3 Fatty Acids 148mg and Omega-6 Fatty Acids 88.2mg
I'm sure you noticed that there was a weight difference between raw and cooked squash, regardless of variety, and nutrients that were not detectable when the squash was raw were detectable after cooking. These are things you may wish to keep in mind, when deciding how best to prepare your squash for consumption. And you'll find plenty of easy to make recipes for raw and cooked squash – entrees, side-dishes and deserts – online.
Hopefully, I've successfully demonstrated how nutritious and healthy squash can be. Those listed above are just a small sampling of what is available. There's also ambercup squash, Autumn cup squash, banana squash, carnival squash, delicata squash, fairytale pumpkin squash, gold nugget squash, Hubbard squash, spaghetti squash, kabocha squash, sweet dumpling squash and turban squash. It's a long list, but it's not complete. There are a lot of squash varietals worldwide. Do yourself a favor, the next time you shop for groceries, buy a squash you've never tried before. You never know which may become your favorite.
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Evert, Alison. “Vitamin A Benefit”. Medline Plus, February, 18, 2013. Web. October 28, 2015
“Micronutrient Deficiencies”. World Health Organization, n.d. Web. October 28, 2015
E. C. van Leersum. “VITAMIN A DEFICIENCY AND UROLITHIASIS”. Journal of Biological Chemistry, September 1, 1927. Web. October 29, 2015
“Vitamin A”. Harvard School of Public Health, n.d. Web. October 29, 2015
Pullin CH, Bonham JR, McDowell IF, et al. “Vitamin C Therapy Ameliorates Vascular Endothelial Dysfunction in Treated Patients with Homocystinuria”. Journal of Inherited Metabolic Disease, May 2002. Web. October 27, 2015
Joseph Mercola, MD. “The First Thing to Do When a Cold or Flu Strikes”. Mercola, November 13, 2011. Web. October 29, 2015
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“Nutrition Facts and Analysis and Analysis for Squash, Winter, Butternut, Cooked, Baked, without Salt”. SELF: Nutrition Data, n.d.
“Nutrition Facts and Analysis and Analysis for Squash, Winter, Butternut, Raw”. SELF: Nutrition Data, n.d.
“Nutrition Facts and Analysis and Analysis for Squash, Winter, Acorn, Cooked, Baked, without Salt”. SELF: Nutrition Data, n.d.
“Nutrition Facts and Analysis and Analysis for Squash, Winter, Acorn, Raw”. SELF: Nutrition Data, n.d.
“Nutrition Facts and Analysis and Analysis for Squash, Summer, Crookneck and Straightneck, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, Without Salt”. SELF: Nutrition Data, n.d.
“Nutrition Facts and Analysis and Analysis for Squash, Summer, Crookneck and Straightneck, Raw”. SELF: Nutrition Data, n.d.