By far summer is my favorite season, however, fall runs a close second. After months living in shorts, sandals, and t-shirts, sweaters are now at the front of the closet.
Crisp, cool days usher in the autumn season complete with beautiful foliage, football games, and of course, pumpkins.
You know the season is here as you drive through the countryside and see fields dotted with bright, orange spheres. Butternut, acorn, delicata, turban, and Hubbard squash join the modest pumpkin at local farm stands.
These winter squash beauties are incredibly tasty and good for you too. Low in calories but high in nutrition and fiber, the health benefits of squash are numerous. Enjoy the orange flesh roasted, stuffed, and pureed – in soups, stews, rice, and pasta. Recipes are only limited to your imagination (and a Google search).
Winter squash has a range of health benefits including being an incredible source of beta-carotene.
Beta-carotene gives orange veggies and fruits its vibrant color. It is a powerful anti-oxidant. In addition, the body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A.
According to the Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition, bright orange foods including squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots may slow the progression of macular degeneration. Vitamin A helps prevent dry eyes and night blindness. Beta-carotene and vitamin A also help reduce the risk of eye infections.
In addition, eating squash and pumpkin is good for the heart. The fiber, potassium, and vitamin C content all support heart health. Fiber helps control cholesterol levels while potassium plays a role in maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. Good blood pressure reduces the risk of stroke and heart attack.
Fiber also slows the rate of sugar absorption into the blood and promotes regular bowel movements and smooth digestion. A healthful fiber intake can also help reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Many squash have five to seven grams of fiber in a one-cup serving. The recommended daily fiber intake is between 25 and 30 grams, however, many Americans do not consume enough fiber, ingesting on average just 15 grams per day. Supplementing your diet with pumpkin, squash, veggies, fruits, and grains keeps your fiber intake at a healthy level.
Winter squash and pumpkins provide the most benefit when cooked, baked or roasted with minimal amounts of sugar. Unfortunately, drowning your acorn squash in brown sugar ups the calorie count and negates some of the health benefits.
Here’s a recipe for a fall soup that is naturally sweet, creamy, and satisfying.
Butternut Squash, Carrot and Ginger Soup
Yield: Makes 17 one-cup servings
This hearty, tasty soup is full of flavor but low in calories. It’s also naturally sweet, with carrots and butternut squash.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces (1 ¼ cups) onion – diced (about 1 large onion)
9 ounces (2 cups) carrots – peeled and diced (about 4 medium carrots)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger – minced
46 ounces (9 cups) butternut squash – peeled, seeded and diced (about 3 medium squash, 5 ½ pounds whole)
10 cups liquid vegetable broth
1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1. In a pot, sauté the onion in olive oil on low flame until clear.
2. Add carrots and sauté 10 minutes.
3. Add ginger and sauté two minutes.
4. Add butternut squash and vegetable stock and bring to a boil, then turn heat to medium low heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
5. Puree with a blender until smooth and serve.
Note: Soup can be blended using a normal blender or an immersion blender. Immersion blenders tend to be safer, quicker, and easier to clean. This soup freezes well.
Each 1-cup serving contains:
Saturated fat: 0g
Recipe courtesy of Jim Perko, the Executive Chef for Cleveland Clinic Wellness and the Center for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine.
Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at UR Medicine Noyes Health in Dansville, NY. To discuss this article or suggest future articles, contact Lorraine at [email protected] or (585)335-4327.