Butternut Squash – Nutrition, Benefits, Uses & Recipes

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Butternut squash is beloved around the world, not only for its versatility as a food item, but also for its health benefits, including the ability to protect the skin, promote eye health, reduce chronic disease, improve digestion, lower cholesterol, build strong bones, lower blood pressure, and so much more!

What is Butternut Squash?

Scientifically known as Cucurbita moschata, butternut squash is a winter squash made by cross-breeding gooseneck squash and hubbard squash. It grows on a vine and has the peculiar shape of an elongated bell. This squash has pale brown or yellow skin, and rich orange flesh inside, along with a nutty flavor that many people compare to a pumpkin. At the bottom part of the bell, you can find a seed compartment, and these seeds are edible and can be roasted, just like pumpkin seeds.

As the squash ripens, the color of the flesh becomes, even more, orange and the sweetness of the vegetable increases. You should choose a butternut squash that has a matte color to the skin, rather than a glossy coat, as this indicates that it was picked too early and will not be as sweet.

The versatile and uniquely shaped butternut squash is native to North America and is believed to have been specifically cultivated in Massachusetts.

Butternut squash is not found all over the world, but it has made its way into the culinary creations of certain countries, including South Africa, Europe, and Australia, but it is primarily found in the United States. Aside from the ease of preparing butternut squash as a delicious meal, people also seek out this squash for its rich concentration of nutrients. There are also key antioxidants that can be found in butternut squash, making it highly desirable for those looking for a healthy diet.

Half-cut butternut squash on a round wooden cutting board

Butternut squash is an autumn staple Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Squash, winter, butternut, raw
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]86.41
Energy [kcal]45
Energy [kJ]188
Protein [g]1
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.1
Ash [g]0.8
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]11.69
Fiber, total dietary [g]2
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]2.2
Sucrose [g]0.22
Glucose (dextrose) [g]0.99
Fructose [g]0.99
Calcium, Ca [mg]48
Iron, Fe [mg]0.7
Magnesium, Mg [mg]34
Phosphorus, P [mg]33
Potassium, K [mg]352
Sodium, Na [mg]4
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.15
Copper, Cu [mg]0.07
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.2
Selenium, Se [µg]0.5
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]21
Thiamin [mg]0.1
Riboflavin [mg]0.02
Niacin [mg]1.2
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.4
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.15
Folate, total [µg]27
Folate, food [µg]27
Folate, DFE [µg]27
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]532
Carotene, beta [µg]4226
Carotene, alpha [µg]834
Cryptoxanthin, beta [µg]3471
Vitamin A, IU [IU]10630
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]1.44
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]1.1
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.02
16:0 [g]0.02
18:0 [g]0
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.01
18:1 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.04
18:2 [g]0.02
18:3 [g]0.03
Tryptophan [g]0.01
Threonine [g]0.03
Isoleucine [g]0.04
Leucine [g]0.06
Lysine [g]0.04
Methionine [g]0.01
Cystine [g]0.01
Phenylalanine [g]0.04
Tyrosine [g]0.03
Valine [g]0.04
Arginine [g]0.06
Histidine [g]0.02
Alanine [g]0.04
Aspartic acid [g]0.11
Glutamic acid [g]0.18
Glycine [g]0.04
Proline [g]0.04
Serine [g]0.04
Sources include : USDA

Butternut Squash Nutrition

According to USDA butternut squash is a rich source of energy and various vitamins and minerals that include vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. It also contains sodium, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, vitamin A, and vitamin K.

Other nutrients include the following:

  • Thiamin
  • Niacin
  • Vitamin B6
  • Riboflavin
  • Folate
  • Carotene, beta
  • Carotene, alpha
  • Cryptoxanthin, beta
  • Amino acids – glutamic acid, aspartic acid, arginine, valine, and leucine

Health Benefits of Butternut Squash

Health benefits of butternut squash include the following;

Regulates Blood Pressure

When it comes to protecting heart health, few things are as critical as keeping your blood pressure in check. Fortunately, the high levels of potassium found in butternut squash can do precisely that. As a vasodilator, potassium can reduce the tension in blood vessels and arteries, thereby lowering your risk of heart attack, stroke, atherosclerosis, and other cardiovascular issues.

Eye Care

That orange color of butternut squash should tell any health-conscious person one very obvious fact, there is a lot of vitamin A in the vegetable! However, this comes because butternut squash contains four important types of carotenoids – beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Those latter two carotenoids both work directly in the retina to prevent oxidative stress and macular degeneration, while the first two are converted into retinol, which is the form of vitamin A that the body can use.

Improves Digestion

As an excellent source of dietary fiber, butternut squash can help optimize the digestive process and relieve problems like constipation and bloating. Dietary fiber can bulk up the stool and stimulate peristaltic motion, while also lowering your risk of inflammation in the colon. Fiber can also help scrape excess cholesterol from the body and protect heart health!

Prevents Birth Defects

Many people overlook the role of certain vitamins for development, particularly in pregnant women. High levels of folic acid are required to prevent certain birth defects, such as neural tube issues and spina bifida. Butternut squash has ample amounts of folic acid, as well as other key B vitamins to ensure that your baby is born healthy and happy!

Improves Circulation

Having a high level of iron is important for everyone’s health, considering that iron is required for the creation of red blood cells. If you don’t get enough iron in your diet, you will likely suffer from anemia, a condition characterized by fatigue, weakness, and cognitive confusion. However, having enough red blood cells in the body improves the circulation and oxygenation of organs.

Improves Bone Density

Butternut squash, like many gourds, is rich in minerals, such as potassium, manganese, magnesium, and calcium, all of which can help with the strength and durability of your bones. As you age, adding mineral-rich foods like gourds and squash to your diet is critical to counter the natural effects of aging and the onset of osteoporosis.

Prevents Chronic Diseases

Many of the nutrients and organic compounds found in butternut squash act as antioxidants, which means that they seek out free radicals in different tissues and organs of the body and eliminate them before they can cause healthy cells to mutate and cause oxidative stress. These antioxidants include lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, and alpha-carotene.

Boosts Immune System

The significant level of vitamin C found in butternut squash means that it can be a great boost for your immune system, considering that vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells, in addition to functioning as an antioxidant throughout the body. Vitamin C is also necessary for growth and the production of all new cells.

Skin Care

Beta-carotene has received a great deal of attention for its potential to block the harmful effects of UV radiation. For anyone who spends a lot of time in the sun, or simply can’t resist lying down in a tanning bed from time to time, increasing your beta-carotene intake can protect you from sun-related aging symptoms, such as wrinkles and blemishes.

Lowers Cholesterol

As mentioned earlier, the high level of dietary fiber in butternut squash can help lower cholesterol levels, but the high level of carotenoids can also help balance your cholesterol levels and help prevent heart diseases.

Balances Electrolyte

The body needs enough electrolytes to regulate the water balance between cells, modulate blood pressure, and stimulate muscle contraction and send nerve impulses. Potassium, calcium, and magnesium work in tandem within the body for proper control of these essential processes and all three minerals are found in good quantities within butternut squash.

Uses & Recipes

Butternut squash is a healthy squash that can be used and easily added to our diet. Some of the quick ways in which you can make it a part of your meals include:

  • Soup: You can make a quick healthy soup using butternut squash. All you need are few ingredients that include butter, potatoes, onions, garlic, pepper, salt, leek, vegetable or chicken broth. You can also add more vegetables like carrots etc.
  • Roasted butternut squash: This is again an easy recipe and all you need is fresh squash cut into pieces, butter, salt and pepper, baking tray and an oven/microwave. Just place the squash pieces on the baking tray, season with salt and pepper. Drizzle some oil and bake until cooked.
  • Pasta: You can add roasted or cooked butternut squash to any cooked pasta that you like.
  • Salads: Add cooked/roasted butternut squash, spinach, kale in a bowl. Mix olive oil and lemon juice and pour over the salad mix. Season with salt and pepper. You can also add other vegetables that you like.
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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