Butternut squash is beloved around the world, not only for its versatility as a food item, but also for its many health benefits, including the ability to protect the skin, promote eye health, reduce chronic disease, improve digestion, lower cholesterol, built strong bones, reduce blood pressure, and so much more!
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What is Butternut Squash?
The versatile and uniquely shaped butternut squash is a type of winter squash that is native to North America, and is believed to have been specifically cultivated in Massachusetts. Butternut squash grows on a vine and has the peculiar shape of an elongated bell. Scientifically known as Cucurbita moschata, it was made by cross-breeding Gooseneck squash and Hubbard squash. The squash has pale brown or yellow skin, and rich orange flesh inside, along with a nutty flavor that many people compare to 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 butternut squash that have 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.
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, including vitamin A, vitamin C, dietary fiber, zinc, protein, folate and potassium, among many others. There are also key antioxidants that can be found in butternut squash, making it highly desirable for those looking for a healthy diet. Now, let’s take a closer look at some of those impressive health benefits.
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 are able to do precisely that. As a vasodilator, potassium is able to reduce the tension in blood vessels and arteries, thereby lowering your risk of heart attack, stroke, atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular system issues.
Improves Eye Health
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 due to the fact that 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.
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 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, for example, 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!
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 circulation and oxygenation of organ systems.
Improves Bone Density
Butternut squash, like many gourds, are 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 Disease
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.
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.
As mentioned earlier, the high level of dietary fiber in butternut squash can help lower cholesterol, but the high level of carotenoids can also help balance your cholesterol levels and help to prevent heart disease.
The body needs enough electrolytes to regulate the water balance between cells, modulate blood pressure, 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.