7 Health Benefits Of Butternut Squash: Reasons To Dig Into This Vegetable

Health Benefits Of Butternut Squash

Butternut squash is low in calories and high in fiber, which prevent overeating and aid weight loss. Its antioxidant and vitamin E content prevent cancer and mental decline, while its low glycemic index manages blood sugar levels. Additionally, vitamin A in butternut squash strengthens immunity while magnesium in it prevents the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

A fall staple of most homes, the dense texture and flavor of butternut squash makes for hearty soups, casseroles, breads, stews, and desserts. They can also be enjoyed straight from the shell after cooking. Besides, butternut squashes, including their seeds, are nutritious as well. Here is a reckoner of the health benefits they provide.

1. May Aid In Weight Loss

If you’re on a diet, grab butternut squash on your next grocery run. One cup of the cooked vegetable has only 83 calories. It also provides 7 grams of fiber that’s both insoluble and soluble. And since the two take a while to pass through the digestive, they’ve been shown to reduce appetite, which can aid in controlling your caloric intake.1 2

Besides helping you lose weight, studies have found that high fiber intake decreases the risk of obesity and keep the weight off over time. One such study found that women with the highest intake of fiber lost more weight than those who had the lowest, showing that fiber is important for long-term weight loss.3

2. Prevents Mental Decline

Eating antioxidant-rich foods may prevent mental decline that comes with aging. One study has found that people associated with a carotenoid-rich diet had better memory recall, visual attention, and verbal fluency as they aged.4 In addition to this, one cup of butternut squash packs in vitamin E, offering 2.64 mg of the vitamin (17.6% RDA), which is linked to a lowered risk of Alzheimer’s disease.5 6

3. May Prevent Blood Sugar Spikes

Apart from being low in calories, butternut squash also has a low glycemic index and load, which refers to how quickly your blood sugar rises after consuming a certain food. 1/4th of a cup of butternut squash has a GI of 51, which is almost half of one sweet potato. It also contains polysaccharides, a type of indigestible fiber that, studies have found, can prevent blood sugar from rising after eating.7

4. May Relieve The Symptoms Of Premenstrual Syndrome

If you tend to get riddled with pain during that time of the month, consuming butternut squash regularly may give you some relief. One cup of the vegetable packs in 59 mg of magnesium, which makes up for 19.01% of your recommended daily intake.8 And studies have found that keeping up with you magnesium intake may improve symptoms of PMS including mood swings and pain.9

5. May Improve Exercise Performance

If you’re someone who yawns through most of your gym routine, add butternut squash to your diet. One Taiwanese study conducted on rats found that butternut squash was effective in decreasing fatigue and increasing exercise performance.10

6. May Prevent Cancer

Butternut squash is packed with antioxidants which have been found to fight free-radical damage. And a protein called moschatin in the vegetable was found to inhibit the growth of melanoma (skin cancer) cells. In addition to this, a cup of butternut squash provides 31 mg of vitamin C (34.44% of your recommended intake) which may aid in the treatment of lung and ovarian cancers. It might also help chemotherapy drugs target cancer cells more effectively without damaging healthy cells.11 12

7. Boosts Immune Health

The nutrients in butternut squash keep your immunity up and prevent you from catching that flu that’s been going around. One cup of butternut squash packs in 1144 mcg of vitamin A, which makes up for 127.11% of your recommended daily intake.13 Not consuming enough of this vitamin has been found to impair immunity by preventing normal regeneration of mucosal barriers that may have been damaged by infection. It also diminishes the function of neutrophils (white blood cells), macrophages, and natural killer cells. Keeping up with your intake will, hence, keep your immune system functioning well. Vitamin C in butternut squash also aids in immune function since phagocytes and t-cells, build up defense against certain pathogens, require the vitamin to work well.14 15

References   [ + ]

1. Wanders, Anne J., Joost JGC van den Borne, Cees de Graaf, Toine Hulshof, Melliana C. Jonathan, Mette Kristensen, Monica Mars, Henk A. Schols, and Edith JM Feskens. “Effects of dietary fibre on subjective appetite, energy intake and body weight: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials.” Obesity Reviews 12, no. 9 (2011): 724-739.
2. Brauchla, Mary, WenYen Juan, Jon Story, and Sibylle Kranz. “Sources of dietary fiber and the association of fiber intake with childhood obesity risk (in 2–18 year olds) and diabetes risk of adolescents 12–18 year olds: NHANES 2003–2006.” Journal of nutrition and metabolism 2012 (2012).
3. Tucker, Larry A., and Kathryn S. Thomas. “Increasing total fiber intake reduces risk of weight and fat gains in women.” The Journal of nutrition139, no. 3 (2009): 576-581.
4. Kesse-Guyot, Emmanuelle, Valentina A. Andreeva, Véronique Ducros, Claude Jeandel, Chantal Julia, Serge Hercberg, and Pilar Galan. “Carotenoid-rich dietary patterns during midlife and subsequent cognitive function.” British Journal of Nutrition 111, no. 5 (2014): 915-923.
5, 8, 11, 13. Basic Report:  11486, Squash, winter, butternut, cooked, baked, without salt. United States Department Of Agriculture.
6. Mangialasche, Francesca, Alina Solomon, Ingemar Kåreholt, Babak Hooshmand, Roberta Cecchetti, Laura Fratiglioni, Hilkka Soininen, Tiina Laatikainen, Patrizia Mecocci, and Miia Kivipelto. “Serum levels of vitamin E forms and risk of cognitive impairment in a Finnish cohort of older adults.” Experimental gerontology 48, no. 12 (2013): 1428-1435.
7. Winter Squash. Harvard T.H Chan.
9. Penland, James G., and Phyllis E. Johnson. “Dietary calcium and manganese effects on menstrual cycle symptoms.” American journal of obstetrics & gynecology 168, no. 5 (1993): 1417-1423.
10. Wang, Shih-Yi, Wen-Ching Huang, Chieh-Chung Liu, Ming-Fu Wang, Chin-Shan Ho, Wen-Pei Huang, Chia-Chung Hou, Hsiao-Li Chuang, and Chi-Chang Huang. “Pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata) fruit extract improves physical fatigue and exercise performance in mice.” Molecules 17, no. 10 (2012): 11864-11876.
12. Xia, Heng Chuan, L. I. Feng, L. I. Zhen, and Zu Chuan Zhang. “Purification and characterization of Moschatin, a novel type I ribosome-inactivating protein from the mature seeds of pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata), and preparation of its immunotoxin against human melanoma cells.” Cell research 13, no. 5 (2003): 369.
14. Stephensen, Charles B. “Vitamin A, infection, and immune function.” Annual review of nutrition 21, no. 1 (2001): 167-192.
15. Ströhle, A., and Andreas Hahn. “Vitamin C and immune function.” Medizinische Monatsschrift fur Pharmazeuten 32, no. 2 (2009): 49-54.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.