The Nutritional and Health Benefits of Integrating Butternut Squash into Your Diet

Butternut squash is one of the most common varieties of winter squash. It is native to the Americas and famous for its versatility and sweet flavor. Although commonly considered a vegetable, butternut squash is a fruit. It has several culinary uses, which makes it easy to integrate into various savory recipes.

Butternut squash is not just tasty. The fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which offer various health benefits when incorporated into your diet. This article will discuss everything you need about butternut squash, including its nutritional composition and health benefits.

The Nutritional Composition of Butternut Squash

Although you can eat butternut squash without cooking, the fruit is usually roasted or baked.

According to the USDA, one cup (205 grams) of cooked butternut squash supplies the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 82
  • Carbs: 22 g
  • Fiber: 7 g
  • Protein: 2 g
  • Vitamin A: 1144 mcg (456% of the RDI)
  • Vitamin C: 31 mg (52% of the RDI)
  • Vitamin E: 2.6 mg (13% of the RDI)
  • Thiamine: 0.1 mg (10% of the RDI)
  • Niacin: 2 mg (10% of the RDI)
  • Pyridoxine: 0.3 mg (13% of the RDI)
  • Folate: 38.9 mcg (10% of the RDI)
  • Magnesium: 59 mg (15% of the RDI)
  • Potassium: 582 mg (17% of the RDI)
  • Manganese: 0.4 mg (18% of the RDI)

Butternut squash is rich in various vitamins and minerals. It also contains carotenoids, such as beta-cryptoxanthin and alpha-carotene, responsible for their bright color. These compounds are provitamin A carotenoids. Therefore, your body converts them into retinal and retinoic acids, and active vitamin A forms.

The Health Benefits of Butternut Squash

The unique nutrient content of butternut squash contributes to the following health benefits:

Cancer Prevention

Adding butternut squash to your diet may have some beneficial effects against cancer. Research shows that butternut squash contains antioxidants such as carotenoids and vitamin C, which can reduce your risk of certain cancers.

One review of 18 studies found that people with a very high beta-carotene intake were less likely to suffer from lung cancer. Another review of 21 studies showed that lung cancer risk drops by 7% for every 100 mg of vitamin C you consume daily. Furthermore, a different review associated high blood levels of beta-carotene with a lower death rate from cancer.

Lower Blood Pressure

Getting enough potassium and limiting sodium intake are vital for maintaining healthy blood pressure. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults consume at least 3,510 mg of potassium per day, while the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommend 4700 mg.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has revealed that most Americans consume too much sodium yet fail to meet their RDI for potassium. NHANES found that only 2% of adults in the U.S. meet the daily recommended amount of potassium.

One cup of cooked butternut squash supplies 17% of the RDI for potassium, yet it is low in sodium. A high potassium intake is also associated with a reduced risk of death.

Improved Heart Health

Eating fruits and vegetables has long been associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Yellow and orange vegetables and fruits, in particular, are effective at preventing heart disease. These bright-colored foods contain antioxidants that help improve heart health.

One study involving 2,445 people found that the risk of heart disease dropped by 23% for every additional daily serving of yellow or orange vegetables that the participants consumed. Scientists believe that the carotenoids in these vegetables and fruits protect heart health by lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation.

Prevents Mental Decline

Simple dietary practices like eating foods high in antioxidants can help prevent mental decline. A study involving 2,983 people found that a carotenoid-rich dietary pattern aided memory recall, visual attention, and verbal fluency in the elderly.

What’s more, butternut squash is rich in vitamin E, which may have a protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease. An 8-year study involving 140 older adults discovered that those with high blood levels of vitamin E were less likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

Aids Weight Loss

One cup of cooked butternut squash contains only 83 calories and provides 7 grams of fiber, making it a great addition to a weight-loss diet. Butternut squash also contains both insoluble and soluble fiber. Soluble fiber, in particular, has been shown to reduce appetite, which can help control your calorie intake.

Studies have found that a higher dietary fiber promotes weight loss and reduces body fat. A study of 4,667 children found that a high-fiber diet can help reduce the risk of obesity.

How to Integrate Butternut Squash into Your Diet

Butternut squash is nutritious and versatile, making it easy to integrate into your diet. You can cut the fruit into cubes, roast them in the oven before eating them, or make butternut squash soup. Many people add butternut squash to salads, while others use it as a side dish.

Bottom Line

Butternut squash provides numerous nutritional benefits, making it an excellent addition to various meals. Its low-calorie content and high nutrient density make it easy to see why butternut squash should be a staple in your diet.