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Butternut squash is a delicious and versatile vegetable that can be roasted, toasted, mashed, sautéed, and, most notably, pureed into soup. It’s typically associated with the fall and winter seasons and its sweet taste makes it a wonderful, filling comfort food. In addition to its great taste and versatility, butternut squash benefits your health and well-being significantly.
Like all squash, butternut squash has ancestry in North America. According to archaeological evidence, squash was likely cultivated between North America and South America (Mesoamerica) around 10,000 years ago.
Planted by Native Americans, squash was one of three main crops. The natives referred to squash as one of the “three sisters”—beans and maize (corn) were the other two. Winter squash was loved by Native Americans and early American settlers because of its long shelf life. These groups knew what they were talking about—today we know butternut squash is one of the healthiest vegetables around.
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Butternut Squash Benefits
Butternut squash is exceptionally nutritious. Not only is it chock-full of vitamins A (vitamin A is important in keeping a healthy metabolism) and C, butternut squash benefits also include a variety of bone-building and heart-supporting minerals like iron, magnesium and phosphorus.
Taste-wise, the flesh of butternut squash is often compared to that of pumpkins and sweet potatoes. It has a delightful, warming, sweet flavor that becomes especially enticing after roasting in the oven. If you’re making butternut squash soup, make sure you roast your squash first—your soup will turn out far more flavorful than it would otherwise. (Check out the recipe below.)
The sweet taste of butternut squash makes it a perfect pairing with a variety of savory meat recipes and other vegetables. You can prepare it in a variety of ways: Besides roasting butternut squash, you can bake, broil, or barbecue it. Cook it as you would cook meat to bring the flavor out.
Squash puree works not only for soup, as noted above, but for stews and slow cooker recipes. You also can add butternut squash puree to smoothies. And don’t forget that butternut squash seeds contain heart-healthy fats and quality protein.
How Butternut Squash Benefits Your Eyes, Heart
Here are three ways that butternut squash benefits your body:
#1. Butternut squash is a potassium booster. Potassium is vital to our bodies, and butternut squash is a rich n excellent source. Potassium helps combat a variety of cardiovascular diseases. For example, potassium levels in the body help to regulate blood pressure. Potassium is also important in preventing bone mineral dissolution. Problems related to low bone mineral density (BMD) become more prevalent as we age; you can prevent low BMD by maintaining good potassium and calcium intake. Potassium supplements can improve potassium levels and calcium balance, but getting these benefits naturally from food is always the best option.
#2. Butternut squash is an inflammation fighter. More great news is the antioxidant properties in butternut squash provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Chronic inflammation has been attributed as a cause of a wide range of diseases, including cardiovascular conditions, numerous cancers, and a number of autoimmune disorders, among them rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Inflammatory conditions tend to be more significant in overweight individuals. As a way of eating healthy and combating chronic inflammation, consider incorporating more butternut squash into your diet.
#3. Butternut squash provides beta-carotene. Commonly associated with carrots and healthy vision and eyesight, beta-carotene is an antioxidant that’s extremely abundant in butternut squash. (See also our post Eating for Eyesight: Which Foods Protect Your Eyes?)
Beta-carotene is the natural colorant that provides a low dose of color in vegetables that are yellow and green. You’ll also find it in pumpkins, peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, grapefruits, papayas, and peaches. Beta-carotene is also known to improve heart health and to help reduce inflammation in the body.
GLUTEN-FREE, DAIRY-FREE BUTTERNUT SQUASH-APPLE SOUP
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium leek, white and tender green parts, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (3-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
2 medium golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 quart gluten-free, dairy-free chicken stock
¾ cup apple juice
1¼ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sage leaves
2 large parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced
-Pumpkin oil, optional
1. In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cook the leeks and garlic over medium heat until tender but do not let them brown, about 3 minutes.
2. Add the squash, apples, potato, thyme, chicken stock, apple juice, salt and black pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium low, cover the pot and let the soup simmer for 20 minutes or until all vegetables are tender.
3. Puree the soup. Adjust seasonings, if needed.
4. In a separate sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the sage leaves and cook them until crispy and the oil is infused with their aroma. Remove the sage leaves. Add the sliced parsnips, in batches if necessary, and cook them until golden brown. Drain them on a paper towel.
5. Serve the soup warm, topped with fried sage leaves, the parsnip chips and a drizzle of pumpkin oil, if desired.
Each serving contains 283 calories, 11g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 4mg cholesterol, 550mg sodium, 45g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 6g protein.
Recipe courtesy of Gluten Free & More.