Did you know that winter squash is an excellent source of antioxidants? In many parts of the world, including parts of the United States, winter squash is the single food source which provides the highest percentage of carotenoids in the diet. In fact, the oddly-specific results of one recent study have shown that winter squash is the number one source of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene among Hispanic men ages 60 and older living in the Massachusetts.
Winter squash also contains one-third of your daily requirement of vitamin C in every cupful of squash, along with manganese, another antioxidant.
Research on the anti-inflammatory properties of winter squash has shown that the cucurbitacins in winter squash (glycoside molecules initially discovered in the Cucurbitaceae family of foods: gourds/squashes/melons) have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Winter squash also contains anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids: one cup of baked squash yields around 340 mg. of omega-3 fats – only about a third as much as in walnuts, but an incredible amount to be provided by a low-fat food! Winter squash provides a significant amount of omega-3s without really increasing the amount of fat in the diet.
This fabulous winter squash combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties is being researched in connection with cancer prevention and treatment. Winter squash is being studied to determine its effect on prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, and lung cancer; extracts from foods in the Cucurbita family are being examined as substances with the potential to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Here is an insanely good recipe for the winter squash known as acorn squash. This recipe is elegant-looking and tasty enough for the holidays but easy enough that you can enjoy it with a casual weekday dinner:
Pecan ginger acorn squash
- 2 acorn squash
- 2/3 cup Ritz crackers, crushed
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1 ½ T maple syrup
- 2 T brown sugar
- ½ t. salt
- ¼ t cinnamon
- ¼ t nutmeg
- ¼ t ginger
Pierce the squash’s skin with a fork and microwave for 1 or 2 minutes on high. Let stand several minutes until cool enough to handle, then cut in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and pulp (you can roast those seeds) and place cut side down in 12x8x2 inch dish. Cover with plastic wrap turning back one corner to vent, and microwave at high for 6 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl, and after squash has cooked for 6 minutes, turn cut-side up and divide the filling among the four halves. Cover again with plastic wrap and microwave at high for another 6 to 8 minutes, until the squash is tender. Remove plastic wrap and let stand 5 minutes before serving. Crazy good.
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