Winter Squash is a summer growing annual fruit, representing several squash species within the genus cucurbita.
Winter squash is the herb or plant food of the month. I know winter squash is not a herb but it is one of the healthiest foods to eat in the winter. "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.' Hippocrates- So for that reason I am spotlighting one of my favorite winter foods "The Squash".
Winter squash is just now beginning to peak out for the season. When you buy organic squash at the peak of the season it will have the best flavor and be the least expensive. Winter Squash is one of the richest plant source based anti-inflammatory nutrient foods high in omegas 3s and beta-carotene which are important to our immune system to help protect us during this cold and flu season. We want to build our immune system and eating winter squash is a great way to do this.
Winter Squash has been recognized as an important food containing carotenoids. Research studies have determined just how wonderful winter squash can be for our bodies. Winter squash is a great source of antioxidants. In several studies winder squash came out being on of the top three food sources containing alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, luien, zeaxanthin, and beta cryptoxanthin.
Lets not forget the seeds of the plant. Pumpkin seeds are a great snack food. Scoop the pulp and separate the seeds. I do not roast my seeds because I like to keep them alive. I soak my seeds for 8 hours and then place them in my food dehydrator @ 105 degF (40degC) and dry them. They can be seasoned with salt and other spices before placing them in the dehydrator. If you want to roast them after scooping them out and separating the seeds then place them on a cookie sheet in a single layer and lightly roast them in the oven for 15-20 minutes @ 160-170 degF or 75degC. We do not want ot damage the healthy oils that are in the seeds.
If you are worried about winter squash being to starchy and high in carbohydrates 90% of the calories come from carbohydrates and 1/2 of its total calories are from starch. However studies have made it clear that all starch is not the same, the starch content of winter squash brings some very important key health benefits. Many of the carbs in the winter squash are polysaccharides which includes pectins – special structured polysaccharides that have special chains of d-galacturonic acid called homogalacturonan. These starch related components in winter squash gives it the anti-diabetic, antioxidant , anti-inflammatory and insulin – regulating properties.
We need to purchase our winter squash in the organic department. Recent agricultural trials have posted that winter squash can be an effective inter crop for use in remediation of contaminated soil. Some of the chemicals winter squash can pull from the soil are poly cyclic aromatic hydrocarbons including pyrene, fluoranthene, and chrysene, benzo(a)anthracene and benzo(a)pyrene, all of these are contaminants I do not wish to have in my winter squash so please buy organic.
You can prepare winter squash by baking , roasting, or steaming it, but which ever way you choose, try to keep it in a natural state and not add refined sugars or dairy products. I love roasting it in the oven with a little bit of organic olive oil and salt. I never cook with black pepper because cooked black pepper can be an irritant to the kidneys. I add a little black pepper to my food at the table.
I believe in the near future, research might discover the health benefits provided by winter squash for prevent of cardiovascular disease. We already know that winter squash provides us with key antioxidants and anti inflammatory benefits. Just these two properties reduces risk for most cardiovascular problems. We also have preliminary evidence that the unique substances in the cucurbita vegetable that partially block the formation of cholesterol in our cells inhibiting and enzyme called hmg-coa reductase. So this wonder winter squash is a very healthy food source.
When you select you squash at the store inspect it before purchase because winter squash is prone to decay. Choose ones that are firm, heavy for their size and have dull, not glossy rinds. Rinds need to be hard, soft rinds may indicate the squash may be watery and lacking in flavor. Winter squash keeps longer than summer squash and can be stored depending on the type for 1 week to 6 months. Winter squash should be kept away from direct sunlight and in a cool place. The ideal temperature for storing winter squash is 50-60 degF (10-15 degC). If you have concerns about winter squash, speak with your doctor, winter squash is not a common allergenic food.
I really hope you will give the winter squash a try, with all the health benefits it would be worth exploring many different varieties. I would love to hear feed back on the different winter squashes you may try. Heart healthy recipes are always welcome.