The super health benefits of squash are considered impressive and result from the beneficial nutrients, vitamins, and minerals they contain. Squash is best known for containing a large amount of vitamin A (457% of the daily value per serving) and excellent amounts of vitamins C, E, B6, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, and folate.
With archaeological data tracing their origins back to 10,000 years ago in Mesoamerica, squash is some of the oldest cultivated crops on earth. In fact, squash was one of the Three Sisters crops cultivated by Native Americans and ultimately shared with the European settlers.
Scientists have found squash seeds (from the genus-species Cucurbita pepo, which includes summer squash) preserved in Mexican caves for many years. The cultivation of squashes (including summer squash) quickly became popular in North, Central, and South America, and Native Americans often referred to squashes as one of the “three sisters” — corn (maize), squash, and beans. Squashes were also one of the North American foods that Columbus brought back to Spain from North America.
Squash in the United States
There are three types of summer squash that are found in abundance in the USA:
- Zucchini, whose skin can be yellow in color but is much more often found in grocery stores showcasing its dark green skin. (The dark green skin of zucchini may also be naturally striped or speckled.) Zucchini is one of the summer squash types that grow on flowering plants with edible flowers. Black beauty, cocozelle, golden, courgette, and dark green are some of the popular varieties of zucchini.
- Crookneck and straight neck squashes, usually yellow in color. While sometimes available with light green skins, bright yellow crookneck and straight neck squashes are the varieties that we most commonly associate with summer squash. (We’ve become especially accustomed to seeing small, bulb-shaped, bright yellow crookneck squashes in the United States.) Crookneck and straight neck summer squashes can be very similar in appearance, since crookneck varieties may have a very minimally curved neck that is almost swan-like in appearance. Golden summer, yellow crookneck, and early straight neck are some popular varieties of crookneck and straight neck squashes. Cushaw squashes are special varieties of crookneck squashes that are much larger than other crooknecks, even though they are easily recognized by their similar bulb-like shape. Cushaws take about twice as long to grow as other crooknecks and are often used in baking (for example, in pies).
- Scallop squashes also called pattypan squashes. These summer squashes are typically saucer-shaped and come in a wide variety of colors from very pale yellow to golden yellow to medium green. Scallop squashes sometimes have a slightly sweeter flesh than other summer squashes. Popular varieties include green tint scallop, scallop early white bush, scallop yellow bush, and sunburst. In some countries, you’ll also hear the words “scallopini” or “button squash” used to describe the scallop squashes.
GMO Squash Information
While the majority of squashes on the market are not genetically modified (GMO), approximately 25,000 acres of crookneck, straight neck, and zucchinis have been bioengineered to be virus-resistant. Unless specifically labeled, you will not be able to tell the difference between non-GMO and GMO zucchini or squash. This is one vegetable that is best grown organically in your own garden or purchased from a trusted organic farmer.
Super Health Benefits of Squash
- low in calories
- great source of vitamin C
- very good source of magnesium, vitamin A, fiber, folate, copper, riboflavin & phosphorus
- abundant in potassium
- high in beta-carotene
- may reduce the risk of heart attack & stroke
- supports healthy blood pressure
- supports prostate health
- anti-inflammatory properties
- supports eye health
- helps maintain healthy bone structure, calcium absorption, enzyme creation, & bone building
- blood sugar benefits
- rich in B vitamins
- blood-thinning effects
- anti-cancer benefits
Squash is considered by some to be a starch, but not all starchy foods are created equal. For instance, less than 15% of the calories in winter squash come from fat, compared with almost 90% of the calories in walnuts. When it comes to the health benefits of squash, winter squash shines bright as a wonderful anti-inflammatory food providing a good amount of anti-inflammatory omega-3s.
Chipotle Lime Grilled Squash Recipe | makes 4 skewers
2 organic squash (yellow & green)
½ medium red onion
¼ tsp ground chipotle
¼ tsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp olive oil
four 12 inch bamboo skewers
Soak the skewers for 15 minutes in warm water to prevent from burning on the grill. Heat an outdoor/indoor grill to about 350. Cut the squash into rounds (about 8 rounds per squash). Cut the onion into chunks. Thread the squash and onions onto the skewers alternating – about 4 pieces of squash & 3 pieces of onion per 12-inch skewer. Mix chipotle powder, cumin, lime juice, olive oil & salt together. Place squash skewers on the grill & grill each side till browned. Brush the chipotle-olive oil mixture on the grilled squash in the last one minute of grilling. www.veggiebelly.com
RELATED: Healthy Fried Squash Patties
References & Resources
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- Xia T and Wang Q. D-chiro-inositol found in Cucurbita ficifolia (Cucurbitaceae) fruit extracts plays the hypoglycaemic role in streptozocin-diabetic rats. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2006 Nov;58(11):1527-32. 2006.
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- The World’s Healthiest Foods website. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=62
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Oasis Advanced Wellness/OAWHealth does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Oasis Advanced Wellness/OAWHealth are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician of choice.