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Butternut squash nutrition facts

Butternut squash is the most popular among winter squash varieties. Oftentimes, the squash is recognized as large pear shaped golden-yellow pumpkin fruit, which is put for sale in the markets. Butternuts are annual long trailing vines. They usually cultivated in warmer climates of South and Central American regions for their edible fruits, flowers, as well as seeds.

Botanically, the vegetable belongs to the cucurbitaceae family of field pumpkins; probably originated in the Central American region.

Scientific name: Cucurbita morschata.

The butternut plant is monoecious as in pumpkins, and feature different male and female flowers that require honeybees for effective pollination. Butternut, in-fact, is the most common among winter squash fruits.

Externally, the squash is better described as large sized fruit featuring thick neck attached to a pear shaped bottom and has smooth, ribbed skin. However, the fruit varies widely in its shape and size; with individual fruit may weigh up to 15 kg. Interiorly, its flesh is yellow to orange in color. Cross-section of lower bulb part feature central hollow cavity containing mesh-like mucilaginous fibers interspersed with large, flat, elliptical seeds similar to pepita (pumpkin seeds). The fruit's unique golden yellow color comes from yellow-orange pigments in their skin and pulp.

Butternut squash seeds are used as nutritious snack food since they contain 35-40% oil and 30% protein. In Argentina, the fruit is also used to feed livestock.

Health benefits of Butternut squash

  • Butternut squash contains many vital poly-phenolic anti-oxidants and vitamins. Similar to other cucurbitaceae members, it is very low in calories; provides just 45 cal per 100 g. It contains no saturated fats or cholesterol; but is rich source of dietary fiber and phyto-nutrients. Squash is one of the common vegetable that is often recommended by dieticians in the cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.

  • It has more vitamin A than that in pumpkin. At 10630 IU per 100 g, it is perhaps the single vegetable source in the cucurbitaceae family with highest levels of vitamin-A, providing about 354% of RDA. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required by body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. It is also an essential vitamin for vision. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A helps body protect against lung and oral cavity cancers.

  • Furthermore, butternut squash has plentiful of natural poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds like ? and ß-carotenes, cryptoxanthin-ß, and lutein. These compounds convert to vitamin A inside the body and deliver same protective functions of vitamin A on the body.

  • It is rich in B-complex group of vitamins like folates, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid.

  • It has similar mineral profile as pumpkin, containing adequate levels of minerals like iron, zinc, copper, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus.

  • Butternut squash seeds are good source of dietary fiber and mono-unsaturated fatty acids that are good for heart health. In addition, they are very good in protein, minerals, and numerous health benefiting vitamins. The seeds are excellent source of health promoting amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan converts to health benefiting GABA neuro-chemical in the brain.

Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 45 Kcal 2%
Carbohydrates 11.69 g 9%
Protein 1.0 g 2%
Total Fat 0.1 g 0.5%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 2 g 5%

Folates 27 µg 7%
Niacin 1.200 mg 8%
Pantothenic acid 0.400 mg 8%
Pyridoxine 0.154 mg 12%
Riboflavin 0.020 mg 2%
Thiamin 0.100 mg 8%
Vitamin A 10630 IU 354%
Vitamin C 21 mg 35%
Vitamin E 1.44 mg 10%
Vitamin K 1.1 µg 1%

Sodium 4 mg 0.5%
Potassium 352 mg 7%

Calcium 48 mg 5%
Copper 0.072 mg 8%
Iron 0.70 mg 9%
Magnesium 34 mg 9%
Manganese 0.202 mg 1%
Phosphorus 33 mg 5%
Selenium 0.5 µg <1%
Zinc 0.15 mg 1%

Carotene-? 834 µg --
Carotene-ß 4226 µg --
Crypto-xanthin-ß 3471 µg --
Lutein-zeaxanthin 0 µg --

Selection and storage

Being a winter-squash member, butternuts are readily available in the USA markets from September till middle of December. However, since many fruits arrive from South American continent, they can be easily found all around the season.

Buy well-grown whole butternut squash instead of its sections. Look for mature product that feature fine woody note on tapping, and heavy in hand. Its stem should be stout and firmly attached to the fruit.

Avoid those with wrinkled surface, spots, cuts, and bruises.

Once at home, well-ripen squash can be stored for many weeks in cool, humid-free, well-ventilated place at room temperature. However, cut sections should be placed inside the refrigerator where they keep well for few days.

Preparation and serving methods

As in pumpkins, some hybrid squash varieties are generally subjected to insecticide powder or spray. Therefore, wash them thoroughly in running water in order to remove dust, soil and any residual insecticides/fungicides.

Whenever possible, buy long neck butternut fruit as it contains more meat and less hollow cavity and seeds. Cut the stem end and slice the whole fruit into two equal halves. Remove central net-like structure and set aside seeds. Then cut into desired sizes. In general, wedges/small cubes are used in cooking preparations.

Almost all the parts of the butternut squash plant; fruit, leaves, flowers, and seeds are edible.

Here are some serving tips:

  • As in pumpkin, butternut has beautiful nutty flavor and mildly sweet taste. Fresh raw butternut cubes may add special tang to vegetable salads.

  • The squash is favored in both savory as well as sweet dish. It can be used in variety of delicious recipes either baked, stuffed, or stew fried; but eaten best by steam cooking in order to get maximum nutrients.

  • In Mexico, butternut squash bisque (soup) with added fruits, herbs or seafood is a favorite appetizer.

  • As in pumpkins, it can also be used in the preparations of casseroles, pies, pancakes, custard, ravioli, bread, muffins...etc.

  • Roasted and tossed butternut squash seeds can be used as snacks.

  • As in pumpkins, squash flowers can be stuffed with cheese or added in soups.

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