Nutrition, Health & Wellness

7 Surprising Butternut Squash Health Benefits You Need to Know Now!

Looking for a healthy vegetable that goes with almost anything? Well, you’re in luck because you’ve come to the right place. Butternut squash features a nutty, sweet flavor that can be eaten hot or cold, on salads or in sandwiches, with pasta, and more. Not only is it incredibly versatile, but butternut squash health benefits are amazingly comprehensive as well.

From fighting disease to supporting healthy weight and blood sugar levels, this complex carbs offers so much nutritional bang that it really does deserve a slot in your vegetable rotation. So, let’s take a look at what makes butternut squash such a great superfood and review some of the top benefits it offers.

 

What Makes Butternut Squash So Healthy?

Butternut squash is a winter squash that’s grown in the summer and harvested in the fall, which is why it’s often associated with fall-time soups and dishes. But thanks to its hard, thick skin, it’s easy to store for several months, making it a great vegetable to eat during the winter.

The major reason butternut squash offers so many health benefits is due to its nutritional value. Amazingly, one cup of cooked butternut squash would provide all the vitamin A most people need in a single day. And, as we’ve discussed before, vitamin A has been shown to fight inflammation while also promoting eye health and your immune system. [1, 2]

But that’s not all that butternut squash offers. It’s also a rich source of fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, several B vitamins, magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, and more!

As you may recall, vitamin C isn’t only beneficial for supporting your immune system. This water-soluble vitamin is also known to play a role in forming bones, developing connective tissue, healing wounds, and even maintaining healthy gums. [3]

Moreover, it helps to protect your body from harmful free radicals that damage your cells, leading to progressive aging and disease development. And since low vitamin C levels often lead to fatigue—one of the major symptoms of adrenal fatigue—making sure you get enough of this important vitamin is crucial for your overall health and wellbeing.

Finally, B vitamins are crucial for supporting your body’s stress response and adrenal health. In addition, studies have shown that adequate intake of B vitamins can help lower levels of homocysteine and improved mood. This is important because higher levels of homocysteine are associated with depression. [4]

So, now that you have an idea of just a few of the health-promoting nutrients in butternut squash, let’s review some of the top butternut squash health benefits and what scientists have discovered about them.

7 Amazing Butternut Squash Health Benefits

Here are seven of the incredible butternut squash health benefits supported by scientific studies.

1. Contains disease-fighting antioxidants

From beta-carotene to vitamin E, butternut squash contains numerous antioxidants known to fight some major diseases plaguing many Americans today.

In fact, in a 2005 study, researchers found that people who consumed the most beta-cryptoxanthin (an antioxidant found in butternut squash that’s similar to beta-carotene) were 50 percent less likely to develop arthritis in comparison to those with the lowest intake. [5]

Similarly, vitamin E has been shown to reduce the risk factors of cardiovascular disease, exhibit anti-cancer activity (especially in colon cancer), and even block the production of hydrogen peroxide and the resulting cytotoxicity linked to Alzheimer’s disease! [6]

It’s incredible to think of all the protective, disease-fighting benefits you can get from regularly consuming something as tasty as butternut squash, isn’t it?

2. Supports healthy weight management

In addition to helping to protect against disease, did you know that butternut squash health benefits include its ability to support healthy weight management? While butternut squash is a carbohydrate, it’s important to know that it’s a complex carbohydrate that’s high in filling fiber, which is known to help prevent overeating.

So, just how important is fiber for weight management? A 2018 study showed that the more fiber women ate during an 18-month study, the lower their BMI. This correlation was quite strong at the six-month mark and even stronger at the 18-month completion. [7]

3. Boosts immunity

Did you know that your liver transforms beta-carotene into vitamin A, which helps both to fight and prevent infections in your body? [8] And since butternut squash contains a significant amount of beta-carotene (and its resulting vitamin A), one of the biggest butternut squash health benefits is its immune-supporting effects.

Interestingly, studies have shown that a deficiency in vitamin A impairs your natural immunity. How? Well, it blocks the normal regeneration of your mucosal barriers, which help to protect you from environmental toxins. [9]

Butternut squash is also a great source of iron, which is critical for optimal immune function. In fact, studies have shown that iron deficiency is linked to impaired immune systems.

In a study on 72 elderly homebound women, researchers divided the participants into two groups: one was iron-deficient while the other was iron-sufficient. They found that in the iron-deficient women, the increase in their T cells upon stimulation was only about 50 percent of that in the iron-sufficient women. [10]

Why is this important? Well, T cells are actually responsible for killing infected cells in your body and activating important immune cells to fight off infections. If their ability to proliferate is impaired, it weakens your body’s immune response.

So, as you can see, eating iron-rich foods such as butternut squash is essential for your immune system health.

4. Aids digestion

If you’ve ever had digestive troubles, you know how uncomfortable and downright miserable it can be. That’s why one of my favorite butternut squash health benefits is that it aids digestion.

So, how does butternut squash aid digestion? It’s a fantastic source of dietary fiber, which is known to promote healthy bowel movements and fight constipation. In fact, a 2012 meta-analysis of 1,322 articles confirmed that regular dietary fiber intake increases stool frequency in people experiencing constipation. [11]

Additionally, a study on more than 350 children ages 3 to 5 found that children who were constipated had significantly lower intakes of fiber, vitamin C, folate, and magnesium. [12] And guess what? These are all nutrients found in butternut squash! How amazing is that?

5. Supports healthy blood pressure

Here’s an interesting tidbit for you: Eating potassium can actually reduce the effects of consuming sodium in your body. Surprising, right? And since butternut squash contains quite a bit of potassium, one of the best butternut squash health benefits is that it supports healthy blood pressure—all thanks to its ability to negate the effects of sodium!

So, how does this work? Well, basically, the more potassium you consume, the more sodium you flush out via your urine. [13] But just how effective is it?

Well, one study revealed that when participants supplemented with potassium, they’re average blood pressure readings dropped significantly. The average blood pressure reading before supplementation was 151/93 mm Hg. After supplementation, the readings dropped, on average, to 138/88 mm Hg. [14]

Moreover, the researchers stated that consuming more foods high in potassium would likely have the same effect on blood pressure as supplementation. So, if you find that you regularly feel a little stressed or anxious or regularly battle high blood pressure, consider adding some more butternut squash and other potassium-rich foods to your diet.

6. May help lower risk of asthma

Of all the butternut squash health benefits we’ve reviewed, this one may shock you the most: Consuming butternut squash may actually help to lower your risk of asthma!

I know that sounds like a stretch, but scientists have confirmed the connection between beta-carotene consumption and asthma relief. In fact, one study found that women who ate more food rich in beta-carotene (such as tomatoes and carrots) had a lower prevalence of asthma than those who ate less. [15]

Additionally, a vitamin A deficiency has been associated with poor lung development and may even promote hypersensitive airways. [16]

7. Supports healthy blood sugar levels

Finally, the nutrients in butternut squash have been shown to support healthy blood sugar levels. This may be a bit surprising, given the fact that butternut squash is a well-known source of carbohydrates, which is commonly known to elevate blood pressure. But thanks to its high fiber content, these effects can be mitigated.

Interestingly, in a 2018 study, 20 critically ill diabetic patients were administered 5 grams of powdered squash every 12 hours for three days to test the effects of squash on blood sugar. The researchers discovered that, on average, the patients’ glucose levels dropped by about 17 percent in just three days! [17]

 

Butternut squash health benefits - Dr. Pingel

 

Isn’t it amazing how different nutrients can come together to create all of these incredible butternut squash health benefits? They’re just there waiting for you.

So, the next time you’re at your local grocery store, make sure to pick up a butternut squash or two and incorporate it into your meals. And it can be a pretty simple process, too! Simply roast them with a little oil and cinnamon. You can eat it as a side or on top of a salad. You can even add it to soups.

However you prefer it, you can eat it with the confidence that you’re getting loads of the nutrients you need to support your overall health and wellbeing—and that’s a wonderful feeling!

 

Key Takeaways

  • Butternut squash is a highly versatile vegetable that can be eaten hot or cold, on salads or in sandwiches, with pasta, and more.
  • Butternut squash health benefits are amazingly comprehensive as well, from supporting healthy weight management to boosting immunity to supporting healthy blood sugar levels and more.
  • The health benefits in butternut squash are due to its nutritional profile, which includes fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, several B vitamins, magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, and more.

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