Boost your Immunity with Squash
Squash benefits the cardiovascular, digestive/detoxification, and musculoskeletal immune centers.
In Ayurvedic medicine, the squash is classified as a sattvic food, one that brings clarity and psychobiological well-being. Is it any wonder? There are more than forty kinds of squash (Native American for “something eaten raw”). Squash is a fruit (botanically speaking, it’s a berry), but it is prepared and eaten like a vegetable and belongs to the same family as melon and cucumbers.
Squashes are good sources of vitamin C (butternut is highest) and carotene. So-called winter squash (butternut, acorn, Hubbard, delicata, calabaza, spaghetti) rank after pumpkins (actually, gourdlike squash), sweet potatoes, and carrots in terms of carotene (or pro vitamin A) content but ahead of peppers and collards. The six carotenoids (out of six hundred in nature) found most commonly in human tissue—and supplied by squash and other gourds—decrease the risk of various cancers, protect the eyes and skin from the effect of ultraviolet light, and defend against heart disease, according to the landmark Nurses’ Health Study. One of them, alpha-carotene, helps slow down the aging process. Butternut is the greatest source and acorn is the lowest of this miracle nutrient for immunity.
Squashes are one of the top twelve foods for the insoluble fiber that lowers cholesterol and helps to prevent colon cancer. One cup of butternut or acorn squash provides 5 grams of total fiber, which is more than yams, brussels sprouts, or raisins. Squash seeds (especially from pumpkin) are rich in protease inhibitors that fight intestinal viruses and reproductive disorders. Dry, season, and bake them in a 400°F oven.
The name squash (Curcubita pepo) is derived from the Native American name for gourd, and like corn and beans, squash originated with the first Americans. (Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were squash growers and eaters.) Squash has been an essential crop in the Andes since pre-Columbian times.
Buying, Storing, and Preparing
- Summer squash is ready to eat when it’s still immature. Buy it (or pick it) when it is small.
- The beta-carotene content in winter squash, which can be kept in a cool room for up to three months, increases with storage. Postharvest squash also has a more intense flavor.
- Buy winter squashes that are hard, not shiny (a sign of wax or immaturity), and with a deep rich color.