Top 5 Foods With Surprising Qualities: Winter Squash
If you went back in time to visit any of the ancient civilizations of Latin America, you might find yourself eating a dish containing squash. Though wild squash originated somewhere between Mexico and Guatemala, records show that the Incans, Aztecs and Mayans all cultivated this sweet-tasting vegetable.
The most impressive thing about winter squash is how nutritious it is for you. Full of carotenoids (precursors to vitamin A, vitamin C and fiber), squash is a wonderful additional to any winter or fall meal. And it couldn't be easier to make. Try every single winter squash on this list and you're bound to enjoy this season's bounty!
To say that winter squash is good for you may be an understatement. It's not an exaggeration to say it's an excellent source of some of the most powerful nutrients contained in foods.
Eat one cup of baked winter squash and you'll take in over 145 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin A from carotenoids. One cup will also give you nearly 6 grams of fiber! Plus, you'll get almost 20 milligrams of vitamin C, that's well over 30 percent of the Daily Value. The nutritional benefits of winter squash don't stop there. One cup of baked squash is a good source of thiamin, copper, vitamin B6 and niacin.
The beta-carotene contained in squash could help women over the age of 50 avoid breast cancer. In one study, women who consumed at least 3.7 grams of beta-carotene from food, had up to 68 percent less risk than women who ate the least beta-carotene. It may also prevent infections such as colds and flu.
The insoluble fiber in winter squash can help relieve a number of intestinal problems, from constipation and hemorrhoids to diverticulosis, a colon disorder. By binding and adding bulk to the stool, insoluble fiber helps speed digestion. Although there have been conflicting reports, this action may also help reduce the risk of colon cancer.
The soluble fiber in winter squash, including a type called pectin, breaks down to form a gellike barrier in the small intestine. It's been shown in scientific studies that soluble fiber and pectin can help lower cholesterol and control blood sugar in diabetics.
The vitamin C in winter squash acts as an antioxidant, blocking the cell damage caused by free radicals. If left unchecked, free radicals can cause a host of problems, including heart disease and cancer. Vitamin C is also beneficial for relieving the symptoms of a cold and fighting fatigue. To top it off, it may also help keep your blood pressure in check.
Thiamin and Copper
Thiamin is essential for energy production, while copper is essential for keeping the tissues in your body healthy. Low copper levels cause tissue breakdown, which prompts the weakening of your heart, blood vessels and kidneys.
Vitamin B6 and Niacin
Vitamin B6 influences cognitive function and your immune system while niacin is essential to energy metabolism and healthy skin, as well as to your digestive and nervous systems.