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Winter squash gives antioxidant boost

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Delean Riddick with Morrison's food services at Sentara Albemarle Medical Center presents a spaghetti squash like the one she used to prepare this spaghetti squash with mushrooms and tomatoes recipe, Tuesday.

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By Karen Phillips
for Sentara Albemarle Medical Center

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Full of carotenes, these colorful vegetables provide an antioxidant boost all winter long. But wait! Winter squash is actually a fruit and includes many varieties, such as Acorn, Spaghetti, Butternut, Hubbard, Banana and also Pumpkin.

The difference between summer and winter squash is the maturity of the fruit and how long it can be stored before eating. Winter squash is harvested and eaten in the mature fruit stage when the seeds within have fully matured and the skin has hardened into a thick, tough shell that protects the sweet flesh inside, making them excellent storage vegetables. Some varieties are available year-round, but their natural season runs from late summer to mid-winter. Winter squash is generally cooked before being eaten and the skin or rind is not usually eaten as it is with summer squash.

Winter squash is low in calories and a good source of complex carbohydrates and fiber . It is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, most B vitamins, potassium, iron, omega-3 fatty acids and beta-carotene (an antioxidant) . Usually, the darker the skin is, the higher the beta-carotene content.

When selecting fall and winter squash, choose firm squash with no visible blemishes or soft spots. Always pick winter squash that feels heavy for its size. Store in a dry, cool spot (but not the refrigerator) and use within a month

Preparations methods include peeling or just cutting in half since peeling might be difficult, scooping out the seeds and then roasting, boiling, steaming or microwaving until tender. Once cooked, pulp can be scooped out or skin gently removed.

Karen Phillips, RD, LDN is clinical nutrition manager at Sentara Albemarle Medical Center

 

DID YOU KNOW?

Presidents Washington and Jefferson grew squash in their gardens.

Squash are a good source of minerals, carotenes and vitamin A.

The names squash and pumpkin are used interchangeably, but pumpkin is usually associated with the orange varieties.

For pie, Pilgrims first hollowed out a pumpkin, filled it with apples, sugar, spices and milk, then put the stem back on and baked.

An average pumpkin weighs 10-20 pounds though the Atlantic Giant variety can weigh 400-600 pounds, enough for 300 pies!

Butternut squash can be used in almost any recipe that calls for pumpkin.

The seeds of many winter squash, not just pumpkin, can be roasted and enjoyed as a snack.

Spaghetti squash has a stringy flesh that can be used in place of traditional spaghetti in many recipes.

Courtesy of Sentara Albemarle Medical Center

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