What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Butternut Squash Regularly – EatingWell

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Winter produce can be exciting—did you grab a butternut squash—or a package of fresh-prepped butternut squash cubes—at the store? This veggie is a popular ingredient in many cold-weather staples, from soups to pasta. Although many people love butternut squash for its bright orange color and mildly sweet, nutty flavor, it also delivers on numerous nutrition perks.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the health benefits of this popular winter squash as well as some tips for incorporating it into your diet.

Nutritional Profile of Butternut Squash

According to the USDA, 1 cup (140 grams) of cubed raw butternut squash contains:

  • Calories: 63
  • Carbohydrates: 16 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Sugars: 3 g
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Total Fat: 0 g
  • Sodium: 6 mg
  • Potassium: 493 mg
  • Vitamin A: 745 mcg
  • Vitamin C: 29 mg

Health Benefits of Butternut Squash

Weight Management

Adding low-calorie, fiber-rich foods like vegetables to your diet can support weight-loss goals. In addition to its numerous health benefits, fiber makes meals more satisfying by filling you up for longer so you aren’t reaching for a snack just an hour or two later. Including butternut squash in meals can boost your fiber intake, as one serving of butternut squash provides about 10% of your Daily Value for fiber. Plus, butternut squash has only about half the total carbs of sweet potato, but has a similar flavor and can be used in many of the same dishes. 

Although there isn’t research directly analyzing butternut squash and weight loss, we know that eating more vegetables can help with weight management. Consuming a high intake of vegetables has been found to lower the risk of weight gain by 22%, per a 2019 meta-analysis published in the journal Advances in Nutrition. Some of the studies included in the analysis followed individuals for up to 12 years, and those who ate at least three to four servings of veggies per day had the lowest risk of overweight and obesity. In addition, a 2023 research study from Frontiers in Nutrition also found that consuming more fruits and vegetables may lead to better success with weight loss, due to the fiber they provide.

Heart Health

Butternut squash is packed with fiber, potassium and vitamins A and C, as well as antioxidants like carotenoids, all nutrients that can reduce your risk of chronic diseases. In fact, diets rich in carotenoids, like the beta carotene in butternut squash, are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, concludes a 2020 review in Antioxidants.

Although most people think of bananas as the premier potassium-rich food, butternut squash actually packs more of this nutrient per serving (493mg per 1 cup raw butternut squash versus 422mg in 1 medium banana). Potassium plays an important role in blood pressure management by counteracting the effects of sodium, finds a 2020 review in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Eye Health

Butternut squash is a standout source of vision-protecting nutrients like vitamins A and C. In fact, this orange-hued winter squash provides over 80% of your Daily Value for vitamin A.

One way your body gets vitamin A is through carotenoids, which are the pigments that give these veggies their sunshine hues. There’s an array of different carotenoids, but butternut squash packs specific compounds called lutein, zeaxanthin and beta carotene. A 2020 review in Antioxidants found that this trio may help reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration by counteracting damage from blue or UV light.

Immune Function

If cold and flu season has you stocking up on orange juice to boost your immune system, consider adding a butternut squash (or two) to your cart. The vitamins A and C in butternut play an active role in the formation of white blood cells, which work overtime to prevent infection and illness. Although there is still some debate about how effective supplemental vitamin C is when trying to prevent the common cold, there is no harm in adding more vitamin C-rich foods to your diet to support your immune system health.

Digestive Health

Fiber doesn’t just help you feel full—it’s also a nutrient that promotes gut health. Butternut squash provides a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber. Both work together to promote regular bowel movements and keep them soft so they are easier to pass. In addition to better BMs, eating a fiber-rich diet also supports a healthy gut microbiome, finds a 2022 review from Microorganisms. And a healthy gut is key for aging well, according to experts.

Incorporating Butternut Squash into a Healthy Diet

The mild flavor and beautiful color of butternut squash make it an appealing addition to a variety of dishes—not just soups and salads. Roasting squash brings out the vegetable’s natural sweetness, while steaming it is the perfect method if you’re short on time. You can also puree it for soups. If you’re wondering how to cook butternut squash, here are some of our top recipe picks that feature this delicious winter squash.

Bottom Line

Butternut squash is a popular winter vegetable that’s beloved for its mildly sweet and nutty flavor that works well in a variety of dishes. It’s also a great source of essential nutrients, from fiber to potassium and vitamins A and C. Use butternut squash in soups, salads and more to reap the potential health benefits of this delicious winter produce staple.

EatingWell.com, February 2024

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