March 30, 2023

Everything You Should Know About the Benefits of Squash

High in vitamins C and B6, plus beta-carotene, squash helps with heart and eye health

Roasted butternut squash on white plate with feta cheese garnish.

Just like apples, the varieties of squash are seemingly endless — all with their own unique flavors, shapes and textures. But is squash good for you?

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Registered dietitian Amber Sommer, RDN, LD, gives the 411 on the many health benefits of squash, along with how to make them a delicious addition to your diet.

The health benefits of eating squash

Contrary to popular belief, squash is botanically classified as a fruit, not a vegetable. This is because it grows from flowers and has seeds. But squash brings the best of both produce worlds when it comes to health benefits. “They’re all relatively low in carbs, high in fiber and nutrient-dense,” says Sommer.

For example, winter and summer squash are low in calories and fat, and both are excellent sources of vitamin C. They also contain fiber, B vitamins and important minerals such as potassium and magnesium.

Sommer explains how these antioxidants, minerals and vitamins in squash benefit your health.

Prevents chronic diseases

Squash contains antioxidants, which prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants are a nutritional jackpot for your body — no risk and all reward.

“Your body creates free radicals naturally as it converts food into energy or in response to environmental factors like pollution. Free radicals are missing an electron, so they’re constantly looking to steal them from other cells,” explains Sommer.

“Too many free radicals create oxidative stress. Over time, oxidative stress causes cell damage and lays the foundation for disease development. But antioxidants fight free radicals, preventing this damage and staving off chronic ailments like cancer and heart disease.”

Advertisement

Beta-carotene is an antioxidant found in squash. Your body transforms beta-carotene into the essential nutrient vitamin A. Studies have also linked beta-carotene to a lower risk of cancers, including:

Helps maintain bone health

Squash is rich in minerals, including calcium. Calcium helps build and maintain healthy bones and teeth. The vitamins A and C in squash also help keep your bones healthy. In fact, a 2017 review of studies linked vitamin A deficiency to an increased risk of bone fractures.

Keeps blood healthy

Squash is a great source of iron. Iron deficiency can cause a host of problems, including anemia. Getting enough iron doesn’t just help prevent and treat anemia. “Research also shows that iron has benefits during menstruation, such as reducing fatigue and improving athletic performance,” notes Sommer.

Supports heart health and function

Squash contains magnesium, which is essential for more than 300 processes in your body. “Magnesium maintains your heart rhythm and helps make DNA. It can also help you stay energized,” says Sommer.

Potassium-rich foods like squash also help your body function by supporting your heart and can help lower blood pressure. “And research has linked the beta-carotene in squash with heart disease prevention,” she adds.

Protects eye health

Squash is a smorgasbord of powerhouse vitamins, including vitamins A and C. Studies show that vitamin A can help protect your eyes and plays a role in preventing night blindness and age-related macular degeneration.

In addition to being an immune health superhero and powerful antioxidant, vitamin C helps your eyes, too. Like vitamin A, it prevents and slows macular degeneration and may also help prevent cataracts.

Advertisement

Keeps skin healthy

Studies show that vitamin C and beta-carotene are good for skin health. Vitamin C is also connected with wrinkle prevention and wound healing.

How much squash should you eat?

Despite being #teamfruit, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) lumps squash in with veggies based on their nutrition content. According to MyPlate, the USDA’s nutrition guide for Americans, you should aim for two to four servings of vegetables daily. Where you fall in that range depends on your sex, age, activity level, height and weight. The USDA considers 1 cup of cubed, sliced or diced winter or summer squash to be one serving of vegetables.

“Nutritionally, butternut and acorn squash are arguably the overall MVPs, but it’s by the slimmest, most subjective of margins,” says Sommer. “However, don’t worry about choosing the healthiest squash. Instead, choose the ones that taste best to you and try to eat a variety to get the most benefit from eating squash.”

Try summer squash raw or spiraled into “zoodles” as a healthy substitution for noodles. They’re also yummy sautéed or roasted with olive oil. Winter squash is delicious (and sugary sweet like a sweet potato) when roasted. And both are great additions to soups and pastas.

Whether you add it to your favorite recipe or eat squash on its own, your body will thank you.

Related Articles

Older couple standing in kitchen taking vitamins
February 26, 2024
Do Men and Women Really Have Different Nutrition Needs?

When it comes to getting proper nutrition, your assigned sex can play a role — but there’s more to it than that

Various cuts of red meat displayed
February 14, 2024
Is Red Meat Bad for You?

It has nutrients your body needs, but it also comes with some serious health risks

A roasted pork chop on a mound of vegetables with sauce, displayed in a white bowl
February 12, 2024
Is Pork Red or White Meat? And Is It Healthy?

Despite what you may have heard, pork is actually red meat (and it comes with the same risks as other red meats)

Flaxseed sprinkled on a salad in a white bowl on a dark wooden table
January 31, 2024
Flaxseed: A Little Seed With Big Health Benefits

Ground flaxseed is full of heart-healthy omega-3s, antioxidants and fiber, and easy to add to just about any recipe

Top view of a bowl of chili topped with sour cream and jalapeños with tortilla chips for dipping.
November 23, 2023
Recipe Adventure: How To Build a Better Bowl of Chili

From meat to beans, we’ve got some ideas to help you create the perfect-for-you chili recipe

Muffins and sweetbreads with frosting on trays at bakery.
November 21, 2023
13 Foods That You Didn’t Know Contain Dairy

Be sure to check the labels of common foods like canned tuna, bread, hot dogs and chocolate

Person during a consultation with their dietitian.
November 8, 2023
Could You Have a Fructan Intolerance?

A low-FODMAP elimination diet can help identify your symptoms

Closeup of a chocolate souffle with strawberry garnish on dark plate.
November 6, 2023
Recipe: Decadent Chocolate Soufflé

Only 130 calories per serving, this dessert deserves your attention

Trending Topics

close up of keto gummies
Do Keto Gummies Work for Weight Loss? Are They Safe?

Research is inconclusive whether or not these supplements are helpful

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

Older person postioned sideways showing dowager hump.
Dowager’s Hump: What It Is and How To Get Rid of It

The hump at the base of your neck may be caused by osteoporosis or poor posture

Ad