Fall Nutrition means Winter Squash!

By Beth Mansfield

This month’s sweet potato recipe got us thinking about those other orange-fleshed foods that are in plentiful supply at this time of year: squash. Similar to sweet potatoes, squash are a good source of beta-carotene, carbs and vegetable protein. So, when you’re done with the sweet potato and black bean burgers, try the pumpkin bar recipe at the end of this article.

Winter squash such as butternut, acorn squash, and pumpkins are all in the same family. Winter squash has a tough rind, which allows for storage during the winter months. Storing and preparing squash prolongs the vegetable’s quality, ensuring it tastes as sweet and buttery as when you bought it. Squash contains many different nutrients, such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium and fibre.

Health Benefits of Winter Squash
•High in fibre, nutrient dense, the bright orange color of pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash, buttercup squash and all the many varieties of winter squash are a dead giveaway that they are loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene. Current research indicates that a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and offers protect against heart disease. Beta-carotene offers protection against other diseases as well as some degenerative aspects of aging.
•Squash is potassium rich. Potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure and is an important electrolyte for both heart and muscle function.
•Winter squash is an excellent source of vitamin C, which aids in wound healing and is important for gum health. Growth and repair of tissues depends on vitamin C. Cartilage, scar tissue, ligaments and blood vessels depend on vitamin C for development. Vitamin C rich foods also help your body to better absorb iron from foods.

Weight Management Benefits of Winter Squash
•Low calorie, nutrient dense foods that are a source of carbohydrate for working muscles (we are talking vegetables here!) should make up most of your plate. This can help to satisfy your hunger without the higher calorie, starchy foods such as potatoes, rice, and pasta.
•Roasted pumpkin seeds can help take the edge of your appetite while providing iron for endurance, zinc for immune function and a dose of healthy unsaturated fats for muscle energy!

Athletic Performance Benefits of Winter Squash

Carbohydrates and protein are important to working muscles, before, during and after training. Get ready for action with a pre-workout snack of pumpkin nut bars; refuel and rehydrate after training with acorn squash soup.

Pumpkin Nut Bars
•1 cup cooked pumpkin puree, fresh or canned
•1/2 cup butter or margarine (melted)
•2 egg whites, slightly beaten
•2 cups oats
•1 cup brown sugar, packed
•1/2 cup shredded coconut, toasted
•1/2 cup wheat germ
•1 cup chopped salted peanuts, pecans, or almonds
1.Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, beat egg whites slightly; add pumpkin and melted butter or margarine beat until smooth.
2.In another bowl combine oats, brown sugar, coconut, wheat germ, and nuts.
3.Fold oat mixture into pumpkin mixture to form stiff dough.
4.Press dough into a lightly greased 15 1/2 x 10 1/2 inch jelly-roll pan.
5.Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. While still warm, cut into 2×3 inch bars. Yield about 30 bars. Serve warm or cool completely.

Winter Squash – Nutrition Facts

(1 cup cooked, boiled, drained, without salt)
Approximate Calories 50-60 kcal Protein 2-3 grams
Carbohydrate 1-14 grams
Dietary Fibre 2-3 grams
Calcium 35-45 mg
Iron 1.2-1.5 mg
Magnesium 20-30 mg
Potassium 500-600 mg

Beth Mansfield is a Sport Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist. For more nutrition information from Beth and a list of upcoming sport nutrition workshops, visit www.peakperformance.ca.