Well, it’s that time of year again where everywhere you go you see pumpkins and butternut squash, in window displays, in people’s homes and most importantly, in the vegetable section when we go food shopping.
And this is great news for us, because there are so many health benefits to eating. A great thing about the Cucurbita family that pumpkin and squash belongs to is that there are so many brightly coloured varieties, all of which give our bodies a great boost when the weather is getting chillier.
First of all, let’s take a look at the different types of pumpkin and squash.
Types of Pumpkin and Squash
BLUE HOKKAIDO PUMPKIN – This variety has a blue-green misty skin with a brilliant orange centre that tastes nutty and rich. This is one of the most tasty types of pumpkin, especially roasted with a dash of salt.
CHEESE PUMPKIN – The Cheese Pumpkin is probably the most commonly used image when it comes to Halloween and Hollywood (think of Cinderella’s pumpkin coach) and such due to its beautifully distinct bubbly shape. These have a very lovely sweet taste and the firmness of the flesh – makes them perfect for roasting.
RED KURI PUMPKIN – This beautifully fiery red skinned pumpkin looks more like a squash, with deep pimply ridges. The flesh is just as bright as the skin and its rich, nutty flavour makes it ideal for use in stews and vegetable curries. As these are quite small, you can also stuff and roast them with your favourite filling.
SUGAR PIE PUMPKIN – The Sugar Pie Pumpkin are a small version of the ‘traditional’ pumpkins that you see in the supermarkets. These very sweet tasting pumpkins are ideal for desserts like yummy warm pumpkin pie and can be hollowed and roasted with your own tasty filling.
WHITE PUMPKIN – White Pumpkins are exactly what you’d think – white pumpkins. The pure white skin of these beauties make them ideal for autumn decorations, however they are also fantastic roasted with other vegetables. The flesh inside the White Pumpkin is more of a yellowy tone.
ACORN SQUASH – The Acorn Squash is a gorgeous sweet tasting squash with a soft and tender flesh and a beautiful mid to dark green skin. Its name comes from its shape which is very much like that of an acorn.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH – Butternut squash is now probably the most
commonly consumed squash in the UK and US. It is the sweetest of the different types of squash and is beautiful mashed as an accompaniment to a meal. It can also be roasted with other winter vegetables. Just add a pinch of salt to get a slightly less sweet flavour.
DELICATA SQUASH – The Delicata Squash is very pretty and small and looks like marrow. Its skin is white with mid green streaks and is edible. The flesh inside is slightly more dry than other varieties but tastes sweet. This squash doesn’t last as long as other types so you should check them for damaged skin before buying.
HUBBARD SQUASH – This is the largest squash that you can get and has a dimply greyish green skin. The taste of this squash is very similar to pumpkin and it goes beautifully in soups and stews.
SPAGHETTI SQUASH – This is a very popular choice due to its unusual texture. When cooked right the flesh comes off in strands that resemble spaghetti hence the name. It is sometimes served just like spaghetti with tomato sauce – very tasty in winter!
The Health Benefits Of Pumpkin And Squash
So, now you know all the lovely varieties that you can get your mits on, it’s time to learn about how they can make you healthier, younger and stronger for longer.
First off, pumpkin and squash contain very few calories with 100g of pumpkin containing as little as 25 calories. You won’t find any saturated fats in there either, nor any cholesterol – this is why pumpkin is so commonly recommended for weight loss and cholesterol management.
Pumpkin and squash is also a very, very powerful antioxidant rich food that contains lots of cancer fighting flavanoids. It is also rich in vitamins A, C and E. Vitamin A is another antioxidant and aids healthy vision, keeps the skin looking young and healthy and protects against certain cancers including lung and some oral cancers.
Pumpkin and squash also contain high levels of the B-complex vitamins which are essential for many, many healthy functions within the body.
If you eat pumpkin with the seeds too, there are even more benefits to enjoy. Pumpkin seeds contain plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for a healthy heart and cardiovascular system while the high content of fibre helps to keep your digestive system healthy. 100g of the seeds also contains more than 100% of the RDA of iron and over 70% of the RDA of zinc.
So there you have it – it is clear to see why pumpkin is so popular and why the health conscious love the autumn season when this tasty and bright fruit is abundant.