Secret Side Effects of Eating Butternut Squash, Says Science
As far as produce goes, pumpkin may get all the attention come fall—but truthfully, nothing can amp up a seasonal dish quite like eating butternut squash. This subtly sweet, nutty-tasting fruit (yes, it's technically a fruit) adds a richness of flavor to soups, grain bowls, casseroles, and desserts alike. Not only is it delicious, but it also happens to pack quite a few antioxidants and micronutrients to benefit your body. Don't you love when food is just as good for you as it tastes?
You may be surprised by some of the secret side effects of eating butternut squash, too. In addition to being high in fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E, it's also rich in many essential minerals that play a significant role in your overall health. Below are just a few of the many perks you can expect from noshing on this popular winter squash, and for even more healthy tips, read up on our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
You'll feel full—and may even lose weight over time.
One cup of cubed butternut squash has about 3 grams of satiating fiber and only 63 calories with less than 1 gram of fat. That makes it a phenomenal weight-loss food.
More specifically, butternut squash offers some soluble fiber, which has been found to reduce appetite and calorie intake. One 2009 study in The Journal of Nutrition discovered that for every gram increase in total dietary fiber in women's diets, their weight decreased by 0.55 pounds. Another 2018 study in Eating Behaviors revealed that women who consumed more fiber lost more weight than those with a lower fiber intake.
Your eye health will improve.
Orange vegetables and fruits, including butternut squash, are naturally high in beta-carotene—a provitamin that your body then converts into vitamin A. On top of that, a one-cup serving of cubed butternut squash provides a whopping 745 micrograms of vitamin A—that's 83% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for men and 106% of the RDA for women.
Vitamin A plays a critical role in eye health—it's essential for nourishing certain parts of the eye to prevent dryness, protecting the cornea, and supporting vision under poor lighting conditions (like while driving at night time).
Keep in mind that vitamin A is fat-soluble, which means that in order to best reap the benefits of this eye-enhancing nutrient, you'll want to eat butternut squash with a fat source. For example, try roasting it in olive oil, or tossing it in a salad with almonds or pecans.
Your immune system will get a major boost.
The daily value (DV) for vitamin C when eating butternut squash is 90 milligrams—and a 1-cup serving of cooked just happens to have 30 milligrams nutrients, or 33% of your RDA.
Vitamin C plays a massive role in immune function, and has been found to both prevent and treat respiratory as well as systemic infections.
In other words, it may be high time to change the age-old saying to "a butternut squash a day keeps the doctor away."
Plus, did you know that these Popular Foods Have More Vitamin C Than an Orange?
Your bones will get stronger.
Butternut squash is high in magnesium, manganese, and potassium—three minerals that contribute to bone health in a big way.
While magnesium promotes higher bone mineral density and potassium reduces calcium loss in bones, manganese helps support the process of building bone tissue. That means that butternut squash can help strengthen and protect your bones, thereby reducing your risk of developing osteoporosis.
Your risk of cancer could go down.
Antioxidants can protect your cells from free radical damage while also reducing inflammation, thus warding off certain types of cancer and other chronic diseases. And fortunately, butternut squash is chock-full of them—specifically, vitamins A and C and beta-carotene.
A 2020 study in Food Science & Nutrition found that beta-carotene promotes communication between cells, which can stop the growth of cancer cells. Other research has linked beta-carotene intake to a lower risk of lung cancer and of death from cancer.
Your blood pressure will likely level out.
Fun fact: Butternut squash has more potassium than a banana. Why is this noteworthy? Because potassium can help to keep your blood pressure in check. It does this by relaxing blood vessel walls, as well as by eliminating excess sodium in your body.
In fact, a number of studies have linked low potassium intake and increased blood pressure. A 2020 review in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that there was an association between potassium supplementation and lower blood pressure in adults with hypertension.
Your heart will be happy.
Butternut squash is bursting with carotenoids like beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin that contribute to heart health. That explains why a 2016 study in Scientific Reports found that when people added a daily serving of yellow-orange vegetables to their diets, their risk for heart disease dropped 23%.
You'll have a lower risk of cognitive decline.
Speaking of carotenoids, these plant pigments can also help to protect your brain. According to a 2014 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, a carotenoid-rich diet was associated with enhanced memory recall, verbal fluency, and visual attention in aging adults.
Not to mention, butternut squash is also high in vitamin E, which may reduce your risk of certain age-related diseases, like Alzheimer's. The Annals of Pharmacotherapy found that vitamin E supplementation was associated with a decreased risk of cognitive decline.
For even more healthy tips, read these next:
- Popular Foods With More Vitamin A Than Carrots
- The 12 Best Vitamin A Foods For Skin, Hair, and Eye Health
- 20 Healthy Butternut Squash Recipes