Ingredient Spotlight: Butternut Squash

September 6th, 2017

By Zachari Breeding, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND

When people think “Fall,” they think of trees, leaves, squashes, and gourds. Butternut squash is but one example, along with the pumpkin, of a food in the squash family. Its versatility and flavor profile allow it to be used in both sweet and savory dishes.

Known scientifically as Cucurbita moschata, butternut squash was first developed on American soil by Charles Leggett of Stow, Massachusetts in the mid 1940’s. He crossed a gooseneck squash with other varieties of the crop and the butternut squash was born. When naming his new squash, Leggett settled on butternut because it was “smooth as butter and sweet as a nut.” In actuality, butternut squash has a strong flavor that is similar to a sweet potato. You might notice a slight saltiness or nuttiness depending on the cooking method.

Butternut squash is extremely versatile and can be used in soup, roasted with salt and olive oil, or even in pies. Butternut soups tend to be creamy, even without any milk product added, due to the density of the squash before blended. Boiled butternut squash simply pureed with vegetable broth and a sautéed mirepoix of carrots, onion and celery offers much flavor even before adding spices like salt, pepper, or nutmeg. It can also be roasted and served as an alternative to mashed potatoes or added to a salad to give an extra kick. Roasting butternut squash brings out its savory notes, so feel free to toss it with seasonings such as garlic, cumin, coriander, or cayenne pepper. Its sweet attributes can also be taken advantage of in a fall pie instead of yams or sweet potatoes.

Butternut squash is relatively low in calories and high in fiber and vitamins A and C. One cup of cooked squash is one Slice on The Slice Plan ( and has about 80 calories, 6.6 grams of fiber, over four times the daily recommendation of vitamin A, and over half of the daily recommended dose of vitamin C. Vitamin A is plays a role in cancer prevention, eye health, immune function, and heart maintenance, just to name a few. Unlike other winter squashes, butternut squash contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, which improves digestive health, maintains healthy cholesterol, and aids absorption of vitamins and minerals.

Seasonal produce usually tastes better, is less expensive, and has a higher nutritional value than when delivered from across the country. Butternut squash is but one food perfect for the fall because of its rich flavor and hearty texture. Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and acorn squash simply taste better when the air is crisp and it feels good to turn the oven on again. Satisfying that inkling of hibernation that comes with cooler weather with a food that is also good for you is doubly rewarding. For additional recipe suggestions, go to
Happy Eating!

Haberkorn, Pheobe. “A Familiar Squash with Surprising Origins.” Editorial. The Stow Independent [Stow, MA] n.d.: n. pag. Apple Country Living. Paul Trunfio, 5 Jan. 2009. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.

“Beyond Pumpkin: Harvest The Health Benefits Of Winter Squash.” Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 32.9 (2014): 6. SPORTDiscus with Full Text. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.

Zachari Breeding, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND is a Philadelphia-based registered dietitian nutritionist, professional chef and Clinical Nutrition Manager of Kate Farms. As the owner of a personalized nutrition consultation and off-site catering company, The Sage: Nutritious Solutions, he works to provide his clients local (when available), fresh, seasonal food presented to showcase natural flavors and aromas.
Zach is also the author of The Slice Plan: An Integrative Approach to a Healthy Lifestyle and a Better You.

Posted by: Julie Stefanski

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