With our glorious summer days upon us it’s time to embrace some of the more delightful summer treats you can expect in the near future. Summer squash is a delightful vegetable that contains a litany of health benefits and can be cooked in a variety of ways. Today we are looking at the health benefits of summer squash and some interesting and new ways to add it to your daily diet. Let’s get rolling.
Summer squash is a type of squash that grows all over the United States and is easily found at local farmers markets, roadside vegetable stands and organic produce delivery services. Summer squash is rich in nutritional benefits and can be used in a wide variety of dishes. Add it to stews, salads and soups to avail yourself of this nutritious vegetable. Summer squash comes in a variety of sizes, including one shaped like a flying saucer (patty-pan squash).
Summer squashes are believed to be indigenous to Mexico along with South and Central America. Archeological digs have recovered preserved seeds from the summer squashes in Mexican caves that could be well over 10,000 years old.
The Spanish Conquistadors introduced both varieties of squashes (summer and winter) to Europe which rapidly became popular throughout the Western World. The Native Americans considered this summer vegetable to be one of their staples and was one of the Three Sisters (corn and beans being the other two) method of planting and eating.
2. Nutrition Galore!
Summer squash is a rich source of Vitamin A and C, magnesium, fiber, folate, riboflavin, phosphorus, potassium and Vitamin B6. In addition, it is high in manganese, a mineral which helps the body process fats, carbohydrates, and glucose.
3. Healthy Heart
Yellow squash contains negligible fat and no measurable cholesterol. One cup of squash contains about 0.2 g of fat. Cutting down on your fat and cholesterol intake is a giant step towards helping reduce your risk of heart disease.
Aside from the complete lack of fat in summer squash, the magnesium quantity has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Along with its potassium content, magnesium is good for reducing high blood pressure. The vitamin C and beta-carotene levels in summer squash may also aid in preventing the oxidation of cholesterol. As cholesterol in its oxidized form builds up in the walls of blood vessels, such nutrients may reduce the development of atherosclerosis. The presence of the vitamin folate in yellow squash is required by our bodies to remove an unhealthy metabolic byproduct called homocysteine, which may contribute to heart attack and stroke risk.
4. You Will See Better!
Not only will eating more summer squash demonstrate to those around you that you have seen the nutritional light, you will actually be able to see those who are around you. Summer squash is particularly high in concentrations of beta carotene and lutein. Dietary lutein helps to prevent the onset of cataracts and macular degeneration, which often leads to blindness. A cup of summer squash provides about 135 micrograms of beta carotene and 2,400 micrograms of lutein.
5. Fights Cancer
Summer squash is abundant in antioxidants that keep free radicals at bay. With its high beta-carotene content, summer squash is a great source of protection from pollutants and chemicals that lead to cancer. The high levels of vitamin C helps prevent premature aging and cancer as well as inhibiting cell division.
6. Controls PMS Symptoms
As mentioned above, summer squash is a very good source of manganese. In one clinical trial, women who consumed high amounts of this mineral in their daily diet had fewer mood swings and cramps than those who ate the lowest amounts. So put some in your lunchtime salad!
Bet You Didn’t Know:
The tradition of lighting candles inside a carved pumpkin at Halloween is originally from Ireland where lit vegetables were hung in the window to ward off Jack O’ Lantern, a wayward soul condemned by the devil to walk the earth for all eternity.
Botanically speaking, squash is considered a fruit, because it contains the seeds of the plants.
If you haven’t cooked with squash before, it can be a little challenging to work into the regular diet. Here are some cool ways to work squash into your summer plans during these warm months.
• Squash can be used to make great tasting casseroles or put in a fast stir fry.
• Marinate and grill it on the grill – what a great taste!
• Sliced or grated raw squash can be a wonderful addition to your favorite salad.
• Add sliced squash with dried tomatoes to rice when you cook it.
• Add yellow and zucchini squash to your next vegetable tray.
• Grated summer squash makes a good substitute for carrots in a carrot cake.