7 Surprising Ways Butternut Squash Can Improve Your Health

Medically reviewed by Alexandra Dusenberry, MS, RDN Alexandra Dusenberry Alexandra DusenberryMS, RDN twitter_iconlinkedin_iconinsta_icon
Written by , MSc (Biotechnology), Professional Certificate In Food, Nutrition & Health Swathi Handoo MSc (Biotechnology), Professional Certificate In Food, Nutrition & Health Experience: 4 years
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If ‘A’ stands for Apple in the English alphabet chart, it would stand for Butternut squash in the vitamins chart. Winter squash or butternut squash is a rich source copious amounts of vitamin A and is hence synonymous with it.

True to its name, this vegetable has a buttery and creamy texture when cooked right. This is why it is used to make soups, creams, sauces, dressings, and desserts.

Eager to know what else this versatile squash has to offer? And how to get the best out of it? Scroll down to get started!

Butternut Squash In Brief

Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata) belongs to the famly of gourds and melons (Cucurbitaceae) and is native to the Americas. This squash is grown in summer – contrary to its name – and harvested in fall.

It has a unique hourglass shape with a tough peel that looks bright in shades of yellow, orange, and brown. Because of the tough skin, the butternut squash has a longer shelf life. So, you can enjoy this summer-grown squash in the winters too!

The pulp of the butternut squash is soft, yet fibrous. When fresh, the pulp is sweet, juicy, creamy (when cooked), and rich in carotenoids, vitamin A, folate, vitamin E, potassium, and magnesium.

The broader bottom part of the squash nests the seeds. You can either cook them or roast them like pumpkin seeds and add them to salads or soups for some crunch.

Adding baked or cooked squash to your meals every day does more than just boost your vitamin A levels. Want to know more? Keep reading!

Benefits Of Butternut Squash

1. Cures Constipation In Children And Adults

As if exams don’t cause enough stress, constipation adds to some children’s worries. The poor kids just cannot bear the pain and the cramps.

If your kids are among them, give them butternut squash, which is high in dietary fiber. You can give them fritters made of butternut squash or pumpkin.

Older people face the same problem. Having high fiber foods like butternut squash can mobilize the stools in your large intestine.

This way, the bowels don’t dry up, preventing constipation, encopresis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and stomach cramps in children and adults (1).

2. Regulates Cholesterol Levels

Butternut squash is rich in omega fatty acids and low in calories (13 per ounce). It is also low in sodium and saturated fats.

This squash is also high in fiber, vitamin E, ⍺-carotene, and ß-carotene – which are potent antioxidants.

These elements scavenge free radicals and prevent lipid peroxidation and cholesterol accumulation in various parts of your body, especially the blood vessels.

3. Helps People With Diabetes

The first question that might have popped in some of your minds must be, “Is it fine to eat butternut squash if you have diabetes?” The answer here is yes, but in moderation.

Winter squash is high in starch, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and essential fats. But it has a glycemic index of 51. Having this squash is way better than binging on potatoes, especially for those with diabetes.

This versatile squash also has high levels of carotenoids and carotenes that scavenge free radicals like peroxides and hydroxyl ions that cause inflammation of organs. Hence, it can effectively manage type 2 diabetes and low glucose tolerance.

4. Has An Anti-inflammatory Effect

⍺-carotene, ß-carotene, and vitamins A and C do the magic again! These compounds work as antagonists to pro-inflammatory compounds like prostaglandins, histamines, and interleukins and promote immunity.

Butternut squash – along with pumpkins, bananas, summer squash, sweet potatoes, onions, avocados, carrots, yogurt, and other soft and starchy foods – is given to people suffering from acute inflammation (2), (3).

Consuming this vegetable will reduce the incidence of inflammatory diseases like arthritis, asthma, GERD, leaky gut, IBS, and Crohn’s disease.

5. Strengthens Your Bones

Strengthens Your Bones
Image: Shutterstock

A 100 g serving of butternut squash has 3.5 mg of ß-cryptoxanthin. This abundant carotenoid is responsible for strengthening your bones.

ß-cryptoxanthin stimulates the gene expression of proteins involved in bone formation and mineralization in osteoblasts (bone cells). Moderate levels of this carotenoid can increase calcium and protein content in the bone cells while inhibiting bone resorption and osteoporosis.

Hence, including this squash in your diet, especially if you fall in the post-menopausal bracket, will boost your bone health and keep arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer, and other bone diseases at bay (4).

6. Fights Cancer

ß-cryptoxanthin appears to affect genetic regulation, antioxidant, and inflammatory markers in laboratory studies.

α-carotene is another phytochemical that has protective effects against cancer. Along with ß-carotene and other antioxidants, it fights cancers of various organs like the stomach, lung, breast, liver, and colorectum.

Although α-carotene has higher anticancer potential, the carotenoids and vitamins A and E present in winter squash help prevent and treat cancers, predominantly in women (4).

7. Improves Vision And Eyesight

 Improves Vision And Eyesight
Image: Shutterstock

Butternut squash is synonymous with vitamin A. The carotenoids, particularly ß-carotene, ß-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin present in this squash convert into vitamin A (retinol).

Retinol and retinal are the compounds responsible for absorbing ‘visible’ light. There are specific genes in your body that carry out the conversion of carotenoids into these light-sensing phytochemicals (5).

Half a cup (85 g) of cooked winter squash has 3.9 mg of ß-carotene. And considering the fact that there is no set recommended upper adequacy limit, you can add it liberally to your cooking (6).

Did You Know?

  • 1 ounce of winter squash has about 3000 IU of vitamin A! Apart from improving vision and preventing eye diseases, vitamin A boosts your immunity and assists in embryonic development.
  • It is also essential for the development of learning and memory in the adult brain.

It is unbelievable that a vegetable that you took for granted is capable of giving you a whole new life. Don’t believe me?

Take a look at its nutritional profile.

Nutrition Facts Serving Size 1 Ounce 28g
Amount Per Serving
Calories 13Calories from Fat 0
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g0%
Saturated Fat 0 g0%
Trans Fat
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 1mg0%
Total Carbohydrate 3g1%
Dietary Fiber 1g2%
Sugars 1g
Protien 0g
Vitamin A60%
Vitamin C10%
Calorie Information
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Calories63.0(264 kJ)3%
From Carbohydrate58.4(245 kJ)
From Fat1.2(5.0 kJ)
From Protein3.4(14.2 kJ)
From Alcohol0.0(0.0 kJ)
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Total Carbohydrate16.4 g5%
Dietary Fiber2.8 g11%
Sugars3.1 g
Fats & Fatty Acids
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Total Fat0.1 g0%
Saturated Fat0.0 g0%
Monounsaturated Fat0.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat0.1 g
Total trans fatty acids~
Total trans-monoenoic fatty acids~
Total trans-polyenoic fatty acids~
Total Omega-3 fatty acids36.4 mg
Total Omega-6 fatty acids22.4 mg
Protein & Amino Acids
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Protein1.4 g3%
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Vitamin A14883 IU298%
Vitamin C29.4 mg49%
Vitamin D~~
Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)2.0 mg10%
Vitamin K1.5 mcg2%
Thiamin0.1 mg9%
Riboflavin0.0 mg2%
Niacin1.7 mg8%
Vitamin B60.2 mg11%
Folate37.8 mcg9%
Vitamin B120.0 mcg0%
Pantothenic Acid0.6 mg6%
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Calcium67.2 mg7%
Iron1.0 mg5%
Magnesium47.6 mg12%
Phosphorus46.2 mg5%
Potassium493 mg14%
Sodium5.6 mg0%
Zinc0.2 mg1%
Copper0.1 mg5%
Manganese0.3 mg14%
Selenium0.7 mcg1%

Numbers did the magic. Reality hit me hard! And that’s when I decided to take some serious steps to add butternut squash to my meals.

Guess what? The result was mind-blowing!

Do you want to know how I used it? Check out the recipes I have collected for you in the section below!

How To Cook Butternut Squash

1. Roasted Juicy Butternut Squash

Roasted Juicy Butternut Squash
Image: Shutterstock
What You Need
  • 1 butternut squash (peeled, seeded, and cut in cubes)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper (ground) to taste
  • Mixing bowl (medium or large sized)
  • Microwave oven
Let’s Make It!
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F (200° C).
  2. Toss the butternut squash cubes with olive oil and garlic in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Season the mix with salt and black pepper.
  4. Arrange the coated squash cubes on a baking sheet.
  5. Roast in the preheated oven until the cubes are tender and light brown (about 25 to 30 minutes).
  6. Serve hot with bread, risotto, or alone as a side dish.

Tip: You can also add some cilantro or parsley, rosemary, and basil to give it an ‘herby’ twist.

2. Creamy-Dreamy Classic Butternut Squash Soup

Creamy-Dreamy Classic Butternut Squash Soup
Image: Shutterstock
What You Need
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion (chopped)
  • 1 stalk celery (chopped)
  • 1 medium carrot (chopped)
  • 2 medium potatoes (cut in cubes)
  • 1 butternut squash (peeled, seeded, cubed)
  • 1 container chicken stock (32 fl.oz.)
  • Pepper (ground)to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Cooking pot (large-size)
Let’s Make It!
  1. Melt the butter in a large pot.
  2. Add the onion, celery, carrot, potatoes, and squash cubes to it.
  3. Cook for 5 minutes, or until they turn golden brown.
  4. Pour in enough of the chicken stock to cover the vegetables. Bring the contents to a boil.
  5. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook on simmer for 40 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender.
  6. Cool the contents to room temperature.
  7. Transfer the soup to a blender and blend until you get a smooth mixture.
  8. Add the soup back to the cooking pot and mix in any remaining stock to attain desired consistency.
  9. Finally, season the thick soup with some salt and pepper.
  10. Roll yourself up in woolens, light some firewood, get a good view at the balcony, and lap up a huge bowl of this heavenly creamy winter squash soup.

This is the best way to soak some warmth in winters. You are welcome!

3. Whacky Winter Squash Rolls

Whacky Winter Squash Rolls
Image: IStock
What You Need
  • 1½ cups winter squash (peeled, seeded, cubed)
  • 1 cup scalded milk
  • 2 packets active dry yeast (0.25 oz.)
  • ½ cup warm water (110° F or 45° C)
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ cup shortening
  • Saucepan (small or medium-sized)
  • Potato masher
  • Mixing bowls (small and large-sized)
Let’s Make It!
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F (or 200° C).
  2. Add the winter squash cubes to a small saucepan and cover them with water.
  3. Bring the water to a boil and cook until the squash cubes are tender (about 15 minutes).
  4. Drain the water, cool, and mash the cubes uniformly with a potato masher.
  5. In a small bowl, dissolve the active yeast in warm water.
  6. In a large bowl, combine 5 cups of flour, sugar, and salt. Stir in the yeast mixture, shortening, mashed squash, and milk. Mix well.
  7. Stir in the remaining flour, half cup at a time, beating well after each addition.
  8. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.
  9. Knead until it is smooth and supple (about 8 minutes).
  10. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in it and turn it to coat it with oil evenly. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until it has doubled in volume. This will take about 1 hour.
  11. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll them into rounds.
  12. Place the rounds in a lightly greased 13”x9” baking pan. Cover them with a damp cloth and let them rise until they have doubled in volume (about 30 minutes).
  13. Bake at 400° F (or 200° C) for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  14. Serve when warm with some whipped, flavored cheese-yogurt dip or just as a side with some zesty pesto sauce pasta.

Delicious is an understatement!

Butternut squash is like a quick-fix for all your bad days when you tested those innovative dishes that ended up tasting horrendous.

It imparts a very creamy, buttery, nutty flavor to any dish. Thus, it works like a concealer, covering up the mistakes you made while cooking it up.

Having said all this, is it safe to have butternut squash daily and in every meal? Let’s find out!

Risks And Side Effects Of Butternut Squash

Due to the vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients it contains, there are no documented side effects of butternut squash. It is not very sweet, has a low glycemic index and, hence, can be eaten by people with diabetes too.

But, in very rare cases, the following effects could occur:

  • Dermatitis

Members of the Cucurbitaceae family have triterpenes, cyclic hydrocarbons, and phytochemicals like cucurbitacin that are potent allergens.

If you do not wash the squash well before cooking, it might have surface pathogens, insects, or fungi that can trigger an allergy (7).

You might see patches on your skin that feel itchy and turn red and more prominent with time. Consult a physician at the earliest in such cases.

  • Might Interfere With Medication

An ounce of butternut squash has 98.5 mg of potassium. Having this squash is like having a potassium shot!

When your body is being treated with potassium boosting drugs like ACE inhibitors and beta blockers to regulate your heart health, supplementing potassium through your diet could cause a harmful overdose.

Talk to your doctor if you are on cardiovascular medication and frame a safe intake level before proceeding.

  • Risky For Kidneys

If you are suffering from kidney trouble, be careful while eating winter squash.

When your kidneys don’t work well, they cannot filter and flush out accumulated toxins – especially ions – from your system.

Hyperkalemia is not a good thing to have and can lead to muscle weakness, palpitations, and impaired control and coordination.

What’s The Verdict?

Well, except if you are allergic to pumpkins, cucumbers, or gourds, there is no good reason for you to say ‘no’ to butternut squash.

People of all age groups, specifically women, can enjoy this versatile gourd through the seasons.

This time when you are at the market, look for a bright orange-brown, hourglass-like winter squash with a firm, intact stem. Pick the ones without cuts or soft spots.

Despite all these efforts, if you can’t bring yourself to like butternut squash, then pumpkins and acorn squashes are your saviors. You can add them to your soups, pastas, or even bread.

Try out the recipes shared here and let us know how they turned out. We’d love to hear some honest feedback, suggestions, and comments from you. So, please write them to us in the comments section below.


1. “Constipation in Children…” Health Encyclopedia, University Of Rochester Medical Center
2. “An anti-inflammatory diet as treatment…” Nutrition Journal, US National Library of Medicine
3. “Traditional Chinese Medicine Booklet” Managing Pain with Traditional Chinese Medicine
4. “Absorption, metabolism, and functions…” Nutrition Reviews, US National Library of Medicine
5. “Retina, Retinol, Retinal and the Natural…” Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine
6. “Nutrients for the aging eye” Clinical Interventions in Aging, US National Library of Medicine
7. “Butternut squash (Cucurbita…” Contact dermatitis, US National Library of Medicine

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Alexandra Dusenberry is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a certified personal trainer based in San Diego, California. She has 6 years of experience and works with clients around the world to help them reach their health and fitness goals.

Read full bio of Alexandra Dusenberry
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