Cucurbita (Latin for gourd) is a genus of herbaceous vines in the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae (also known as cucurbits or cucurbi) native to the Andes and Mesoamerica. Five species are grown worldwide for their edible fruit, variously known as squash, pumpkin, or gourd, depending on species, variety, and local parlance, and for their seeds.
Other kinds of gourd, also called bottle-gourds, are native to Africa and belong to the genus Lagenaria, which is in the same family and subfamily as Cucurbita, but in a different tribe. These other gourd are used as utensils or vessels, and their young fruits are eaten much like those of Cucurbita species.
Most Cucurbita species are herbaceous vines that grow several meters in length and have tendrils, but non-vining “bush” cultivars of C. Pepo and C. maxima have also been developed. The yellow or orange flowers on a Cucurbita plant are of two types: female and male. The female flowers produce the fruit and the male flowers produce pollen. Many North and Central American species are visited by specialist bee pollinators, but other insects with more general feeding habits, such as honey bees, also visit.
There is debate about the taxonomy of the genus, as the number of accepted species varies from 13 to 30. The five domesticated species are Cucurbita argyrosperma, C. ficifolia, C. maxima, C. moschata, and C. pepo. All of these can be treated as winter squash because the full-grown fruits can be stored for months; however, C. pepo includes some cultivars that are better used only as summer squash.
The fruits have many culinary uses including pumpkin pie, biscuits, bread, desserts, pudding, beverages and soup.
Cucurbita, raw summer squash is 94% water, 3% carbohydrates, and 1% protein, with negligible fat content (table). In 100 grams, raw squash supplies 16 calories and is rich in vitamin C (20% of the daily value, DV), moderate in vitamin B6 and riboflavin (12-17% DV), but otherwise devoid of appreciable nutrient content (table), although the nutrient content of different Curcubita species may vary somewhat.
Pumpkin seeds content vitamin E, crude protein, B vitamins and several dietary minerals (see nutrition table at pepita). Also present in pumpkin seeds are unsaturated and saturated oils, palmitic, oleic and lijoleic fatty acids, as well as carotenoids.
☆ Rich in Nutrients and Low in Calories
One cup (205 grams) of cooked butternut squash provides:
● Calories: 82
● Carbs: 22 grams
● Protein: 2 grams
● Fiber: 7 grams
● Vitamin A: 457% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
● Vitamin C: 52% of the RDI
● Vitamin E: 13% of the RDI
● Thiamine (B1): 10% of the RDI
● Niacin (B3): 10% of the RDI
● Pyridoxine (B6): 13% of the RDI
● Folate(B9): 10% of the RDI
● Magnessium: 15% of the RDI
● Potassium: 17% of the RDI
● Manganese: 18% of the RDI
~ Butternut squash, as you can see is low in calories but loaded with important nutrients.
~ Aside from the vitamins and minerals listed above, it’s also a good source of calcium, iron, phosphorus, and copper.
☆ Packed with Vitamins and Minerals
~ Butternut squash is an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals
~ A one-cup (205-gram) serving of cooked butternut squash provides more than 450% of the RDI for vitamin A and over 50% of the RDI for vitamin C.
~ it’s also rich in carotenoids – including beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and alpha-carotene – which are the plant pigments that give butternut squash its bright color.
~ These compounds are provitamin A carotenoids, meaning your body converts them into retinal and retinoic acid – the active forms of Vitamin A.
~ Vitamin A is essential for regulating cell growth, eye health, bone health, and immune function.
~ Additionally, it’s vital for fetal growth and development, making it an important vitamin for mothers-to-be.
~ Butternut squash is also rich in vitamin C – a water-soluble nutrient needed for immune function, collagen synthesis, wound healing, and tissue repair.
~ Both vitamin A and C work as potent antioxidants in your body, protecting your cells from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals.
~ Vitamin E is another antioxidant in butternut squash that helps protect against free radicals damage and may reduce your risk of age-related conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
~ This winter squash is also packed with B vitamins – including folate and B6 – which your body needs for energy and red blood cell formation.
~ What’s more, it’s high in magnesium, potassium, and manganese – all of which play important roles in bone health.
~ Manganese acts as a co-factor in bone mineralization, the process of building bone tissue.
☆ High Antioxidant Content May Decrease Disease Risk
~ Antioxidants help prevent or slow cellular damage and reduce inflammation, which may reduce your risk of several chronic diseases.
~ Research has shown that diets high in certain antioxidants found in butternut squash – such as carotenoid antioxidants and vitamin C – can reduce your risk of certain cancers.
~ Studies have demonstrated that a higher dietary intake of beta-carotene and vitamin C may reduce lung cancer risk.
~ A review of 18 studies found that people with the highest beta-carotene intake had a 24% lower risk of lung cancer compared to those with the lowest intake.
~ Another review of 21 studies found that lung cancer risk decrease by 7% for every additional 100 mg of vitamin C per day.
~ A review of 13 studies indicated that higher blood levels of beta-carotene were related to a significantly lower risk of all-cause mortality, including death from cancer.
☆ Heart Disease
~ Eating butternut squash produce has long been associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
~ However, yellow and orange vegetables and fruits – including butternut squash – have been shown to be particularly effective at protecting against heart disease.
~ The antioxidants found in these brightly colored vegatables have a powerful impact on heart health.
~ A study in 2,445 people demonstrated that heart disease risk fell 23% for every additional daily serving of yellow-orange vegetables.
~ It’s thought that the carotenoids found in these vegetables protect heart health by lowering blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and controlling the expression of specific genes related to heart disease.
☆ Mental Decline
~ Certain dietary practices, such as eating more antioxidant-rich foods, may protect against mental decline.
~ A 13-year study in 2,983 people associated a carotenoid-rich dietary pattern with enhanced memory recall, visual attention, and verbal fluency during aging.
~ Higher dietary intake of vitamin E may have a protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease.
~ An 8-year study in 140 older found that those with the highest blood levels of vitamin E had a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared to those with the lowest levels of the vitamin.
☆ May Aid Weight Loss
~ One cup (205 grams) of cooked butternut squash has only 83 calories and provides 7 grams of filling fiber – making it an excellent choice if you want to lose excess weight and body fat.
~ It contains both insoluble and soluble fiber. In particular, soluble fiber has been associated with fat loss and been shown to reduce appetite, which is important when you’re trying to control your calorie intake.
~ Many studies have found that a higher dietary fiber intake promotes weight loss and reduces body fat.
~ A study in 4,667 children and teens showed that obesity risk decreased by 21% in those with the highest fiber intake compared to those who consumed the least fiber.
~ Additionally, a study in 252 women demonstrated that for every one gram increase in total dietary fiber, weight decreased by 0.55 pounds (0.25 kg) and fat decreased by 0.25 of a percentage point.
~ Plus, high-fiber diets may help keep weight off over time. An 18-month study in women found that those with the highest intake of fiber lost more weight than those with the lowest intake – showing that fiber is important for long-term weight loss.
~ Adding butternut squash to your meals is an excellent way of decreasing hunger and boosting your fiber intake.
References: healthline.com / wikipedia.org