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8 Delicious Types of Squash

Health + Wellness
Ryan Johnson / North Charleston / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

By SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD

Botanically classified as fruits but often used as vegetables in cooking, squash are nutritious, tasty, and versatile.


There are several varieties, each with its unique taste, culinary uses, and health benefits.

All are members of the scientific genus Cucurbita and can be further classified as either summer or winter squash.

Here are 8 delicious types of squash to add to your diet.

Types of Summer Squash

Summer squash are harvested young⁠ — while they're still tender ⁠— and their seeds and rinds are typically eaten.

Though most varieties are in season during the summertime, they're really named for their relatively short shelf life.

Here are 3 of the most common summer squash.

1. Yellow Squash

Yellow squash includes many different types, such as crookneck and straightneck squash, as well as some zucchini cross breeds like zephyr squash.

One medium (196-gram) yellow squash contains (1):

  • Calories: 31
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Carbs: 7 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams

This variety is also an excellent source of potassium, with one medium (196-gram) fruit providing more potassium than a large banana. Potassium is a mineral that plays vital roles in muscle control, fluid balance, and nerve function (2, 3Trusted Source).

Because of its mild flavor and slightly creamy texture when cooked, yellow squash can be prepared in many ways.

It can be sautéed, grilled, baked, or used as the star ingredient in casseroles.

2. Zucchini

Zucchini is a green summer squash that has become a popular low-carb, low-calorie alternative to noodles.

One medium (196-gram) zucchini packs (4):

  • Calories: 33
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Carbs: 6 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams

This variety is mild in flavor but has a firmer texture than yellow squash, making it well-suited for soups and stir-fries.

Like yellow squash, it can be sautéed, grilled, or baked.

You can also cut zucchini into thin ribbons with a spiralizer to use it in place of pasta or noodles in any recipe.

3. Pattypan Squash

Pattypan squash, or simply patty pan, are small, ranging from 1.5–3 inches (4–8 cm) in length. They're saucer-shaped with a scalloped edge and thus also called scallop squash.

One cup (130 grams) of pattypan squash provides (5):

  • Calories: 23
  • Fat: 0 gram
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Carbs: 5 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams

This type is exceptionally low in calories and contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, folate, and manganese, as well as small amounts of fiber and protein.

Replacing high-calorie foods with low-calorie, nutrient-rich ones like patty pan may aid weightloss by reducing the number of calories you eat but not the volume of food. This can help you feel fuller on fewer calories (6Trusted Source).

Like yellow squash, patty pan are mild in flavor and can be sautéed, baked, grilled, or used to make casseroles.

Summary

Summer squash are young fruits with tender seeds and rinds that can be eaten. Some popular varieties include yellow squash, zucchini, and patty pan.

Types of Winter Squash

Winter squash are harvested fairly late in their life. They have firm rinds and hard seeds, which most people remove before eating. Unlike summer varieties, they can be stored for long periods due to their thick, protective rinds.

These fruits are known as winter squash because of their long shelf life. Most types are harvested in late summer and early fall.

Here are a few of the most widely available winter squash.

4. Acorn Squash

Acorn squash is a small, acorn-shaped variety with a thick, green rind and orange flesh.

One 4-inch (10-cm) acorn squash contains (7):

  • Calories: 172
  • Fat: 0 gram
  • Protein: 3 grams
  • Carbs: 45 grams
  • Fiber: 6 grams

This type is packed with vitamin C, B vitamins, and magnesium, which is a mineral vital to bone and heart health. It's also rich in fiber and carbs in the form of natural starches and sugars, which give the fruit a sweet taste (7).

Acorn squash is usually prepared by slicing it in half, removing the seeds, and roasting it. It can be roasted with a savory stuffing, such as sausage and onions, or drizzled with honey or maple syrup as a dessert. It's also commonly used in soups.

5. Butternut Squash

Butternut squash is a large winter variety with a pale rind and orange flesh.

One cup (140 grams) of butternut squash contains (8):

  • Calories: 63
  • Fat: 0 gram
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Carbs: 16 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams

This type is an excellent source of vitamin C and beta carotene, both of which act as antioxidants in your body. Antioxidants help protect your cells from damage, which may prevent certain chronic diseases (8).

For example, a high intake of beta carotene is associated with a lower risk of certain cancers, including lung cancer, while vitamin-C-rich diets may protect against heart disease (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).

Butternut squash has a sweet, earthy taste. It can be enjoyed in a variety of ways but is usually roasted. It's frequently used in soups and also a common choice for baby food.

Unlike other winter varieties, both the seeds and the rind of butternut squash are edible after cooking.

6. Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is a large, orange-fleshed winter variety. After cooking, it can be pulled into strands that resemble spaghetti. Like zucchini, it's a popular low-calorie alternative to pasta.

One cup (100 grams) of spaghetti squash provides (11):

  • Calories: 31
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Carbs: 7 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams

This type is one of the lowest-carb winter squash, making it a great choice for those who are on low-carb or low-calorie diets, as it contains fewer natural sugars than other winter varieties.

It has a mild flavor, making it a great alternative to pasta. Plus, it won't overpower the other ingredients with which it's paired.

To prepare spaghetti squash, cut it in half and remove the seeds. Roast the halves until the flesh is tender. Then use a fork to scrape out the pasta-like strands.

7. Pumpkin

Pumpkin is a versatile winter squash best known for its use in desserts. Plus, its seeds are edible when cooked.

One cup (116 grams) of pumpkin contains (12):

  • Calories: 30
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Carbs: 8 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram

Pumpkin is rich in the antioxidants alpha and beta carotene, which are both precursors to vitamin A, a vitamin that is important for eye health (13Trusted Source).

This fruit is also a good source of potassium and vitamin C (12).

Pumpkin is mildly sweet and can be used in both savory and sweet dishes, from pie to soup. Its seeds can be roasted, seasoned, and eaten for a healthy, filling snack.

To prepare pumpkin, remove the seeds and pulp and roast or boil the flesh until it's tender. You can also purchase canned pumpkin purée that is ready to use for baking or cooking.

8. Kabocha Squash

Kabocha squash — also known as Japanese pumpkin or buttercup squash — is a staple in Japanese cuisine and growing in popularity around the world.

Though the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not have nutrition information available for kabocha specifically, 1 cup (116 grams) of winter squash typically contains (14):

  • Calories: 39
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Carbs: 10 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams

Like other winter varieties, kabocha squash is rich in antioxidants and nutrients, including vitamin C and provitamin A (15).

Its flavor has been described as a cross between a pumpkin and a potato. Plus, the skin is edible if fully cooked.

Kabocha squash can be roasted, boiled, sautéed, or used to make soup. It's also used to make tempura, which involves lightly battering pieces of the fruit with panko breadcrumbs and frying them until crisp.

Summary

Winter squash have a longer shelf life than summer varieties. They're characterized by their thick rinds and hard seeds. Some examples include acorn, spaghetti, and kabocha squash.

The Bottom Line

Squash are extremely versatile and can be used in many ways.

Both summer and winter varieties are full of nutrients and fiber yet relatively low in calories.

They can be roasted, sautéed, or boiled or used to make soups and desserts. What's more, zucchini and spaghetti squash are excellent alternatives to pasta.

These diverse fruits make healthy, delicious additions to your diet.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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