Squash (and root vegetables) used to intimidate me. They take too long to cook, they're way hard to cut, and aren't they high in carbs?
Oh my, how times have changed!
Yes, they do take about 40-45 minutes to cook, but if you're batch cooking for the week, pop them in the oven while prepping other food and they're done before you know it. As long as you have a good quality, sharp knife, squash are quite easy to chop (see below for longer video).
And are they high in carbs? Yes, the majority of their macronutrients are carbohydrates, however FEAR NOT THE CARBS!
Squash (and root vegetables) are complex carbohydrates that our bodies need for several important functions such as generating energy, optimal digestion, and healthy gut flora.
I want to particularly emphasize the importance of starchy carbohydrates on all things digestion. First, the fiber content of foods like squash normalizes bowel movements. This is important for anyone dealing with constipation, or for those struggling with diarrhea due to irritable bowel syndrome. Fiber adds bulk and weight to stool which allows it to pass easier.
Dietary fiber is also crucial for intestinal flora. The bacteria living in your gut ferment the fiber (particularly soluble fiber, as found in fruits and starchy vegetables) and produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA's). SCFA's are an important energy source for cells that line the colon, and have also been found to lower elevated cholesterol levels. Additionally, SCFA's help to maintain proper pH in the colon, which creates an ideal environment for the growth of healthy bacteria.
Personally, I have found that including sufficient starchy carbohydrates keeps me full and satiated until my next meal. I love squash post-workout too, since the carbohydrates are able to fill up muscle glycogen (stored energy) that was burned during box jumps and burpees! The starches restore muscles and keep me strong for future workouts.
There are several types of squash, but they are generally categorized into either summer or winter squash. They all vary in color, size, and shape. Summer squash are more fragile and cannot be stored for long periods of time, while winter squash can be stored for long periods of time, between 1 and 6 months, due to their hard shells. All squash, whether summer or winter, can be eaten in their entirety, including flesh, seeds, and outer skin.
Examples of summer squash include: zucchini, yellow crookneck/straightneck, chayote, and patty pan. Examples of winter squash include: acorn, butternut, calabaza, delicata, spaghetti, and kabocha.
How to Select
- Some winter squash, especially acorn, are available all year, but they are in particularly good supply beginning late summer through winter. Check out your local farmer’s market!
- There is no “right” size for squash, just consider how much you need. There is also no such thing as an overgrown squash, and the longer they grow the sweeter they become.
- Clues to good quality and good storage after harvested include smooth shell, dry rind, and free of cracks or soft spots.
- Rind should be dull, as shiny rind indicates the squash was picked too early.
- Look for squash that are deep in color and heavy for their size.
- Choose squash with stems attached, if possible. Stems should be rounded and dried, not collapsed, blackened, or moist.
Krazy for Kabocha
This is my first year adventuring away from butternut squash and trying other options like acorn and kabocha. Kabocha is hands down my favorite because it’s sweeter and its texture is a bit more fluffy. Kabocha can be prepared the same way as other hard winter squash and easily used as a replacement in recipes. I love this squash cut into slices, simply seasoned, and roasted. It’s an easy side dish that can be batch-cooked and enjoyed all week!
Other ways to enjoy:
- For breakfast after a workout, enjoy with eggs and sausage
- Add atop a salad to keep you full until dinner. Can even be cubed and enjoyed cold.
- Re-heat stove top and enjoy as a side dish for dinner. For some people, having sufficient carbohydrates at dinner allows for more restful sleep.
- Replace butternut squash and puree into a soup
- 1 medium kabocha squash
- 2 tablespoons cooking fat, melted (I usually use ghee)
- generous amounts of salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub under running water, then dry.
- Cut off the top and bottom first. This can be hard, so use a strong, sharp knife.
- Starting at the top where flesh is exposed, cut in half.
- Scoop out the center seeds.
- Place flesh side down and cut into wedges.
- Place wedges in a bowl and toss with melted cooking fat.
- Season generously with salt and pepper.
- Line a baking sheet with foil/parchment paper and place squash in a single layer. Allow space so the squash aren’t touching.
- Place in oven and roast 30 minutes, flipping half way through.
- Squash should be easily pierced with a fork, and slightly crisp on the outside.
Here's my full video for cutting open kabocha squash. Start with cutting off the top first. To do this, make a stabilizing cut on one side so it doesn't roll around while you cut it. This can be hard, but you can do it!