Fun Facts About the Staple Squash


DID YOU KNOW?

Squash (Cucurbita maxima L.) locally known as “kalabasa” is cultivated throughout the Philippines. It is a popular vegetable among Filipinos. Its shoots, flowers and young fruits can be cooked as dinengdeng, bulanglang or sauteed with meat, fish or shrimps and mixed with other vegetables. Aside from these uses, squash fruits can also be made into catsup, pastillas, hopia, leche flan, flour for bread, chips, and curls. The seeds can also be made into kutchi.

plant-based foods
Maja Kalabasa (Squash Pudding), a healthy Filipino snack

Like other cucurbits, squash is recognized as an excellent source of vitamins (A, C, B1, B6, B3) and minerals. The beta carotene contained in squash is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Potassium, which is also present in squash. helps reduce urinary calcium excretion.

Additional info
Squash is one of the largest groups of foods, and among the oldest cultivated crops on earth. The term squash is actually a broad term as it encompasses several different foods including zucchinis, pumpkins, marrows, and courgettes. All belonging to the genus Cucurbita, these crops have many common and overlapping characteristics. Even the individual species have a number of varieties such as

  • summer, autumn,  and winter squash
  • Hubbard
  • buttercup
  • acorn
  • cushaw

Aside from its nutritional value, squash offers many benefits to mankind. To name a few:

Anti-inflammatory.  The presence of carotenoids like zeaxanthin, lutein, beta-carotene, homogalacturonan, and omega-3 fatty acids give squash its anti-inflammatory power. Studies show that squash effectively aids in the reduction of gastric and duodenal ulcer. It’s also found to have an impact on the general anti-inflammation of the cardiovascular system.

Boosts immunity. Since squash is packed with several nutrients such as vitamins, magnesium, and other antioxidant compounds, it effectively neutralizes free radicals in the body. The American Institute for Cancer Research reveals that consumption of winter squash can help lower cancer risk.

Promotes healthy lungs.  Of the many vitamins contained in squash, Vitamin A is highest in terms of quantity.  Vitamin A is known for its ability to minimize emphysema, especially for those who are constantly exposed to cigarette smoke and other carcinogens. Likewise, the beta-cryptoxanthin content in the squash is associated with lung cancer inhibition.

plant-based foods
Bulanglang soup (Photo credits: Panlasang Pinoy)

Stabilizes sugar levels. Squash is a good source of the B complex vitamins, which are essential in the metabolic processes. Some varieties of squash are even packed with a good amount of polysaccharides called pectin, which has the ability to lower blood glucose and cholesterol.

Protection from infection.  Squash seeds are edible and offer amazing benefits to the human body, too. They are found to have antiparasitic, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties that can effectively protect us from tapeworms and other intestinal parasites.

Improves vision. Winter squash is one of the richest sources of beta-carotene, an antioxidant compound that promotes good eye health. A high level of beta-carotene in the body is associated with a lower risk of glaucoma, cataract, macular degeneration, and other eye conditions.

Enjoy, then, a delicious squash meal packed with tons of health benefits.

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Content (except for the Additional info) and Featured Photo courtesy of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Region VII, Central Visayas, Philippines.

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