Get Ready for It—Butternut Squash’s Moment Has Officially Arrived

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Ever have a flashback to when kale wasn’t cool (#tbt)? Well, there’s a new crew of superfoods about to hit your plates and IG feeds. We teamed up with Ocean Spray to clue you in on the trends. Learn about all six craze-worthy foods here, and read on to find out why the health benefits of butternut squash earned it a spot.

Sweet potato will probably always be the darling of the gluten-free set, but a different orange veggie is encroaching on its reputation as most-loved root veg: butternut squash.

Though butternut squash isn't new to the wellness scene, we're declaring 2019 the year it officially stakes its claim among the veggie it-crowd—and for good reason. It offers a lighter alternative to sweet potato with less sugar, carbs, and calories, but still provides all the versatility that makes sweet potato a go-to paleo or Whole 30 ingredient.

In fact, the vitamin-packed veggie is potentially even more swap-friendly than its starchier cousin, evidenced by its selection as the star ingredient in healthified recipes that are blowing up the foodie sphere (think pastas, pizzas, and yes, even waffle fries).

Want to know the deets on the case for adding the fiery-colored squash to your plate? We asked Eliza Savage, RD at Middleberg Nutrition, and Barbara Mendez, nutritionist and pharmacist, to fill us in.

Keep reading for more intel on the health benefits of butternut squash.

Benefits of butternut squash

The fiber-rich veggie is filled with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals including vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, and a host of carotenoids, which (if you've forgotten since high school science class) are what give plants and algae their orange hue, according to Mendez.

“The antioxidants found in butternut squash (and other orange, red, and yellow veggies) have been shown to [help] protect against heart disease by lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation,” Mendez explains. “Because of its concentration of carotenoids, it may reduce risk of certain cancers (particularly lung cancer).”

Thought bananas were the best food source of potassium? Think again. "One cup of butternut squash cubes provides more potassium than a medium banana," Savage says. "Potassium is critical in the body to [help] regulate fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve signals."

P.S. Don’t forget to save the seeds! “The seeds of butternut squash are highly nutritious and can be roasted just like pumpkin seeds,” Savage explains.

Why it’s trending

Move over zoodles. A quick survey in the Well+Good office concluded that butternut squash noodles actually hold up better than zucchini noodles as a pasta alternative, and many grocery stores are selling pre-cubed and spiralized squash as a more convenience-friendly way to bring it to the masses.

Thrive Market also carries butternut squash pretzels, and food-trend king Trader Joe’s sells crinkle-cut french fries (reminiscent of school lunches with a healthy glow up) and butternut squash pizza crust for a lighter gluten-free crust with a slightly sweet flavor that mixes well with salty toppings.

If you’re eating out, you'll be seeing it on more menus come fall during harvest season, but year-round you can find it at chic stops like Cecconi’s in New York. The restaurant known for its handmade take on Italian favorites mixes the squash with popular brunch items like scrambled eggs and pasta dishes with warm butter and sage. Court Street Grocers in New York also adds roasted butternut squash to an epic sandwich called the “Vegitalian” alongside three types of cheese, arugula, red onion, and more.

How to use it

Steamed, spiralized, mashed, or blended to create creamy sauces, the sweet and rich-tasting flesh of butternut squash can be used in lots of creative ways, or simply roasted (try 20 to 25 minutes at 400°F) and eaten with olive oil, salt, and pepper to capitalize on its naturally nutty flavor.

It makes for a slightly sweet filling for ravioli, and is a great substitute for noodles if you’re cooking up pad thai. For dip lovers, food blogger Rachel Mansfield perfected a chickpea-free hummus using butternut squash that would make a colorful addition to any crudité spread.

If you want a dose of post-workout potassium, try mixing frozen squash into a smoothie with banana, ginger, turmeric, a splash of Ocean Spray® Pure Cranberry juice, and your protein powder of choice for a muscle-boosting, inflammation-busting concoction. Or, build a cold breakfast bowl with roasted-then-refrigerated squash, hard boiled eggs, and a drizzle of almond butter (sounds weird, tastes amazing).

And not that we could ever get sick of avocados, but butternut squash makes a delightfully unexpected swap for the green fruit. Try it roasted and spread on toast or as a creamy add-in to a grain bowl. Did squash toast just become the new avocado toast?

In partnership with Ocean Spray

Top photo: Getty Images/istetiana

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