Winter squash, unlike its summer equivalent, can be harvested very late into the fall, has a longer storage potential, and still provides an outstanding variety of conventional nutrients.
One of the most abundant nutrients in winter squash, beta-carotene, has been shown to have very powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Beta-carotene is able to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the body. Since oxidized cholesterol is the type that builds up in blood vessel walls and contributes to the risk of heart attack and stroke, getting extra beta-carotene in the diet may help to prevent the progression of atherosclerosis.
It may also protect against diabetic heart disease and may be useful for preventing other complications caused by free-radicals often seen in long-term diabetes. Additionally, intake of foods such as winter squash that are rich in carotenoids may be beneficial to blood sugar regulation. Research has suggested that physiological levels, as well as dietary intake, of carotenoids may be inversely associated with insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels.
Studies have also shown that a good intake of beta-carotene can help to reduce the risk of colon cancer, possibly by protecting colon cells from the damaging effects of cancer-causing chemicals.
Finally, beta-carotene’s anti-inflammatory effects may help to reduce the severity of conditions like asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, which all involve inflammation.
Other nutrients found in winter squash are also useful for a number of different conditions. The potassium in winter squash may help to lower blood pressure, and the vitamin C may be able to reduce the severity of conditions like asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis and also to prevent the progression of conditions like atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease.