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Spaghetti squash is one of the best low-carb, gluten-free substitutes for pasta that you can incorporate into your meals that will additionally increase beneficial nutrients. It’s a winter squash with a mild flavour and once it’s cooked it has a stringy ‘texture’ which resembles spaghetti – hence the name. Below are the many nutritional benefits you’ll get from spaghetti squash, if all you want to know is that it’s better for you than a bowl of pasta just scroll to the bottom to find out how to buy the best squash and how to cook it!
Nutritional Value of 1 cup of Spaghetti Squash:
- 41.8 Calories
- Protein 1 g
- Fat 0.65 g (1% DV)
- Carbohydrate 10 g (3% DV)
- Fiber 2 g (9% DV)
- Sugars 4 g
- Calcium 29.4 mg (3% DV)
- Iron 0.543 mg (3% DV)
- Vitamin C 5.42 mg (9% DV)
- Vitamin A 150 IU (3% DV)
Promotes Weight Management
As a quick comparison, 1 cup of whole wheat pasta typically contains about 220 calories, compared to 41.8 calories in 1 cup of spaghetti squash. Not only are you significantly cutting calories, you’re adding fiber and protein which are two satiating nutrients which help to reduce food consumption.
Higher fiber intake is associated with a reduction in food consumption because it increases satiety making you feel full. Since fiber makes you feel more full, high fiber is associated with a reduction in body weight.
Increasing consumption of fiber is also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
Vitamins A and C found in spaghetti squash are potent antioxidants which help to boost immune system function. It also contains carotenoids which gets converted to vitamin A by the body. Vitamin A maintains vision, by combating free radicals and protecting eyes from age-related declines such as macular degeneration. Vitamin C is a cofactor in collagen production which promotes healthy youthful-looking skin, wound healing, and maintains healthy teeth and gums.
In addition to vitamin A, C and K, spaghetti squash contains B-vitamins including pantothenic acid, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin and pyridoxine. These vitamins help the brain to communicate messages and are critical cofactors for axonal transport, excitability of neurons, synthesis of neurotransmitters and numerous cellular metabolic pathways. They also help to convert food into energy, and are referred to as anti-stress vitamins due to their adrenal and metabolic functions.
Improves Bone Health
Spaghetti squash is very beneficial for maintaining and improving the health of your bones. Just 1 cup of spaghetti squash has over nine essential minerals for bone health. These minerals include calcium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Manganese is the mineral that stands out above the rest which aids in the development of bone structure, promotes bone metabolism and combats the development of osteoporosis. Potassium also helps to maintain muscle and nerve function.
Lower Blood Sugar
Compared to refined carbohydrate pasta noodles, spaghetti squash is beneficial for managing diabetes because it is a low glycemic index food. Spaghetti squash is a plant species from the cucurbita family that decreases blood sugars and reduces the need for insulin among type 2 diabetics. These cucurbitacins have even been shown to kill cancer cells.
How to Buy
Spaghetti squash is a bright yellow oval squash. When purchasing spaghetti squash, ensure it is heavy, firm (hard all over, no soft spots) with minimal blemishes and has a hard rind.
Store spaghetti squash as you would potatoes, in a cool and dry area.
How to Cook
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise (stem to bud).
- Using a fork, clean out the seeds and discard them (or save them to cook separately).
- Drizzle the inside of the squash with olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Line a baking sheet or casserole dish with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
- Place the squash halves face down.
- Cook for 30-45 minutes (the squash is ready when you can cut through the skin).
- Once it’s finished cooking, remove from the oven.
- Take a fork and rake the squash to get thin noodle-like strands and place into a bowl.
Spaghetti squash can be hard to cut open, if you encounter difficulties, microwave the squash for 2-3 minutes.
Once cooked, refrigerate and consume within 3-5 days.
After you’ve separated the noodles of squash, you can get creative with it. You can keep it simple by adding the noodles to a pan of roasted garlic, spinach and mushrooms, or you can smother the noodles in a tomato Bolognese sauce.
You can even add spaghetti squash to frittatas or soups to increase the nutrients in these dishes.
How to Cook the Seeds
- Wash the seeds under running water to remove the fibrous strands.
- Dry them with a dishcloth or paper towel.
- Add the dry seeds to a bowl, drizzle olive oil and salt on the seeds.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Roast them at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes.