Yellow squash is best during the summer months when you can get this hearty vegetable from local growers, or even out of your own garden. A yellow squash is a meaty vegetable that provides a significant amount of vitamins and minerals in each serving. Unlike many other vegetables, summer squash is not abundant in any particular vitamin or mineral; instead, it is loaded with a healthy amount of many vitamins and minerals.
One medium sqaush, uncooked, contains just 31 calories. It also has 2.4 g of protein and 0.35 g of fat. Most of the fat is unsaturated and it contains no cholesterol. There are nearly 7 g of carbohydrates, with 2 g from fiber and the rest as glucose and fructose, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Yellow squash contains the essential vitamins C, folate and beta carotene. In one medium squash, there are 33 mg of vitamin C. Vitamin C performs many functions inside the body, including producing collagen necessary for connective tissue, skin and gums. It is also known as an antioxidant vitamin which can help reduce heart disease and even cancer. This same squash contains 57 mcg of folate. Folate is a B vitamin necessary for proper growth and DNA replication. A medium squash also contains 235 mg of beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. When you eat beta carotene your body is able to turn it into vitamin A, which is necessary for eye health and prevents infection by maintaining the health of the respiratory, intestinal and urinary system linings, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements.
A single squash contains 29 mg of calcium. This mineral is responsible for maintaining the health of your bones, teeth and nervous system. It also aids in muscular contractions and maintaining your heart rate. There are 74 mg of phosphorus in a medium squash as well. Phosphorus is needed for bone health, growth and kidney functioning. Potassium is a mineral necessary for proper functioning of your cells, including your muscular cells. Like calcium, potassium also works to regulate the heart rate. There are 514 mg of potassium in a squash.
Squash also contains amino acids. Amino acids are the basis of proteins, which are an important part of your physiology. There are 20 amino acids you need, but the body can produce only 10 of them. The other 10, which must be obtained from the diet, are termed essential amino acids. A yellow squash contains all 10 of these essential amino acids, which include arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine and lysine.
The delicate flavor, soft shell and creamy white flesh of summer squash is a perfect addition to any summer meal. While especially plentiful in the U.S. marketplace during the summer months, summer squash is actually available through the year. Summer squashes, members of the Cucurbitaceae family and relatives of both the melon and the cucumber, come in many different varieties. While each variety may have a distinct shape, color, size and flavor, all varieties share some common characteristics. Regardless of variety, all parts of summer squash are edible, including the flesh, seeds and skin. Some varieties of squash also produce edible flowers. Unlike winter squash, summer squash are more fragile and cannot be stored for long periods of time unless frozen. For Native Americans, squashes were considered as one of the "three sisters" along with corn (maize) and beans.
What's New and Beneficial about Summer Squash
What's New and Beneficial about Summer Squash
- Although summer squash has long been recognized as an important food source of carotenoids, only recently have research studies documented just how fantastic summer squash can be when it comes to these key antioxidants. For some groups of study participants, summer squash turns out to be the primary food source of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene in the entire diet! For lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin (three other health-supportive carotenoids) summer squash also comes out among the top three food sources in several studies.
- When we think about food and antioxidants, what first comes to mind might be fresh fruit and vitamin C, or bright orange carrots and beta-carotene. Yet several recent studies have underscored the unique contribution made by summer squash to our antioxidant requirements. While not as rich in some of the more widely-publicized antioxidants like beta-carotene, summer squash is a very strong source of other key antioxidant nutrients, including the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Since the skin of this food is particularly antioxidant-rich, it's worth leaving the skin intact and purchasing organic summer squash to help avoid potential unwanted contaminants.
- If you usually microwave or boil your summer squash, you'll be interested to know this: steaming is much better than either of these two methods in terms of nutrient retention. New evidence shows that summer squash can retain a large amount of its antioxidant activity after steaming. Using zucchini as their summer squash, researchers found that steaming was a better way to preserve zucchini's antioxidant activity than boiling or microwaving. Interestingly, even previously frozen zucchini held on to its antioxidant activity fairly well after steaming. These findings are great news for anyone enjoys steamed vegetables and who sometimes needs to freeze surplus vegetables for later use.
- We tend to think about squashes, both summer and winter, as starchy vegetables. This thinking is correct, since about 85-90% of the total calories in squashes (as a group) come from carbohydrate, and about half of this carbohydrate is starch-like in composition and composed of polysaccharides. But we also tend to think about polysaccharides as stagnant storage forms for starch that cannot do much for us in terms of unique health benefits. Here our thinking is way off target! Recent research has shown that the polysaccharides in summer squash include an unusual amount of pectinâ"a specially structured polysaccharide that often include special chains of D-galacturonic acid called homogalacturonan. It's this unique polysaccharide composition in summer squash that is being linked in repeated animal studies to protection against diabetes and better regulation of insulin. We expect to see future studies on humans confirming these same types of benefits from consumption of summer squash.