Both winter and summer squashes can be found within the Cucurbita genus of this food family. Common varieties of winter squash include:
1. Butternut squash: Shaped like a large pear, this squash has cream-colored skin, deep orange-colored flesh and a sweet flavor.
2. Acorn squash: With harvest green skin speckled with orange patches and pale yellow-orange flesh, this squash has a unique flavor that is a combination of sweet, nutty and peppery.
3. Hubbard squash: A larger-sized squash that can be dark green, grey-blue or orange-red in color. The Hubbard’s flavor is less sweet than many other varieties.
4. Turban squash: Green in color and either speckled or striped, this winter squash has an orange-yellow flesh whose taste is reminiscent of hazelnuts.
5. Kabocha squash: A type of Japanese squash that is becoming more and more popular in the U.S., kabocha squash is very sweet in flavor. It has deep-green skin and orange flesh.
The pumpkin is also a member of the Cucurbitaceae food family, and also within the Cucurbita genus of these amazing foods. However, the word pumpkin can be quite puzzling since it is used in different countries in different manners.
For instance, in Australia this term is often used to refer to the same category of foods that are called winter squashes in the U.S. There are literally hundreds of pumpkin varieties grown worldwide, and since there are pumpkin varieties that can be found within each of the Cucurbita species listed above, pumpkins can be confusing from a botanical standpoint.
Additionally, they are Not always-easy to categorize within the summer vs. winter classification system [even though they are generally a warm weather crop]. But, the pumpkin is not the least bit puzzling from a taste and texture standpoint!
These very delicious foods can be amazingly sweet-tasting (as is the case with sugar pumpkin, also sometimes called pie pumpkin), and they are among the most versatile members of this entire gourd-squash-melon food family.
Health benefits of the squash
Antioxidant support: Although we have become accustomed to thinking about leafy (cruciferous) vegetables as a single outstanding source of antioxidants, we have been slower to recognize the outstanding antioxidant benefits provided by other vegetables such as winter squashes. But we need to catch up with the times!
Recent research has made it clear just how important winter squash is worldwide to antioxidant intake, especially so in the case of carotenoid antioxidants. From South America to Africa to India and Asia and even in some parts of the United States, no single food provides a greater amount of certain carotenoids than winter squash!
The unique carotenoid content of the winter squashes is not their only claim to fame in the antioxidant area, however. There is a very good amount of vitamin C in winter squash [about 1/3 of the recommended daily value (RDV) in every cup] and a very good percentage of the antioxidant mineral manganese too.
Recent research has shown that the cell wall polysaccharides found in the winter squash also possess antioxidant properties, as do some of their phenolic phytonutrients.
Anti-inflammatory benefits: Most of the research up to date on the winter squash and inflammation has either been conducted using laboratory animals, or has been focused on laboratory studies of cell activity.
Still, results in this area have been fascinating and also promising with respect to winter squash as an anti-inflammatory food. In some of the in-depth studies, specific inflammation-related molecules, enzymes, or cell receptors (for instance, nuclear factor kappa-B, nitric oxide synthase, or cyclo-oxygenase) have been studied as targets for the activity of the cucurbitacin molecules found in the winter squash.
Cucurbitacins are glycoside molecules found in a wide variety of foods, including the brassica vegetables, some mushrooms, and even some ocean mollusks. But, they are named for the gourd-squash-melon family of foods (Cucurbitaceae) due to their initial discovery in this food family.
Cucurbitacins can be extremely bitter tasting to animals as well as humans, and they are considered to be part of the plants’ natural defense mechanisms. Yet the same properties that make cucurbitacins potentially venomous to some animals and microorganisms also make them effective as anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory substances for human consumption.
Optimal health: It is the combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in winter squash that have shown this food to have clear potential in the area of cancer prevention and cancer treatment. Prostate cancer is the cancer type that has been of greatest research interest in this regard, followed by colon cancer, breast cancer, and lung cancer.
We have yet to see cancer-related studies that involve everyday amounts of winter squash consumed in food form.
Most of the studies in this area have involved extracts from foods in the Cucurbita genus, or isolated, purified substances (such as cucurbitans) that can be obtained from those foods. Still, given the clear antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of winter squash, we expect to see cancer studies in humans eventually identifying this food as a risk reducer for certain cancer types.
Blood glucose regulation benefits
Another area of elevated potential for the winter squash and its health benefits is blood sugar regulation and prevention of type 2 diabetes. We have already seen evidence in animal studies that show improvement in blood sugar and insulin regulation following intake of cell wall polysaccharides from winter squash and other Cucurbita foods. Likewise, we’ve seen research pointing to other nutrients found in winter squash as beneficial for blood sugar control.
These nutrients include the B-vitamin like compound d-chiro-inositol—a nutrient we expect to see moving up on the radar screen with respect to blood sugar regulation. It’s also important to remember that blood sugar regulation is closely tied to our overall supply of B-complex vitamins, and that winter squash is unusual in its B-vitamin composition. This food provides a good amount of five B-complex vitamins! Those vitamins are B1, B3, B6, pantothenic acid, and folate. Your brain works better on butter, so opt for a winter squash!
Other health benefits
We suppose that further research may underscore the health benefits provided by the squash for prevention of cardiovascular diseases. We already know that this food provides key antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits—2 categories of nutrient support critically needed for reducing the risk of most cardiovascular problems.
Also have preliminary evidence to suggest that there may be unique substances in the Cucurbita vegetables that partially block the formation of cholesterol in our cells by inhibiting an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase. Along with its unique antioxidant and anti-inflammatory composition, the winter squash may turn out to be particularly important food for inclusion in a diet promoting heart- health.
A gourd is also a plant of the family Cucurbitaceae, particularly Cucurbita and Lagenaria, or the fruit of the two genera of Bignoniaceae “calabash tree”, Crescentia and Amphitecna. The term refers to a number of species and subspecies, many with hard shells and some without them.
Health benefits of the gourd
This simple vine-grown vegetable contains many vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, Vitamin A, C and folate. It is extremely popular for weight loss – especially the bottle gourd or lauki juice.
The bottle gourd (aka lauki or doodhi or calabash or opo squash) has a wide range of health benefits which make it good for you. This variety of the gourd is extremely popular for reducing high blood pressure and keeping your heart healthy and ticking.
Furthermore, it makes the digestive system free and active and treats constipation, provides cooling effect, treats urinary tract problems (fresh bottle gourd juice mixed with fresh lime juice is the best remedy for the urinary infections), treats sleeping disorders, replenishes loss of water content, reduces inflammation of the liver and kidneys, and more.
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