Spaghetti squash is a variety of winter squash, although it is ready for harvest in early autumn. When cooked, this large, hard-shelled squash yields long strands that many cooks use as a low-calorie alternative to pasta. The yellow flesh of the spaghetti squash contains many nutrients.
This vegetable is native to the Americas, and was later taken to countries all around the world by European explorers. It was popular in Asia for many years before catching on in the United States around 1980. Its botanical name is Cucurbita pepo, but some people call it vegetable spaghetti, vegetable marrow, or squaghetti.
What is spaghetti squash?
A gourd, like pumpkins and other squashes, the spaghetti squash is a large, yellow, melon-shaped food that’s usually harvested in early fall but can be found in grocery stores at just about any time of year.
Because of the way the flesh inside the squash shreds into long strands, it’s often used as a healthier substitute for spaghetti — hence the name. These “noodles” can be used in a pasta dish or in a variety of other ways.
Packed With Vitamins and Minerals
Spaghetti squash is low in calories but high in fiber, vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin B6.
Spaghetti squash is a nutrient-dense food, meaning it’s low in calories but high in several key vitamins and minerals.
In particular, spaghetti squash is a good source of fiber, vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin B6.
One cup (155 grams) of cooked spaghetti squash provides the following nutrients:
- Calories: 42
- Carbs: 10 grams
- Fiber: 2.2 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: 0.5 grams
- Vitamin C: 9% of the Reference
- Daily Intake (RDI)
- Manganese: 8% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 8% of the RDI
- Pantothenic acid: 6% of the RDI
- Niacin: 6% of the RDI
- Potassium: 5% of the RDI
Spaghetti squash also contains small amounts of thiamine, magnesium, folate, calcium, and iron.
What is cassava used for?
Cassava is a rich, affordable source of carbohydrates. It can provide more calories per acre of the crop than cereal grain crops, which makes it a very useful crop in developing nations.
People prepare and eat cassava in various ways in different parts of the world, with baking and boiling being the most common methods. In some places, people ferment cassava before using it.
It is essential to peel cassava and never eat it raw. It contains dangerous levels of cyanide unless a person cooks it thoroughly before eating it.
Foods that people can make using cassava include:
- bread, which can contain cassava flour only or both cassava and wheat flour
- french fries
- mashed cassava
- cassava chips
- cassava bread soaked in coconut milk
- cassava cake
- cassava in coconut sauce
- yuca con mojo, a Cuban dish that combines cassava with a sauce comprising citrus juices, garlic, onion, cilantro, cumin, and oregano
- tapioca, which is a common dessert food
- starch and flour products, which people can use to make gluten-free bread
Most products use a combination of cassava and a cereal grain to improve texture, taste, and nutritional profile.
In addition to eating cassava, people also use it for:
- feeding animals
- making medications
- manufacturing fabrics, paper, and building materials, such as plywood
- making bioethanol for fuel
Scientists may eventually be able to replace high fructose corn syrup with cassava or tapioca syrup. Researchers are also hoping that cassava could be a source of the alcohol that manufacturers use to make polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, and other industrial products.
How long can you store spaghetti squash?
Its tough, thick skin means it’s hard to tell if it’s “ripe” or not but that’s not really an issue, says Czerwony. “If you plan on cooking it as soon as you buy it, you don’t need to worry about letting it ripen on the counter,” she says. “And it’s a hearty winter vegetable so, theoretically, as long as you keep it in a cool, dry spot, it could last a few weeks before you cook it.”
The only thing you should keep an eye out for is bruising. “The skin is a little bit thinner than a pumpkin, so if you get some bruising, that could result in soft spots. You can cut around those for cooking, but just be aware it’s possible,” she says.
Health BenefitsAlthough it would be inaccurate to describe spaghetti squash as a powerhouse of nutrition, it does have some health benefits:
Colon HealthBecause of the appearance of spaghetti squash, you might assume that it is rich in fiber. It has over 2 grams per serving, which is more than regular pasta but not as much as many other vegetables. Fiber in the diet contributes to colon health by increasing the regularity of bowel movements. Good bowel function means a lower risk of hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, and colorectal cancer. People need between 21 and 38 grams of fiber per day.
Spaghetti Squash Is Linked to Weight LossSpaghetti squash has 2.2 grams of dietary fiber and only 42 calories per cup. Because of its neutral flavor and spaghetti-like appearance when cooked, it can easily replace actual pasta or grains. This is a simple way to simultaneously decrease overall calories and increase nutrients in a dish.
Rich in Antioxidants
Spaghetti squash is high in beta-carotene and vitamin C — two antioxidants that can curb free radical formation and reduce your risk of chronic diseases.
Antioxidants are powerful compounds that can help fight free radicals, thus preventing oxidative stress and reducing damage to your cells.
Research shows that antioxidants may aid in preventing chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Winter squash varieties like spaghetti squash are loaded with antioxidants.
In particular, winter squash provides plenty of beta-carotene — a potent plant pigment that can help protect your cells and DNA from damage.
Spaghetti squash is also high in vitamin C, which doubles as an antioxidant and has been shown to play a significant role in disease prevention.
Cancer Risk ReductionAs you might guess from its yellow color, spaghetti squash contains beta-carotene, the substance that makes carrots orange. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant, so it can protect cells from damage, including cell damage that may lead to cancer. The vitamin C in spaghetti squash also has antioxidant qualities.
Dental HealthVitamins A and C are vital for good dental health. Vitamin C is necessary for healthy gums, and a lack of it can lead to tooth loss. Vitamin A contributes to the health of the salivary glands and tissues in the mouth. A deficiency can cause brittle teeth. Winter squash varieties contain good quantities of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. As a low-calorie food, spaghetti squash is also less likely to promote tooth decay than starchy or sweet foods.
Spaghetti Squash Contains B Vitamins
Another reason spaghetti squash is healthy is due to its B-complex vitamins, including pantothenic acid (B5), niacin (B3), thiamin (B1) and vitamin B6. If you eat more than the mere one-cup serving size, you’ll get a good dose of B vitamins, which play a critical role in converting food into energy and overall metabolism regulation, per Harvard Health Publishing.
B vitamins are considered the “anti-stress” nutrient because of their role in adrenal function and metabolism. Niacin is essential for the overall health of the brain, skin and nervous system.
Thiamin is vital for muscle, brain and nerve function. A thiamin deficiency, known as beriberi, can cause mental confusion, high blood pressure and heart issues. Vitamin B6 is a key player in regulating appetite, mood and sleep.
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Versatile and Delicious
Spaghetti squash is a versatile ingredient. You can bake, roast, or microwave it for use in various recipes.
Spaghetti squash is a winter vegetable with a mild flavor and stringy texture that works well in many recipes.
It can easily be baked, boiled, steamed, or even microwaved for a tasty and nutritious meal.
In particular, it’s a popular substitute for pasta because it can reduce the carb and calorie count of your meal while allowing the other flavors in your recipe to shine.
Use spaghetti squash in place of noodles and pair it with ingredients like meatballs, marinara sauce, garlic, or parmesan.
You can also try stuffing it to make spaghetti squash boats or using it in fritters, casseroles, or hash browns.
Things to Watch Out For
Cutting a spaghetti squash can be hazardous because the shell is so hard. For that reason, some people roast them whole in the oven. You can also cook a whole spaghetti squash in a pressure cooker or a slow cooker with a little water. Any time you cook one whole, you need to poke a few holes in the shell to let the steam escape. After the cooking time is up, let the squash rest a bit before cutting into it.
Some people prefer to oven roast squash halves for a faster cook time and a bit of caramelization. If you choose this method, be sure to rest the squash on a thick kitchen towel to keep it from rolling. Use a heavy chef’s knife and don’t try to cut through the squash’s tough stem.
How to Prepare Spaghetti Squash
After cooking your spaghetti squash, use a fork to shred the flesh. You can use the scraped shells as serving dishes. The shreds are delicious served plain, but many people use them as pasta substitutes. Here are some ideas to try:
- Serve the shreds of spaghetti squash with marinara sauce (with or without meat).
- Make burrito bowls by piling the shreds into the shells and topping with taco meat, black beans, and salsa.
- Top the shells full of shreds with your favorite pizza ingredients and mozzarella for easy pizza bowls.
- Make an Asian cuisine-inspired soup by adding shreds, mushrooms, and green onions to ginger-flavored broth.
- Add the shreds instead of rice or noodles to your favorite homemade vegetable soup.
- Top the shreds with chili, onions, and cheddar.
- Roast the seeds of the squash and use them for a salad topping.
Spaghetti squash is a winter vegetable rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Due to its low calorie and high fiber content, it may aid weight loss and digestive health.
Try roasted spaghetti squash as a low-carb alternative to pasta, combined with veggies, protein, whole grains, and healthy fats.