Don’t let the name confuse you — the term “winter squash” encompasses any squash harvested in the fall, such as spaghetti squash, acorn squash, and butternut squash, according to Michigan State University. And it’s hard to go wrong when you’re buying any of these types, because winter squash keeps well and is pretty consistent in flavor, Cooley says.
Nutritionally speaking, this seasonal staple has a lot going for it. “Butternut, spaghetti, and acorn squashes are best in the fall, and they are loaded with beta-carotene, vitamin A, magnesium, potassium, and fiber,” says Retelny.
Squash is downright packed with beta-carotene: There are 5,920 micrograms (mcg) of beta-carotene in 1 cup of butternut squash per the USDA. This plant pigment, which gives squash its orange hue, according to the Cleveland Clinic, is converted by the body into vitamin A, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Vitamin A is beneficial for immunity and eye health, and is important to maintain the heart, lungs, and kidneys, notes the NIH. With 1 cup of butternut squash, you get 745 mcg, which is almost 83 percent of your DV, making it an excellent source.
A cup of cubed butternut squash is also a good source of several nutrients, including fiber, with 2.8 g, as well as magnesium and potassium, according to the USDA.
Cut butternut or acorn squash into chunks and roast them for a hearty side dish. “I love roasting, grilling, steaming, and mashing squash,” says Retelny.