Why eat spaghetti squash?
It’s no secret that the key to a longer, healthier life is eating more vegetables. We all know it’s true, and it doesn’t take your mom, a doctor, a television personality, or a food writer to make this simple statement true. The science behind this isn’t even super complicated. The meat we eat is, on the whole, not particularly lean, and as a result we consume a large proportion of fat as compared to healthy protein. Our meat also tends to be factory farmed, meaning that the animals live short, unhappy lives defined by hormones and antibiotics. Raising these animals is extremely resource intensive, is bad for the environment, and is all around not wonderful.
The flip side to this is, simply put, I’m not gonna stop eating hamburgers, or sausages, or steak. I try to buy responsibly raised meat as much as I can, but I’m a food writer, not an oil tycoon, and that stuff is expensive. Another thing that contributes to my attitude regarding meat consumption, an attitude I’m working to change, is that people living in Western countries don’t generally have a good sense of how nutritious their food actually is. Do you know how many calories are in a six ounce NY strip, or the amount of protein, or how much fat you can expect to consume?
Here at Forq I’ve presented you with a number of recipes utilizing spaghetti squash. Some are healthier than others, but all are made healthier than they potentially could be because of the inclusion of spaghetti squash. In many cases the spaghetti squash stands in for pasta, a food that is generally not great for you, and this helps to cut down on calories. The benefits of spaghetti squash go deeper than this though and it’s time to take a look at the actual nutritional content of this squash.
The basics of spaghetti squash are something you are likely familiar with at this point, but let’s review for a moment. Spaghetti squash is a yellow (or orange), oblong winter squash with high water content and mild flavor. They can vary in size quite a bit, and I’ve seen them as small as around a pound and a half up to some that are pretty honkin’ big, around six pounds. The flesh, when cooked, can be combed apart into long, spaghetti-like strands, which is how it gained its unusual name.
Beyond it’s size, appearance, and flavor, there’s additional stuff going on that’s worth paying attention to. Please note that from this point on, all nutritional information will be applied to one serving of 155 grams, or one cup.
The flesh, when cooked, can be combed apart into long, spaghetti-like strands, which is how it gained its unusual name.
Spaghetti squash contains 42 calories per serving. Considering that, as mentioned above, one serving is 155 grams (1 cup), it can be considered to be very low in calories when taking into consideration the volume of food being consumed. It’s also a very low amount when you compare it to spaghetti itself. Spaghetti squash has 42 calories per cup: spaghetti, 221.
Vitamins and Amino Acids
Spaghetti squash actually contains an array of vitamins, including the following: Vitamin A (beta-carotene), Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid), Vitamin C, and Vitamin E. Of these vitamins, B6, Niacin, and B5 appear in the greatest concentration, between 6-8% of the daily required allotment.
Let’s pull all of these vitamins apart though and focus on the vitamins that appear in the greatest proportions. For starters, Vitamin B6 is actually an amino acid, meaning that it is involved in a pretty significant number of biological functions within your body, including the maintenance of metabolism and the creation and function of hemoglobin, which makes up blood cells, and histamine, a neurotransmitter which responds to foreign pathogens. In addition to B6, spaghetti squash also contains omega-3 and omega-6 amino acids, which have positive implications for heart health and brain function.
Pantothenic acid, or Vitamin B5, is an essential nutrient that typically appears in animal protein and is an ingredient in hair and skin products. Niacin is also an essential nutrient, and having a deficiency of Niacin can lead to symptoms such as headaches, nausea, anemia, and tiredness. Consumption of essential nutrients is a big plus for our humble squash, particularly when it is paired with other nutrient-rich foods, making it a healthy delivery system for additional vitamins.
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Spaghetti squash is also a good source of potassium, which helps to build muscle, process carbohydrates, and is an electrolyte. Spaghetti squash is also naturally low in sodium, a benefit for those concerned about cardiovascular functioning and heart health.
It’s a low-calorie, low-sodium, nutrient rich vegetable which can be used to take the place of delicious but carbohydrate-rich pasta. A winter vegetable, it is typically available year round in most supermarkets. Spaghetti squash is not particularly flavorful on its own, but when combined with other ingredients it can be a delicious and heart-healthy addition to many meals, and can find a home in almost any kitchen.
“Spaghetti Squash” here at Forq will introduce you to a number of recipes that will steer your cooking in the right direction. It might not actually be very much like spaghetti, but it does still lend itself to being served with pasta sauces and you’re basically guaranteed to find some crowd pleasing recipes. Spaghetti squash can also be combined with other ingredients and fried into cakes (think latkes but with less guilt), and this squash is beautiful when served with curry. Even better, squash is also forgiving, which is absolutely a blessing for the adventurous cook. The squash itself basically gets prepared just one way and then incorporated into (or served underneath) whatever your chosen sauce is. It’s obvious when its undercooked, and when it’s a bit overcooked (which happens to the best of us) it will still hold its shape and texture nicely.
At the end of the day, spaghetti squash is healthy, easy to make, and hard to screw up. Take a chance, buy a squash that is frequently overlooked, and dive in!
Spaghetti Squash: Basic PreparationLearn the basics of preparing spaghetti squash.
Spaghetti Squash CarbonaraAll the bacon-y joy of traditional carbonara but without the carbs and calories of pasta.
Spaghetti Squash with Italian Sausage & SpinachA simple, delicious preparation suitable for any time of year.
Spaghetti Squash alla PuttanescaThis savory, easy to prepare puttanesca sauce pairs wells with spaghetti squash for a flavorful-yet-light meal.
Greek Spaghetti Squash SaladThis spaghetti squash-based salad is perfect for warmer days, and is a wonderful alternative to the boring mediocrity that is the average pasta salad.
Thai Spaghetti Squash SaladA perfect dish for a hot summer day, this cold spaghetti squash salad is sweet, sour, and tangy.
Spaghetti Squash FrittersNo excuses are needed to justify making these delicious, Southwest-flavored fried squash pancakes.
Spaghetti Squash alla Cacio e PepeThe simplicity of Cacio e Pepe (cheese and pepper) binds well with spaghetti squash to make a dish perfect for days when you need a filling pick-me-up.
Spaghetti Squash with Brown Butter, Walnuts & Goat CheeseThis dish is easy to prepare and uses the classic flavors of brown butter and walnuts and pairs them with spaghetti squash, goat cheese, and marjoram for a twist on tradition.
Pork Larb with Spaghetti SquashThis Southeast Asian-inspired dish pairs the flavors of Thailand and Vietnam with healthy spaghetti squash.
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