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.
Although it would be inaccurate to describe spaghetti squash as a powerhouse of nutrition, it does have some health benefits:
Spaghetti squash is a low-calorie food. Its fiber content makes it filling. Since people use it as a substitute for high-calorie foods, it can be a valuable part of a weight-control regimen. Maintaining a healthy weight can improve many conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. To get the maximum value from vegetables, eat them without added oils.
Because 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.
Cancer Risk Reduction
As 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.
Vitamins 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 a wide spectrum of vitamins and minerals, although not in large amounts. It offers fair amounts of these nutrients:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
Nutrients per Serving
A one-cup serving contains:
- Calories: 42
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 10 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Sugar: 4 grams
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.