I don’t have to look at the calendar to see when fall arrives. I feel it in my bones. They get very excited when the first beautiful butternut squash appears at the farmer’s market.
Butternut squash is related to pumpkin and, in fact, my friends in Australia and New Zealand know it as “butternut pumpkin.” And the pretty pumpkin color inside tells you why butternut squash is so good for you and your bones.
The orange “meat” lets you know that butternut squash contains very high levels of beta-carotene. Your body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A. That’s important because your bones need vitamin A for their remodeling process.
Now, you could get vitamin A in the form of retinol from supplements or animal foods like liver, eggs, and butterfat. But you don’t want to get too much retinol.
You see, excess vitamin A in the form of retinol has been linked to bone loss and an increase in the risk of hip fracture. Why is that?
Some researchers think too much vitamin A could trigger an increase in osteoclasts, the cells that break down bone. It may also interfere with vitamin D which you need for building bone.
That’s why getting vitamin A from vegetables like butternut squash is so important. Beta-carotene is considered safe. It hasn’t been linked to any adverse bone effects. If you overdo it with beta-carotene, your palms might turn orange. Just back off a little.
Besides beta-carotene, in a 1-cup serving of butternut squash, you also get nearly half of your daily recommended dose of vitamin C. That helps to build the collagen matrix of your bones – the part that keeps them flexible, so they bend instead of break.
Other Bone Building Nutrients
Butternut squash is also a good source of bone-building potassium, copper and vitamin K.
When you’re shopping for butternut squash, look for one that’s unblemished with a matte, rather than glossy, skin. It should feel heavy for its size.
Store your squash in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator) with plenty of ventilation. It will keep for up to three months.
I love how markets are now selling butternut squash already cut, seeded, peeled and ready to go. It makes our healthy lives so much easier!
One of my favorite ways to use butternut squash is in a hearty soup with black beans. The vitamin A helps with the bone remodeling process. The vitamin K and C, together with protein (from the beans) helps build the collagen matrix.
Here’s one of my favorite recipes that I learned from my friend and colleague Laura Parisi, CHC , Chef.
Butternut Squash and Black Bean Soup
Please leave a comment below and let me know how you enjoy the recipe.
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From my bones to yours,