With its vibrant color and sweet taste, acorn squash makes for an appealing carb option.

It’s not only delicious but also packed with nutrients. Plus, it may provide several impressive health benefits.

This article reviews acorn squash, including its nutrition, benefits, and culinary uses.

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Acorn squash is a type of winter squash that belongs to the Cucurbitaceaeor gourd family, which also includes pumpkin, butternut squash, and zucchini (1).

It has an acorn-like shape with ridged skin that can vary in color from dark green to white. However, the most commonly grown varieties are dark green and often have a patch of bright orange towards the top.

Acorn squash have sweet, yellow-orange flesh that has a slightly nutty flavor. They’re grown in many countries throughout the world but especially popular in North America.

Though they’re botanically classified as a fruit, they’re considered a starchy vegetable and can be used similarly to other high-carb vegetables, such as potatoes, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes.

They’re also favored by backyard farmers, as they’re easy to grow and can be kept for up to a month when properly cured and stored, providing a nutritious produce source during times when other fresh vegetables are scarce.

Acorn squash nutrition

Like other winter squash, acorn squash are highly nutritious, providing a quality source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

One cup (205 grams) of cooked acorn squash offers (2):

  • Calories: 115
  • Carbs: 30 grams
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Fiber: 9 grams
  • Provitamin A: 18% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin C: 37% of the DV
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1): 23% of the DV
  • Pyridoxine (vitamin B6): 20% of the DV
  • Folate (vitamin B9): 10% of the DV
  • Iron: 11% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 22% of the DV
  • Potassium: 26% of the DV
  • Manganese: 25% of the DV

Though acorn squash is low in calories, it’s packed with various nutrients.

It’s especially high in vitamin C, a water-soluble nutrient that promotes immune system health by supporting immune cell function and protecting against potentially harmful microbes (3).

It’s also an excellent source of B vitamins, which are involved in red blood cell production and metabolism, as well as the electrolytes magnesium and potassium, which are critical for muscle function and blood pressure regulation (4).

Additionally, acorn squash is brimming with fiber, a nutrient that’s essential for healthy digestion and plays an important role in disease prevention (5).

Summary

Acorn squash is a sweet winter squash that’s low in calories yet packed with nutrients, including vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium.

Due to its nutritional profile, acorn squash provides some impressive health benefits.

Packed with important nutrients

Acorn squash is a highly nutritious carb choice. It’s rich in many vitamins and minerals that promote your health in various ways.

The bright orange flesh of acorn squash is packed with vitamin C, provitamin A, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, iron, and manganese, all of which are critical for health.

Unlike refined carb sources like white rice and white pasta, acorn squash is an excellent source of fiber, which slows digestion, helps regulate blood sugar levels, and promotes feelings of fullness (6).

A good source of antioxidants

Acorn squash is loaded with antioxidants, which are compounds that protect against cellular damage. Diets high in antioxidants have been shown to reduce your risk of various chronic conditions, such as heart disease and certain cancers (7).

It’s particularly rich in plant pigments called carotenoids, which have powerful antioxidant effects. In fact, after carrots, winter squash like the acorn variety are the densest source of the carotenoid alpha carotene (8).

Diets rich in the carotenoids found in acorn squash, including alpha carotene, beta carotene, and zeaxanthin, may protect against type 2 diabetes, lung cancer, mental decline, and eye-related disorders (9, 10, 11).

Aside from carotenoids, acorn squash is high in vitamin C, which also offers potent antioxidant properties (12).

Promotes digestive health

Acorn squash is packed with both soluble and insoluble fiber. Though they have different functions in your body, both play important roles in digestive health.

Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stools while soluble fiber softens them, preventing constipation and supporting regular bowel movements (13).

Both types of fiber also aid the friendly bacteria that live in your gut known as probiotics. Having a healthy gut microbiome strengthens your immune system and protects against disease (13).

Plus, research shows that diets rich in high-fiber fruits and vegetables like acorn squash may protect against constipation, colorectal cancer, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (14, 15, 16).

May protect against certain diseases

Adding acorn squash to your diet is a smart way to protect your overall health, as increasing your vegetable intake may lower your risk of many chronic diseases.

While research on the benefits of acorn squash specifically is lacking, abundant evidence supports the health-promoting properties of diets rich in vegetables.

Vegetable-rich diets help lower heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Plus, they may protect against atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque in your arteries that increases your risk of heart attack and stroke (17).

Additionally, diets rich in produce like acorn squash may help prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and may even increase overall lifespan (18, 19).

What’s more, people who eat more vegetables tend to weigh less than those who consume fewer vegetables. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of many health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers (20, 21, 22).

Summary

Adding acorn squash to your diet may improve your health in many ways and decrease your risk of developing chronic conditions, including heart and neurodegenerative diseases.

In addition to offering a variety of potential health benefits, acorn squash is delicious and incredibly versatile.

It can be used as a healthy carb source and swapped in for other starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and pumpkin.

Due to its pleasing, slightly nutty flavor, acorn squash makes an excellent addition to sweet and savory dishes alike.

It can be baked or roasted in the oven, as well as cooked in the microwave for a quick side dish.

One of the most popular ways to prepare acorn squash is to cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, drizzle it with olive oil, and then bake the halves in the oven at 400℉ (200℃) cut side down until tender for about 35–45 minutes.

Acorn squash can also be sliced into thin pieces and roasted, which softens the skin, making it edible. Eating the skin of acorn squash can increase the nutrient density of the vegetable, as the skin is packed with fiber and antioxidants (23).

Here are some more simple, tasty ways to incorporate acorn squash into your diet:

  • Toss baked cubes of acorn squash into salads for a boost of color.
  • Use puréed acorn squash in place of sweet potato or pumpkin for baking pies, breads, and muffins.
  • Stuff acorn squash halves with cooked quinoa, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and goat cheese for a delicious vegetarian dinner option.
  • Combine slices of caramelized roasted acorn squash with pomegranate seeds, sliced avocado, and arugula for a unique salad.
  • Mash baked acorn squash with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper for a tasty alternative to traditional mashed potatoes.
  • Combine cooked acorn squash with coconut milk, vanilla protein powder, cinnamon, almond butter, and frozen banana chunks for a filling smoothie.

There are many ways to enjoy acorn squash. Try using this tasty winter squash in place of your go-to starchy vegetables to add more variety to your meals.

Summary

Acorn squash is highly versatile and can be used in place of other starchy vegetables in both sweet and savory recipes.

Acorn squash is rich in nutrients, such as fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium.

It also packs many beneficial plant compounds, including carotenoid antioxidants.

As a result, acorn squash may promote overall health and protect against certain chronic conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

What’s more, this brightly colored winter squash is a versatile ingredient that adds interest and flavor to both sweet and savory dishes.