Acorn Squash Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Acorn squash

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

With its signature dreidel-like shape, bright orange flesh, and ribbed green exterior, acorn squash is not hard to recognize. This vegetable from the family Cucurbita pepo is native to Central and North America and has been a staple of Native American cooking for generations. Its excellent nutrition profile includes plenty of fiber and a wide array of micronutrients. Plus, many people especially enjoy its slightly nutty flavor and tender texture when cooked.

Although acorn squash belongs to the same species as summer squash like zucchini and crookneck, it’s commonly known as a winter squash.

You’re not alone if you associate it with cold-weather comfort recipes. Acorn squash does especially well when baked, roasted, or boiled. It also makes a smooth addition to soups, for which its sturdy, ridged outer shell can even function as a serving bowl.

Acorn Squash Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information for 1 cup (205 g) of cooked, cubed, unsalted acorn squash has been provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 115
  • Fat: 0.3g
  • Sodium: 8.2mg
  • Carbohydrates: 30g
  • Fiber: 9g
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Protein: 2.3g

Carbs

Most of the calories in acorn squash come from carbohydrates—and that’s not a bad thing. Nearly one-third of these carbs (9 grams) are fiber, while the rest are made up of naturally occurring sugars and starches. 

Fats

Acorn squash is naturally very low in fat, with just 0.3 grams per 1-cup serving.

Protein

Though acorn squash isn’t a major source of protein, it does provide a small amount of this macronutrient, at 2.3 grams per serving. This is about 5% of the Daily Value (DV) for protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

When it comes to micronutrients, acorn squash has plenty to offer. One cup serves up a whopping 37% of your DV of vitamin C, 18% DV of vitamin A, 22% DV magnesium, and 26% potassium. It’s also a good source of iron, folate, manganese, and vitamins B1 and B6.

Health Benefits

Packed with gut-friendly fiber and plenty of micronutrients, acorn squash provides numerous health benefits.

Antioxidants Reduce Inflammation 

With so many chronic diseases fueled by systemic inflammation, we’d all do well to get more antioxidants in our diet. These nutrients help reduce inflammation by cleaning cells of harmful waste. Many micronutrients in acorn squash (like vitamin A, vitamin C, and manganese) have antioxidant properties that can contribute to this process.

Boosts Digestive Health

With 9 grams per cup, acorn squash is plenty high in fiber. A high-fiber diet is a surefire way path to digestive health since the gut microbiome requires this nutrient to create a healthy home for beneficial bacteria. Plus, more fiber in the diet can prevent constipation. The addition of magnesium in acorn squash may help, too, as magnesium is known for its laxative and stool softening properties.

Helps Maintain Healthy Eyesight

You may have heard that vitamin A supports eyesight, and acorn squash certainly packs a punch of this nutrient. Another carotenoid called lutein, which acorn squash also contains, has been linked to sharper eyes.

May Reduce Blood Pressure

Research shows that increased intake of potassium has a powerful effect on lowering blood pressure, especially in tandem with a low-sodium diet.

Acorn squash provides over a quarter of your daily potassium needs in 1 cup.

Supports the Immune System 

The vitamin C in acorn squash may not exactly be the cure for the common cold—sorry to burst any bubbles—but this nutrient has been shown to have beneficial effects on the immune system. Some research has indicated that getting adequate vitamin C helps prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections. Many experts tout getting it through food, rather than taking it as a supplement since foods are a package deal with other important nutrients.

Allergies 

Though it’s not considered common to have an acorn squash allergy, it is certainly possible. If you have symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, runny nose, or hives after eating acorn squash, contact your doctor or allergist. They can determine whether you’re experiencing a food allergy.

Acorn squash also has the unique distinction of sometimes causing a syndrome called irritant contact dermatitis. This skin irritation may appear as an itchy, burning rash, cracked skin, or a sensation of tight skin after touching the cut portion of this veggie. (It’s also known to happen with butternut squash, so if you experience it with one squash, you may be more likely to get it with the other.) Thankfully, wearing gloves can prevent this type of dermatitis.

Varieties 

You can identify most acorn squash by their dark green exterior, but other colors—both heirloom and newer varieties—do exist. The golden acorn squash, for example, is a newer breed that's bright yellow on the outside. Some squash may also be white or variegated with multiple colors. 

When It’s Best

Despite the fact that acorn squash is technically a close cousin to summer squash, it is typically harvested in the early fall through winter. This is when you’ll likely see fresh acorn squash making an appearance in your grocery store. Still, you can enjoy canned or frozen versions all year round. Commercially prepared canned and frozen acorn squash aren’t necessarily widely available, though, so you may have to stock up when the veggies are in season and preserve them yourself.

Storage and Food Safety 

The best home for acorn squash is a cool, dry place—“cool” being 50 to 55 degrees. It can last up to a month when stored at this temperature. In the refrigerator, you’ll likely get about two weeks of freshness. Once cooked, store leftover acorn squash in the refrigerator and use it up within three to five days.

How to Prepare 

Acorn squash can be eaten raw, but many people find it more palatable when cooked. Roasting is one popular preparation. To roast, cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Place cut side up on a pan and roast at high heat (such as 400 degrees Fahrenheit) until the flesh is soft, about 45 minutes. Roasted acorn squash can be cut into chunks, pureed in soups, or even baked into desserts like pie or custard.

Other cooking options like broiling, sautéeing, grilling, and steaming all work well for acorn squash. Just be sure to peel away the vegetable’s skin before steaming.

Finally, if you’d like to swap in acorn squash in place of another winter squash like butternut, delicata, or kabocha, feel free. While color and texture may vary slightly, these similar squashes are easily interchangeable.

Recipes

Healthy Acorn Squash Recipes to Try

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  1. Gijsbers L, Dower JI, Mensink M, Siebelink E, Bakker SJ, Geleijnse JM. Effects of sodium and potassium supplementation on blood pressure and arterial stiffness: a fully controlled dietary intervention study. J Hum Hypertens. 2015;29(10):592-8. doi:10.1038/jhh.2015.3