Spaghetti Squash Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

spaghetti squash nutrition facts and health benefits
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Spaghetti squash (Cucurbita pep var. fastigata) is a type of winter squash often used as a substitute for pasta. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor that's perfect with olive oil and tomato-based sauces. When cooked, the fibrous flesh gets stringy, resembling strands of spaghetti.

Although cooking with spaghetti squash is different than cooking with pasta, with the right preparation methods, spaghetti squash is a fine replacement that also offers some vitamins and minerals that you may not get from pasta made with flour, along with fewer calories and carbohydrates.

Spaghetti Squash Nutrition Facts

One cup (155g) of boiled or baked spaghetti squash prepared without added fat or sodium provides 42 calories, 1g of protein, 10g of carbohydrates, and 0.4g of fat. Spaghetti squash is a good source of vitamin A and also provides vitamin C, B vitamins, and manganese. The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 42
  • Fat: 0.4g
  • Sodium: 412mg
  • Carbohydrates: 10g
  • Fiber: 2.2g
  • Sugars: 3.9g
  • Protein: 1g
  • Manganese: 0.2mg
  • Vitamin A: 9.3mcg
  • Vitamin B6: 0.2mg
  • Vitamin C: 5.4mg

Carbs

A cup of cooked spaghetti squash has 10 grams of carbohydrates with just over 2 grams of fiber. In comparison, a cup of butternut squash has 21.5 grams of carbs and 6.6 grams of fiber; a cup of cooked spaghetti noodles has 43 grams of carbs and 2.5 grams of fiber. There are about 4 grams of natural sugars in spaghetti squash.

Along with other types of winter squash, spaghetti squash is a low glycemic food. Spaghetti squash can help you cut down on carbohydrates in traditional pasta dishes. If you are trying to watch your carbohydrate intake and decrease your overall caloric intake while increasing your vegetable consumption, spaghetti squash is a good choice.

Fats

Spaghetti squash is virtually fat-free with less than one gram per serving.

Protein

Spaghetti squash is not a significant source of protein. Try pairing it with a dollop of vegetarian bolognese sauce to craft a balanced meal with protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

Spaghetti squash is a good source of carotenoids, which the body converts to vitamin A. It also provides vitamin C, B vitamins, and manganese, along with natural polyphenols with antioxidant properties.

Calories

A single one-cup cooked serving of spaghetti squash provides 42 calories. In comparison, butternut squash has about twice as many calories as spaghetti squash (and pasta has about 5 times as many, at 220 calories per cup). Keep in mind that adding fat to the cooking process will increase the number of calories.

Summary

Spaghetti squash is a low-calorie, low-glycemic food that provides fiber and important micronutrients including manganese, vitamin A and vitamin C. It is not a food that provides significant protein or fat.

Health Benefits

Spaghetti squash is a nutrient-dense food, meaning it's low in calories and rich in beneficial nutrients with a host of health benefits.

Supports Strong Bones

Spaghetti squash provides several minerals that contribute to bone health, including manganese. Manganese helps your body to maintain proper bone structure, supports bone metabolism, and may help to prevent osteoporosis, although research investigating the role of the mineral in osteoporosis prevention has yielded mixed results.

The vitamins and minerals in spaghetti squash work together synergistically. Getting nutrients through food (as opposed to via dietary supplements) is usually recommended.

Protects Eyes

The vitamin A and vitamin E in spaghetti squash are beneficial for protecting eyes from the oxidative damage that leads to age-related macular degeneration. Obtaining these nutrients from food rather than from supplements provides health benefits and minimizes the toxicity risk posed by supplementation.

May Help Prevent Cancer

Components in spaghetti squash and other related plants, called cucurbitacins, have been shown to kill cancer cells in preliminary in vitro studies, suggesting the need for further investigation. Additionally, vitamin C and vitamin A are well known for their antioxidant effects.

May Support Bladder Health

Some studies have suggested that a seed extract derived from spaghetti squash may be helpful in managing urinary stress incontinence—a condition that occurs when the pelvic muscles that support the bladder and the sphincter muscle, which controls the urinary flow, become weak. However, studies investigating this benefit involved a supplement derived from spaghetti squash and other plant sources.

Components derived from spaghetti squash may also aid in the management of overactive bladder syndrome—the frequent urge to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine. But again, studies so far, have involved supplements made using compounds from spaghetti squash and other plant sources.

May Enhance Memory

The B vitamins found in spaghetti squash and other foods enable the brain to communicate memories and messages from one area to another.

Furthermore, uncontrolled diabetes is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. The impact of high blood sugar on the development of Alzheimer's has led to the disease being coined "type 3 diabetes" by some health professionals. Several varieties of winter squash have been shown to prevent blood sugar from rising after eating in animal studies.

Keeping blood sugars under control by choosing non-starchy vegetables, like spaghetti squash, can help ward off this negative effect.

Allergies

Spaghetti squash is not a common allergen. There have been limited reports of allergy to other varieties of Cucurbita pepo, such as zucchini. In these cases, patients reported symptoms of oral allergy syndrome (a mild rash and possibly the localized swelling of the lips and tongue or in rare cases, nausea and vomiting).

Seek emergency care if the symptoms are severe or you experience breathing difficulty, rapid heart rate, lightheadedness, widespread hives, or the swelling of the face or throat. These may be signs of a potentially life-threatening, all-body allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. If you suspect a food allergy to spaghetti squash, see your healthcare provider for a full evaluation.

Varieties

Spaghetti squash—also called vegetable spaghetti in some parts of the world— is part of the a Cucurbitaceae family. Spaghetti squash is available in different shapes, sizes, and colours, including ivory, yellow and orange. The most common spaghetti squash is the yellow/tan variety found in most grocery stores.

When It's Best

Spaghetti squash is typically harvested in early autumn but is available year-round. Choose a spaghetti squash that is firm with no soft spots or blemishes. It should feel heavy for its size.

A ripe squash will sound hollow when tapped.

Avoid squashes that don't have their stems still attached. The stem helps keep out bacteria and seals in the moisture. Do not buy spaghetti squash with soft areas or a moldy stem. If anything, the skin of the squash will get firmer as it ripens.

Storage and Food Safety

Spaghetti squash should be stored in a cool, dry place. Left whole and uncooked, spaghetti squash can remain in storage at 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 3 months. Once cooked, refrigerate the leftovers in an airtight container and consume within three to five days. You can also freeze cooked spaghetti squash dishes for up to a year.

How to Prepare

Spaghetti squash is harder to cut than pumpkin or butternut squash. To prevent injury, place the squash on a thick bundled towel on the kitchen counter. To get the longest strands, cut it lengthwise from the stem to the bud.

Instead of trying to stab the squash (and possibly slipping), place your kitchen knife lengthwise on the squash, and tap the back of the knife with a hammer until the blade sinks in. Keep tapping until the tip of the knife is firmly embedded and won't slip out.

Next, grasping the knife handle with one hand and the stem firmly the other, press down until the knife passes through the bud end. If it doesn't go through completely, turn the squash over and start from the other side. 

To make cutting easier, you can also rinse the squash first and poke a few holes it in. Let it sit in a hot, 350-degree oven in a roasting pan for 1 to 2 hours. After it cools, it will be much easier to slice.

Spaghetti squash seeds are edible. Simply scoop the seeds out and roast them for a nutritious snack. Squash seeds are rich in protein and magnesium. The skin of the spaghetti squash, on the other hand, is incredibly tough and should not be eaten.

Spaghetti squash must be thoroughly steamed or baked to obtain the pasta-like flesh. The easiest way to do this is to bake the squash halves face down in the oven, as follows:

  • Preheat your oven 375F.
  • Rinse the spaghetti squash and cut it in half lengthwise (as above). Use a kitchen spoon to scoop out the seeds, which you can save for roasting.
  • Place the squash halves face down in a casserole dish and pour about 1/2 inch to an inch of water around them.
  • Bake until just tender, about 30 to 45 minutes (depending on the size of the squash). You will know that the squash is done when you can pierce the skin easily with a fork.
  • Rake a fork back and forth from stem to bud to obtain the spaghetti strands. You may need to hold the squash with a kitchen towel to keep from burning yourself.
  • Roast the seeds by first washing them under the tap. Remove the fibrous strands, and pat them lightly with a towel.
  • Toss the seeds in a bowl with a couple of teaspoons of cooking oil and a sprinkling of salt. Roast in a 300o F oven for 40 minutes until crisp and a light golden brown.

While you also could also steam the squash in a microwave, cooking it face down in the oven seems to render the best product.

Recipes

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15 Sources
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