Kabocha Squash Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Kabocha Squash, annotated
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Kabocha squash (pronounced kah-bow-cha) looks like a smallish green pumpkin. It has a thick green skin and orange flesh. The flavor is similar to other winter squash, like butternut squash, but sweeter. It also resembles a sweet potato in taste. However, kabocha has a lower glycemic load than sweet potato and pumpkin, so it doesn't cause the blood sugar to spike. It's also a great source of vitamin A.

Kabocha Squash Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by Nutritionix for one cup (245g) of cooked kabocha squash.

  • Calories: 49
  • Fat: 0.2g
  • Sodium: 2.5mg
  • Carbohydrates: 12g
  • Fiber: 2.7g
  • Sugars: 5.1g
  • Protein: 1.8g

Carbs

There are approximately 49 calories in one cup of cooked kabocha squash and about 12 grams of carbohydrate. There are 2.7 grams of fiber in kabocha and about 5 grams of naturally occurring sugar. The remaining carbohydrate in kabocha is starch.

Of course, the calorie and carb count will change depending on how you prepare and serve your kabocha. Adding butter, brown sugar, or syrup will add more calories to your dish.

Fats

There is a negligible amount of fat in kabocha squash. Again, preparation matters. If you roast the squash with butter or olive oil, you are adding fat.

Protein

Kabocha squash is not a high-protein food, but you will get a small amount in a serving (about 1.8 grams).

Vitamins and Minerals

Kabocha squash is an excellent source of vitamin A (it provides almost 300% of the daily value for a 2,000-calorie diet). It also a good source of vitamin C and provides small amounts of iron, calcium, some B vitamins, potassium, and magnesium.

Health Benefits

The vitamins and minerals in kabocha squash provide certain health benefits.

Lowers Cancer Risk

Some research shows that beta-carotene (a phytochemical in kabocha squash that the body turns into vitamin A) may help prevent some cancers, when it is consumed through food and not as a supplement. However, more studies in human patients are needed. Vitamin C, also found in kabocha squash, may also have some cancer-preventive properties when consumed through food sources.

Supports Eye Health

Your body needs vitamin A for normal vision. People who are at risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD, a loss of central vision that happens with age) may benefit from a supplement that contains vitamin A. Vitamin C supplements may also slow the progression of AMD. In addition, people who get a lot of vitamin C from food may have a lower risk of getting cataracts. 

Allergies

Reports of winter squash allergies or interactions with kabocha squash are extremely rare, especially in published medical records. If you suspect that you have an allergy to kabocha squash, discuss it with your physician.

Adverse Effects

Members of the Cucurbita family (including pumpkins, squashes, and melons) can produce toxic compounds called cucurbitacins. These have a very bitter taste and if eaten, even in small amounts, can cause severe diarrhea. However, reports of this "toxic squash syndrome" in the medical literature are quite uncommon.

If you eat an excessive amount of kabocha squash, or any yellow or orange fruit or vegetable containing beta carotene, you can develop carotenemia. This is a condition that can cause your skin to appear yellowish or orange. It's harmless, and the cure is simply to cut back on the carotene-containing foods. However, skin pigment changes like these can also be a sign of other conditions, such as diabetes, anorexia, hypothyroidism, and liver and kidney diseases. So if your skin turns yellowish, check with your doctor to rule those out.

Varieties

Kabocha squash may come in varying colors, and in Japan, the term "kabocha" refers to many varieties of winter squashes and pumpkins. Elsewhere, it is specific to this member of the Cucurbita maxima family.

When It's Best

Like other winter squash, kabocha are in season in the fall, and you may find them at farmer's markets during that time of year. You may also be able to buy kabocha squash year-round at grocery stores, especially Asian or Japanese markets. 

Storage and Food Safety

When purchasing, look for squash that has hard, thick skins, feel heavy for their size, and don't have any sign of mold or squishy spots.

Keep whole, uncut squash in a cool, dry place. It will keep for as long as three months. Once cut and cooked, cover kabocha squash tightly and refrigerate for up to four days. You can also keep cooked squash in the freezer, where it will last for up to a year.

How to Prepare

An easy way to prepare kabocha squash is to wash the exterior with plain water (no soap), then cut the squash in half. Place the squash cut sides down and bake for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees F, or until the flesh is soft enough to pierce with a fork. Serve with a little butter or olive oil. You can also swap kabocha for other winter squashes, such as butternut or acorn, in any recipe that calls for them.

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Article Sources
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