Butternut and Other Winter Squash: Nutrition Facts

Calories and Their Health Benefits

butternut squash nutrition facts and health benefits

Photo: Alexandra Shytsman

Winter squash, a member of the gourd family, and native to Mexico and Central America, historically were consumed and used as containers and utensils. Most, like butternut squash, have a stronger, sweeter flavor then summer squash. And although they are called winter squash, they are planted during the warmer months and harvested before the first frost.

They can be enjoyed throughout the cold months and are typically available all year long, with their peak season from October through March.

There are many varieties of winter squash, ranging in size (from less than two pounds to more than twenty), shape (round, oblong, acorn shape, etc), color (yellow, orange, red, green striped, blue), and taste (mild, creamy, sweet). The most commonly known winter squash include acorn, banana, butternut, delicata, Hubbard, pumpkin, and spaghetti varieties. With the exception of spaghetti squash, winter squash are starchy and contain beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A which is found in the orange colored flesh.

Butternut Squash Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 cup, cubes cooked without fat or salt (205 g)
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 82 
Calories from Fat 2 
Total Fat 0.2g0%
Saturated Fat 0g0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.1g 
Monounsaturated Fat 0g 
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 8mg0%
Potassium 582.2mg17%
Carbohydrates 21.5g7%
Dietary Fiber 6.6g26%
Sugars 4g 
Protein 1.8g 
Vitamin A 9% · Vitamin C 87%
Calcium 1% · Iron 39%

*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Butternut squash has a similar nutrition profile to other winter squash varieties and is a good source of complex carbohydrate. Butternut squash specifically contains 21.5 grams in one cup cooked. It is also an excellent source of fiber, racking in more than 25 percent of your daily needs.

Health Benefits of Winter Squash

Winter squash is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene.

 It is also a very good source of thiamin, vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, and manganese, and a good source of iron.

The seeds, dried or roasted, contain protein and magnesium and can serve as a very filling, nutrient dense, low carbohydrate snack. If you aren't interested in roasting your own seeds, you can purchase seeds, such as pumpkin, in the grocery store.

Common Questions About Winter Squash

Can I eat the skin?

A few types of winter squashes, such as sweet dumpling squash, have an edible rind, but most varieties do not. For squash varieties with tough rinds, steam or bake them with their skin on (for example, acorn squash). Otherwise, peel the skin and cut your squash into cubes to cook.

Can I eat squash raw?

You can, but cooking squash can increase its nutritional value and soften the flesh, making it easier to consume and digest. And because squash takes on many different flavors it is tastier when cooked.

Picking and Storing Winter Squash

Avoid squash that has soft spots and blemishes and choose those that are heavy for their size. Whole squash should be stored outside the refrigerator in a cool dry place and will stay fresh this way for a few months. Pre-cut squash should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Some varieties of winter squash such as pumpkin are also available canned.

Lastly, you can find some varieties of squash, such as butternut, cut up and diced in the frozen food section. This makes for a convenient and nutritious addition to meals. 

Healthy Ways to Prepare Winter Squash 

Winter squash can be roasted, baked, pureed, or sauteed. You can also mash or steam it and add it to soups, stews, and chili. Or stuff squash with whole grains or legumes for a nutrient and protein packed vegetarian meal option.

Some varieties, such as acorn and buttercup squash, should be cooked with the skins on—their skins tend to be harder than other varieties and can be a pain to peel.

Cooking winter squash with some unsaturated fat such as grapeseed or canola oil (they have higher smoke points) can enhance the absorption of vitamin A when ingested. Also, the roasting technique will bring out caramelization of natural sugar for better flavor.

Spaghetti squash, another winter squash variety, is a low calorie, low carbohydrate substitution for pasta. It has a stringy, mild, slightly sweet flavor and is perfect base for olive oil or tomato sauces.

Recipes With Winter Squash

Stuff it, roast it, bake it, puree it, you name it. Serve it with breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, or dessert. This nutritious and delicious vegetable can take on a variety of flavors and is a wonderful addition to any meal. 

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Article Sources
  • Labensky, SR, Hause, AM. On Cooking: A textbook of Culinary Fundamentals. 3rd ed. Upper Sadle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003: 626.
  • Moore, Marisa. Winter squash. Food and Nutrition. 2016;16-17. 30-31.