Summer squash is this month’s Spotlight! This column, Spotlight On…By Joann DiFabio-Klinkner hones in on a particular type of food product. Joann educates us on these foods to help us make the choice to eat it because of its goodness or not eat it due to it’s damaging affects. Read and learn about these foods so you can continue to feed your body the proper energy to achieve a balanced lifestyle diet. Now lets learn about summer squash!
With summer pretty much here, it is time to switch to that warm, fresh feeling with some summer squash. It may be in season from May through July, but summer squash can be readily available all year round, so you can reap its health benefits even on the snowiest of winter days.
Summer squash has a thin skin and cannot store for too long. It comes from the same family as cucumbers and melons, and has a creamy colored flesh. What makes summer squash unique is that it’s entirely edible. You can eat the skin, the flesh, the seeds, and in some cases, even the flower that blooms on the plant. Probably the most commonly recognizable kinds of summer squash are zucchini and yellow squash.
Summer squash was first cultivated for its seeds because its edible flesh was not very abundant, nor was it very tasty. Through years of cultivation and introduction to Europe by Christopher Columbus, sweeter, tastier, and fleshier varieties of squash began to develop and were brought to countries all over the world. Today, the largest commercial growers of summer squash include Turkey, China, Romania, Japan, Italy, Egypt and Argentina.
Summer Squash = Heart Healthy
Consuming summer squash can be a great way to keep your heart healthy. It is an excellent source of manganese and Vitamin C, and a good source of magnesium, Vitamin A, fiber, potassium, folate, copper, riboflavin and phosphorous, many of which have been proven effective at preventing atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. Magnesium has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, and Vitamin C and beta carotene can prevent the oxidation of cholesterol, which is the stuff that builds up in blood vessels causing atherosclerosis.
Eating foods rich in fiber, like summer squash, can help keep cancer-causing toxins away from the cells in the colon. The anti-inflammatory properties of Vitamin C and beta carotene also make it effective at combating asthma and arthritis. Research has also shown that extracts from squash help reduce the symptoms of a condition called benign prostatic hypertrophy, a condition found in men that causes an enlargement of the prostate and difficulty with sexual function and urination.
When picking squash, look for ones that are heavy and have smooth, shiny skin with no blemishes. It should be stored unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and will keep up to seven days. Handle it with care as nicks in the skin exposing the flesh will cause decay.
Summer Squash Can Be Eaten in a Variety of Ways
There are many ways to enjoy summer squash, but one of the easiest is to just wash it, dice it, and sauté it with some extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Just be sure to salt it at the end so the salt doesn’t remove too much of the natural moisture from the squash. You can also blanch it (boil it for just a minute or so) and simmer it in a tomato sauce to add some lovely texture to your sauce. Or try julienning it (slicing in to matchstick-thin pieces) and tossing it with salad. You can even just slice some up and arrange it on a vegetable platter with dip. However you enjoy your summer squash, you’ll be glad to know you’re promoting a healthy heart in the process!