For people who put a lot of thought into their nutrition, the concept of starch and the question of whether popular food items are high in starch have become more and more important in recent years. What about butternut squash, one of the most beloved vegetables, especially in fall and winter: Is butternut squash a starch?
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Is Butternut Squash a Starch?
In general, butternut squash and other winter squash varieties like acorn squash are vegetables of medium starch content. Even though it contains more starch than, for example, salad greens, cucumbers, or broccoli, it holds less starch than potatoes or corn. Starchy vegetables are more similar to grains than vegetables, and this goes for butternut squash, too, which botanically is a fruit.
It is thus a good alternative for people who want to avoid food items that are high in starch and carbohydrates, like potatoes, but still like to enjoy the taste of a classic root vegetable. For fans of squash who look for something with even less starch, spaghetti squash or pumpkin can be delicious replacements.
What Are Squash?
All squash, together with their close relatives, pumpkin, zucchini, and some gourds, belong to the genus Cucurbita of the Cucurbitaceae family. Members of this genus are seasonal, but, luckily, there is almost always some kind of squash in season so that connoisseurs never have to wait for long...
Butternut squash is harvested in winter, while zucchini belong to the summer squash.
What a lot of people do not know is that, technically, squash are fruit, not vegetables! Botanically speaking, the difference between fruits and vegetables is that fruits contain seeds and develop from the flowers of a plant. Vegetables, on the other hand, are the roots, stems, or leaves of a plant.
Some other such fruits that are often mistaken for vegetables are tomatoes, eggplants, and cucumbers. The reason why most people think these are vegetables is that these fruits are most often used in savory dishes.
We tend to connect a savory and piquant taste with vegetables, while fruits are thought of as sweeter and are most often found in desserts.
A commonly known truism is that "Education means knowing that tomatoes are fruit, wisdom means knowing not to put tomatoes in a fruit salad."
The same goes for members of the squash family - their botanical classification notwithstanding, you will likely find them as the main course rather than in the form of a sweet dessert - the classic pumpkin pie being the exception that emphasizes the rule.
What Does It Mean When Food Items Contain Starch?
Starch is a carbohydrate that consists of several glucose units. It is manufactured in the green leaves of plants and functions as a reserve food supply.
Since roots are storage organs, it makes sense that so-called root vegetables like potatoes contain a high amount of starch. Additionally, it is stored in the seeds of corn, rice, and wheat.
The reason why some people want to avoid starch is that they follow a diet that is low in carbohydrates in general. Avoiding food with a high starch content at all costs is not a good idea, though.
The benefits of starchy food are that they give you the energy your brain and muscles need to function. Usually, food items that are high in starch also contain fiber, calcium, iron, and B vitamins. Thus, it is important for a balanced diet to eat some starchy foods every day.
What Is Acrylamide?
You might have heard of the risk of ingesting acrylamide when eating starchy food. How much acrylamide your food contains depends on your method of preparation.
Acrylamide is a chemical that is created when starchy food is cooked for long periods at high temperatures, and scientists suggest that it can cause cancer.
It is created as a reaction of water, sugar, and amino acids combining under high temperatures. This means that you have to be careful when grilling, baking, or frying food items like squash, potatoes, or bread and aim for a golden brown color rather than a burnt exterior.
Another popular piece of advice is never to store potatoes in the fridge because this will lead to an increased amount of free sugars in potatoes. Rather, you should keep potatoes in the dark and cool place but above 6 degrees Celsius.
Butternut squash, or winter squash, should be part of your diet as it's excellent in decreasing hunger and is a good source of fiber, potassium, and several other nutrients. Eating butternut squash helps your digestion and blood pressure, and eating it improves your skin and the health of your hair too. Additionally, butternut squash contains around 15 net carbohydrates per cup, making it acceptable for some keto dieters. It can also support bone health because of the number of nutrients found in it, which are usually related to healthy bone mass.
Corn has the highest starch content. One cup of yellow corn may contain around 110 g of starch. Corn on its own is a good source of fiber and essential B vitamins and has some health benefits if eaten in moderation. On the other hand, corn starch, or cornflour, is the starch derived from corn (maize) grain and is very high in calories and carbs and very low in nutrients your body needs. Corn starch is a common food ingredient that we like to use when we need our sauce or soup slightly thicker. It is also used to make corn syrup.