Spaghetti Squash 101: Try this Fun, Gluten-Free Noodle Alternative

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While some vegetable names require an etymologist to decipher, the spaghetti squash is a little less mysterious. Named precisely for the thin, spaghetti-like strands of flesh it acquires once cooked, this squash’s texture is unlike that of any of its relatives. Its nutty, subtle flavor is typical of other squashes, but its unique “noodle-esque” presentation makes it the perfect backdrop for sauce or seasoning of any kind. Most typically used as an alternative to pasta or noodles, this nutrient-rich vegetable is a must-have in the fall and winter months, when reaching for our favorite comfort foods is oh-so-tempting. So go ahead, toss it together with colorful vegetables, cheese, spices, or sauces—this gluten-free, low-calorie vegetable is a versatile, guiltless treat!

Identification

Spaghetti squash is large, oval and approximately 8 to 10 inches in length. It’s usually a deep yellow color, although the yellow can vary from a light lemon color to a rich gold.

Taste

Spaghetti squash has a mild, slightly nutty flavor that pairs well with a variety of sauces. Some people compare the taste to a cross between zucchini and butternut squash.

Availability

When in season, spaghetti squash is readily available in supermarkets and farmers’ markets.

Season

Peak season for spaghetti squash in the US and Europe is September through February.

Selection

Look for spaghetti squash with an even, dull yellow color. Choose a firm, heavy vegetable with a hard rind.

Avoid squashes with green streaks, shiny exteriors, blemishes, or squishy rinds, as these are signs they are overripe or rotting.

Organic Benefits

When deciding whether to purchase organic or non-organic produce, it’s helpful to know which fruits and vegetables are most affected by pesticides. Pesticides are toxins used to kill insects, invasive plants, and fungi during the growth of produce, and are potentially dangerous to people. National and international agencies agree that prolonged exposure to specific pesticides through food consumption is a potential health risk. Additionally, some studies indicate that organic fruits and vegetables have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than conventionally raised produce.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an environmental health advocacy and research organization in the United States. From cosmetics to produce, water to cleaning products, EWG provides insight regarding the impact of pesticides, manufacturing practices, and product ingredients on our health and environment. EWG produces a consumer guide ranking 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue. The higher the rank, the lower the residue. In this ranking, the 12 most affected fruits and vegetables belong to the “Dirty Dozen,” and the 15 least affected are part of the “Clean Fifteen.” These lists help identify the produce that is most—and least—dramatically affected by pesticides.

Though spaghetti squash is not ranked on the list, winter squash ranks at #25 on the EWG’s full list—this marks the halfway point on the list. Slightly closer to the “Clean Fifteen” than the “Dirty Dozen,” conventionally grown squash is generally considered to be safe.

Storage

Unwashed spaghetti squash will keep fresh at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for one to two months. Once cooked, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use within five days.

Preparation

Wash the exterior thoroughly and pat dry. Cut squash in half lengthwise and use an ice cream scoop to remove the interior seeds. It is possible to boil spaghetti squash, but most people find it easier to bake. Fill a baking pan with ¼ to ½ inch of water, and place the squash cut side down in the pan, pierce the exterior with a fork a few times, and bake per recipe instructions.

Once cooked, use a fork to separate the flesh into strands.

Nutrition Summary

Vitamin C

This immune-system-building vitamin offers a host of benefits. Vitamin C is an important nutrient necessary for collagen production, and is essential for maintaining the integrity and function of skin and bone tissue. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radicals and protecting the heart, kidneys, and lungs from disease. This essential nutrient, often found in large amounts in citrus fruits and raw vegetables, may play a role in reducing systolic blood pressure and heart disease risk.

B6 (Pyridoxine)

Amino acids and lipids are the main nutrients metabolized by vitamin B6, helping to promote proper energy levels throughout the body. It is also an important aspect of the formation of hemoglobin and neurotransmitters, protecting both the cardiovascular system and brain.

Manganese

The majority of the manganese in the body is stored in the bones and organ tissue, mainly the liver and kidneys. Manganese is responsible for production and maintenance of sex hormones, blood-sugar regulation, brain and nerve function, calcium regulation and absorption, and carbohydrate metabolism.

B3 (Niacin)

Another energy-producing vitamin, niacin is responsible for transporting energy and metabolizing glucose within the cell. This vitamin may be helpful for regulating blood sugar after a carbohydrate-heavy meal.

B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

Helpful for metabolizing fatty acids and protein, two of the most satiating and long-lasting nutrients in the body, vitamin B5 is also responsible for maintaining the proper functioning of insulin receptors and energy maintenance.

Health Benefits & Medical Claims

Spaghetti squash is a great substitute for, you guessed it, spaghetti. Whether you have a gluten intolerance or are simply looking for a higher value carbohydrate, spaghetti squash offers a healthy alternative to the more traditional pasta dish. It contains fair amounts of vitamins B and C as well as about 6 percent of your daily fiber needs. And at only 42 calories a cup, it will fill you up without filling you out!

Little Known Facts
  1. Other names for this winter vegetable include noodle squash, Manchurian squash, vegetable spaghetti, and “squaghetti.”
  2. Originally from China, spaghetti squash became a common vegetable in US victory gardens during World War II.
  3. Squashes are some of the world’s oldest vegetables, dating back more than 10,000 years.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Yoffie Life disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.