Dear Living Well Daily Reader,
Pasta is the best.
Well, the best at making you gain weight, sending your blood sugar into orbit and making you feel sluggish, bloated and gross.
But who can say no to a piping-hot bowl of noodles drowned in a robust, garlicky red sauce?
I know I can’t.
Luckily, there’s a way for you to have your pasta and eat it too — just without the high blood sugar, extra pounds and bad feelings.
Plus, this tasty and fresh pasta replacement is also rich in heart-healthy B vitamins, folate and loads of antioxidants that fight cancer and protect your heart — unlike the carb-filled wheat versions.
So what is this delightful, healthy noodle substitute?
And the best part — it’s easy to make and is now in season!
More Powerful Than Pasta
Because its flesh separates into spaghetti-like strands when cooked, this fall treat is known as spaghetti squash or noodle squash.
Except unlike its nutritionally inferior namesake, it comes loaded with cancer-busting antioxidants like beta-carotene and vitamin A. These powerful compounds help protect your body from oxidative stress that comes with age.
Studies show that eating vegetables with high beta-carotene and vitamin A content can help your body fend of cancer and heart disease while also boosting your immune system and protecting your eyes. Plus, beta-carotene helps cells communicate better with each other, which could help prevent the growth of cancer.
In addition, spaghetti squash is rich in heart-protective B vitamins and folate. These nutrients help you strengthen blood vessel walls and can also promote healthy circulation. Not to mention spaghetti squash is a good source of potassium, the mineral that assists in proper nerve and muscle function, which is vital to heart health.
But what’s most incredible about this nutrient-packed squash is it also contains powerful fatty acids that are typically found only in nuts or animal food sources like fish and grass-fed beef — omega-3s.
Omega-3s are proven to combat inflammation and arterial stiffness, which helps promote a healthy heart and can lead to better brain function. (But you should know that the amount of omega-3s found in spaghetti squash doesn’t meet your daily needs, so be sure to eat other omega-3-rich foods or take omega-3 supplements.)
When you combine all of these amazing health benefits, it seems like ditching pasta for spaghetti squash is a no-brainer!
How to Get Your Hands on the Gourd
So where can you find a spaghetti squash?
Since these squashes are harvested in the early fall through the winter, we are almost in peak season.
They are available at farmers markets, produce stands and most retail grocery stores. If you own a share in a CSA, you can contact your farmer or check the farm chart to see if you’ll be getting one soon.
Once you get one, you’ll have to cook it before you can use the noodle-like flesh as a pasta substitute. Luckily, this is very easy to do!
Here’s how to roast a 3-pound spaghetti squash:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Rinse squash thoroughly and pat dry.
- Cut squash in half lengthwise, remove seeds with a spoon.
- Place cut sides down in a baking dish. Bake for 35–45 minutes or until tender.
- Remove and let cool enough to handle comfortably.
- Hold squash in one hand and use a fork to loosen fibers. Scrape squash strands out with a spoon.
You can serve the squash as is or toss it with a bit of butter. Or if you’re really craving pasta, cover it with your favorite fresh-made pasta sauce and grated cheese.
Uncooked squashes can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to two months. Cooked squash can be stored in your refrigerator for up to four days or frozen for later use.
Managing editor, Living Well Daily