Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
What is Butternut Squash?
Butternut squash belongs to the ‘gourd’ family- which also includes cucumber and pumpkin. Butternut squash is technically a fruit as it contains seeds.
It is rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients and contains ample vitamin B6, potassium, dietary fibre, vitamin C and beta carotene (which the body converts to vitamin A). Butternut squash is low in fat.
The beautiful colour of the butternut squash is due carotenoids (these are naturally occurring fat-soluble pigments that are synthesized by plants, algae and photosynthetic bacteria).
How do Orange plant-based food help our general health?
Plant based orange foods provide an array of nutrients including flavonoids, lycopene, potassium, folate, vitamin C and beta carotene. The beta carotene and other carotenoids have a potent antioxidant activity. Free radicals are highly unstable and set off a process called oxidation which can have harmful effects on every cell in the body. Antioxidants help to neutralise free radicals before they cause damage to body cells, including the cells that form tissue in the reproductive system and thus help to protect the egg and sperm cells from free radical damage.
Beta carotene is responsible for the vivid colour of orange-coloured foods and has been related to improved immunity, heart health, dementia prevention, and cancer prevention. It aids in the production of collagen, is related to the reduction of LDL (bad) cholesterol and is crucial for eye health. Orange vegetables and fruits are high in carotenoids, which are strong antioxidants. Carotenoids are important for healthy eyes, mucous membranes and skin. Orange foods also contain the carotenoid Lutein, which helps to maintain healthy vision.
And what about fertility?
In relation to fertility, beta-carotene (which the body converts into vitamin A) helps to produce the female sex hormones (oestrogen and progesterone). These hormones are important for ovulation and for the regulation of the menstrual cycle. Beta-carotene is the plant-based precursor to vitamin A. It may protect us from conditions related to oestrogen dominance, for example breast cysts and heavy menstrual bleeding. When it comes to male fertility, food rich in antioxidants including beta carotene is associated with improving sperm quality in men.
Spicy Butternut Squash Soup
1 butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 chilli (finely chopped) – adjust to suit!
1 litre of vegetable stock
How to make:
1. Peel and chop the butternut squash, onion and potatoes into cubes.
2. Warm a large pot and pour in the olive oil. Add in the onions and cook until they are soft and translucent.
3. Next, add in the potatoes and squash. Cook for a couple of minutes.
4. Add in vegetable stock and chilli and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes or until potatoes and squash are soft.
5. Using a blender or food processor, blend the soup until smooth. Adjust thickness as necessary by adding extra water if required.
6. Season to taste. Enjoy!
Albert Salas-Huetos, Mònica Bulló, Jordi Salas-Salvadó, Dietary patterns, foods and nutrients in male fertility parameters and fecundability: a systematic review of observational studies, Human Reproduction Update, Volume 23, Issue 4, July-August 2017, Pages 371–389.