In the summertime, we couldn’t get enough zucchini; from frittata to savory muffins, we incorporated summer squash into as many dishes as we could! However, the fall season means it’s time to make way for fall harvest squash. We’re especially excited to incorporate butternut squash—which packs even more nutrients than zucchini—into our diets!

Although butternut squash is often thought of as a vegetable, its seeds mean it’s actually a fruit. Call it what you will; either way, there’s no denying butternut squash’s health benefits.

Butternut Squash Seeds

At its core, this velvety squash is rich is phytonutrients and antioxidants. Its rich color reflects its high concentration of carotenoids—organic pigments in plants that act as antioxidants—which help protect against heart disease, breast cancer and age-related macular degeneration. The body converts beta-carotene, a type of carotenoid, into vitamin A. Carotenoids bring good news for expecting mothers as well, as they support healthy lung development in fetuses and newborns. The antioxidants also have anti-inflammatory effects, reducing risk for disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.

As if those benefits aren’t enough, consider that butternut squash is low in fat and high in fiber and the B vitamin folate. All of these further butternut squash’s heart-friendliness. Plus, vitamin B6 promotes healthy immune and nervous systems, and potassium improves bone health!

Butternut Squash Frittata

Still, this gourd-shaped squash’s bright, golden-orange flesh does more than signal its health benefits. Rather, this squash’s warm coloring make it the perfect accent to autumn dishes! Squash lovers can rejoice knowing that our new specials menu feature a Spinach and Goat Cheese Frittata with juicy, butternut squash folded between fluffy organic eggs. And on Mondays, our organic and vegan soup of the day is – you guessed it – Butternut Squash Soup! There are also a number of dishes both sweet and savory that you can incorporate butternut squash into at home.

To enjoy the squash on its own, dice and roast it on a cookie sheet. For a sweet take, sprinkle with brown sugar and drizzle with maple syrup or honey; for a savory kick, sprinkle with cinnamon and cayenne pepper! Eat by itself, as a side dish or use to top off a salad.

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If you’re feeling more ambitious, we recommend pureeing and using the squash as a base for a delicious fall soup! You can also use the puree as filling for homemade ravioli. And, for an option the kids will enjoy, try slicing the squash and using in place of potatoes as a healthy French fry alternative.

Have tips for preparing butternut squash? Is there another fall harvest fruit or veggie you can’t wait to cook? Comment below with what you’re most excited about!

Photos via Flickr, Tim SacktonEmily CarlinIchunt