What is Kabocha and why is it great for our gut?
Kabocha squash is native to Japan and is a staple at most Japanese restaurants. It is described as dark green with faint stripes or spots on the outside with a flesh that is a yellow/orange in color. Kabocha squash has a nutty, earthy, yet sweet taste; it is said to be similar to a mixture of sweet potato and pumpkin. Like other kinds of winter squash, this squash can be roasted, steamed, baked, or even fried.
Kabocha provides vitamins A and C, some B vitamins, fiber, magnesium, potassium, and antioxidants. The seeds of the Kabocha also contain a significant amount of zinc, protein, and healthy oils. Kabocha is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates that has a lower glycemic load than sweet potato and pumpkin, so it doesn't cause the blood sugar to spike. It's also a great source of beta carotene, a precursor of vitamin A. The fiber content is also an added bonus as 1/2 cup contains 1 gram of fiber. Talk about #GoodGut happiness!
In one study, Kabocha showed a higher level of pectin than other squashes such as pumpkin, though many squash varieties also have this nutrient. Pectin is acid-soluble, and it is a type of fiber broken down by bacteria in the gut and helps to stimulate beneficial bacteria and improve gut-barrier integrity. Though more research is needed, in one study, pectin was shown to have the potential to improve the gut microbiome, reduce bacterial dysbiosis, and promote healthy immune function in the process. Pectin is also well-known for impacting the ratio of gut bacteria (increasing the bacteroidetes and decreasing the firmicutes) in a beneficial direction to promote more short chain fatty acids: these short chain fatty acids are what help maintain the gut wall integrity, keeping the immune system and epithelial cells (cells lining the gut) strong!
Studies have also shown that avoiding fruits and starchy foods such as squash can cause unfavorable changes in the gut. We recommend that when it is squash season (early fall until spring), go and pick up a kombucha squash and give it a try!
Ways to eat it
Kabocha squash is highly versatile and can be cooked in several ways, including roasted, steamed, baked, pureed, and even substituted for pumpkin in recipes. The skin can also be eaten, as it is full of beneficial fiber! A yummy and easy way to enjoy kabocha squash is to slice it into thin pieces, drizzle with oil, seasonings, and roast on a pan in the oven!
Here is a recipe from Married to Health for Kabocha Squash!
Recipe: Kabocha Soup
Ingredients (Makes 4 Servings):
1 whole kabocha squash, peeled and cubed
3 zucchini, peeled
1 yukon gold potato, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 pint vegetable stock
1 pinch marjoram
1 pinch thyme
1 pinch rosemary
salt to taste
Bake vegetables at 425°F, until golden brown.
Blend roasted veggies, vegetable broth, and herbs in blender.
Place in pot and warm on stove top. Add more seasoning to taste and enjoy!
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