This Japanese winter squash, also known as a pumpkin, is delicious, sports so many health benefits and I feel like it's some kind of "carb hack" that everyone should know about because it's filling and satisfies that comfort food craving so well, it's hard to believe its so good for you!
Although not high in protein, Kabocha is low in carbohydrates, high in fiber, Vitamin C, B6 and is also offers a hearty dose of: potassium, manganese, folate, riboflavin, thiamin, iron and niacin. The list goes on and on actually. Kabocha is a powerhouse of antioxidants.
The reason I love it so much is because I'm a volume eater and I like to feel fully satiated after a meal. Kabocha serves as the vegetable side dish to many of my meals because it satisfies this craving I have but doesn't leave me feeling bloated or "stuffed." Much like a potato, Kabocha is versatile enough to be enjoyed in soups, stews and salads. You can roast it, simmer it, mash it, puree it...it's a generous food!
More reasons to love Kabocha:
Because it's so high in fiber, Kabocha will help to improve digestion. Fiber is good for the gut microbiome, which as you know by now, helps everything else from nutrient absorption to immune function. Increasing your fiber intake is almost a certain necessity for most people and in addition to maintaining a healthy blood pressure, fiber helps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and aids in the prevention of conditions like heartburn, constipation and hemorrhoids. Your bathroom time should become much easier, more frequent and more successful, meaning you are cleansing the bowels completely and not feeling like "you still have to go" once you're done. Complete cleansing in the bathroom is everything, people.
Here's to that fiber again: kabocha is so satisfying because it's so filling and it's so filing because of all that fiber and all that fiber will keep you fuller, longer and that will have you snacking less after a meal. Not that snacking is a bad thing! It's not. But if you're aiming to lose weight isn't it nice to know there are foods out there that will easily support this? One of the reasons weight loss can be such a challenge for some is, if you're anything like me, you have fear of feeling hungry. Being hungry makes me anxious. Feeling satiated, and knowing you've done it healthfully so, is a win.
Here's my most favorite, magical thing about kabocha: it's a low glycemic food which means it will not spike your blood sugar which means you won't get that typical carb spike and drop that leaves you hungry and craving more sugar. It's not that kind of carb. Remember, this squash is low in carbohydrates and so that typical low blood sugar hunger/fatigue/moodiness roller coaster is entirely sidelined. Yay!
Now, this post wouldn't be fair if I didn't mention the very rare possibility of a kabocha allergy that might typically start with itchiness or swelling. The itchiness should always be a warning to you anyway, by the way. My son, out of the blue one day years ago, ate some pineapple and he experienced itching and swelling of the mouth, which can be the early sign of an anaphylactic response. So, into the trash went his love affair with pineapple and he's never seen her again. Why risk it? The other thing to be aware of, and again this is SO rare it shouldn't put you off, but if you are a diabetic and taking medication to lower/stabilize your blood sugar, just be aware that kabocha can lower your blood sugar as well, so you know, be cautious.
How to Choose One:
You know, I can't tell you how long I stayed away from kabocha because, not only did I not know what the heck it was, I had no idea how to choose a "good" one. Here are some tips:
1. Choose heavy! Weight matters here and if it's light, it may mean that it has dried out.
2. The color should be a rich green and "bumps" on the skin are normal.
3. Don't choose one that has large rough areas that seem like weird patches on the skin.
4. If purchasing pre-cut, choose a rich yellow-orange color. Vibrance is key.
Squash can be stored in a cool, dry, dark place for up to two months (unless it's pre-cut, then refrigerate). I've definitely stored one even longer than that and it was fine, but I'd bet that 10 weeks is pushing it. I keep them next to my onions and garlic and sweet potatoes. They live happily together in the dark. Once cut in half, remove the center flesh with seeds and cut-carefully-as you like, or roast in halves. Also know that the skin, when cooked, softens beautifully and IS edible and full of beneficial nutrients, so don't stay away from kabocha for fear of dealing with it's tough exterior.
Yes, this is a sweeter version but I thought I'd share the recipe that I love the most. It's so easy and delicious, it's a great kabocha "starter" if you're game!
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
One kabocha squash, cut in half, seeds removed (these can also be saved and roasted).
4 tablespoons, evoo
4 tablespoons, maple syrup
1 tablespoon chopped herb of choice. I love fresh thyme, but rosemary would also be delicious. Set aside.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
*Chef's choice here: cut the squash as you like: in wedges or cubed, as I've done here, pictured above, and set aside in a large bowl.
Combine the evoo and maple syrup and whisk until emulsified, this should take about 30 seconds and you'll know when it's happened. The two ingredients "come together" to make a thick, almost grainy looking blend.
Add the syrup blend to the bowl of squash and using a spoon or your hands, toss well to coat. Place the squash on the parchment lined sheet pan and drizzle any remaining syrup over the squash, being mindful to spread the pieces out so they all cook nice and evenly. Sprinkle with chopped thyme and roast for 40-45 minutes until squash is fork tender and a deep golden brown.
You're welcome. xo