Acorn squash is a delicious winter vegetable known for its acorn-like shape and sweet, nutty flavor.
Not only does it taste great, but it’s also packed with nutrients and offers many health benefits.
In this article, we’ll go over the health benefits of acorn squash and discuss the research behind them. Let’s dive in!
1. High in nutrients and antioxidants
Acorn squash is a nutrient-dense vegetable high in essential vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber.
One cup (205 grams) of cooked acorn squash provides the following nutrients (1):
- Calories: 115
- Carbohydrates: 30 grams
- Fiber: 9 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fat: <1 gram
- Thiamin: 0.34 mg (28% DV)
- Vitamin C: 22 mg (25% DV)
- Vitamin B6: 0.4 mg (24% DV)
- Manganese: 0.5 mg (22% DV)
- Magnesium: 88 mg (21% DV)
- Copper: 0.18 mg (20% DV)
- Pantothenic acid: 1 mg (20% DV)
- Potassium: 896 mg (19% DV)
- Niacin: 1.8 mg (11% DV)
- Iron: 1.9 mg (11% DV)
- Folate: 39 mcg (10% DV)
A single one-cup serving of acorn squash can help you meet close to one-quarter of the Daily Value (DV) for thiamin, vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese, magnesium, copper, and pantothenic acid (2).
2. Improves digestive health
Acorn squash is higher in fiber than most other winter squash, offering a whopping 9 grams per cooked cup — that’s nearly one-third of the DV (1, 2).
Fiber can reduce symptoms of constipation and keep the digestive system running smoothly by adding bulk to the stool and increasing the frequency of bowel movements (3).
Some types of fiber even help increase the number and variety of good bacteria living in the gut. These bacteria produce beneficial compounds like short-chain fatty acids, which strengthen the intestinal barrier and lower inflammation (4, 5).
Diets high in fiber, like the kind found in acorn squash, are also linked with lower rates of colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease (6, 7).
Most people in the United States only get about half of the recommended amount of fiber (8). Consuming a variety of high-fiber foods, including acorn squash, can help you meet your needs.
3. Regulates blood sugar
Acorn squash is a great source of complex carbohydrates, which take longer to digest and result in a more gradual increase in blood sugar levels (9).
It is also high in nutrients, including magnesium and vitamin B6, that help regulate the secretion of insulin (10, 11). This important hormone allows sugar in the blood to move into cells where it can be used for energy (12).
We weren’t able to find any research on acorn squash’s glycemic index, a measure of how quickly a food causes blood sugar levels to rise (13).
However, a similar vegetable — butternut squash — has a glycemic index of 51, which is considered low (14). This means that it causes a slow and steady rise in blood sugar.
Regardless of its glycemic index, acorn squash can be enjoyed as part of a balanced meal alongside protein and fat to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
4. May lower blood pressure
Acorn squash is naturally low in sodium and high in potassium and magnesium, a combination that may help protect against hypertension (high blood pressure) (1).
Sodium can raise blood pressure by pulling water into the bloodstream. Having too much water in your blood increases the amount of pressure that’s exerted on blood vessel walls (15).
Although research is mixed, evidence suggests that reducing sodium intake may help lower blood pressure in some people, particularly those who are “salt sensitive” (16).
Potassium is a mineral that counteracts the effects of sodium on blood pressure by stimulating the kidneys to excrete more sodium in the urine (17).
Consuming at least 3500 mg of potassium each day significantly lowers blood pressure in people with hypertension (18).
Magnesium lowers blood pressure in part by acting similarly to a group of medications, known as calcium channel blockers, that are used to treat hypertension (19).
Calcium channel blockers reduce the amount of calcium entering smooth muscle cells in the blood vessel walls. This allows blood vessels to relax and lowers blood pressure (20).
According to one study, each 100 mg increase in magnesium intake was linked with a 5% reduction in hypertension risk (21).
5. Supports immunity
Acorn squash is an excellent source of vitamin C, a nutrient well-known for its beneficial effects on immunity (1).
Vitamin C strengthens the immune system by encouraging the body to produce more white blood cells and protecting against oxidative stress (22, 23).
While eating acorn squash won’t ensure that you never get sick, it can help protect against vitamin C deficiency.
Acorn squash provides a whopping 22 mg of vitamin C per cooked cup — that’s one-fourth of the Daily Value (1).
To meet your daily vitamin C needs, consider adding acorn squash to your diet along with other vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits, bell peppers, and cruciferous vegetables.
6. Promotes skin health
Acorn squash contains vitamin C and carotenoids, which play important roles in wound healing and sun protection (1).
Vitamin C is needed for the production of collagen, a protein that provides structural support and helps maintain the elasticity of the skin (24).
Because of this, vitamin C is often used in people with wounds, like pressure ulcers, to help the skin heal more quickly (25).
Beta-carotene and other carotenoids found in acorn squash may also promote skin health by protecting against ultraviolet (UV) light, which can cause sunburns and increase skin cancer risk (26).
Interestingly, research shows a link between higher levels of carotenoids in the blood and a lower risk of severe sunburns (27).
In addition to acorn squash, you can boost your carotenoid levels by eating more red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables such as mangoes and bell peppers (28, 29).
However, this doesn’t mean that everyone should ditch sunscreen for fruits and veggies! Sunscreen is still one of the most effective ways to prevent sunburns and reduce your risk of skin cancer (30, 31).
7. Helps maintain vision
Acorn squash is a source of carotenoids, including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, that help protect eye health (1).
In particular, lutein and zeaxanthin are found in the macula and retina of the eye, where they act as powerful antioxidants to reduce cell damage (32).
Studies suggest that diets higher in these carotenoids may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that can lead to vision impairment or blindness (33, 34).
In one study, people who consumed the most carotenoids had a 35% lower risk of AMD compared to those who consumed the least (33).
In addition to acorn squash, other good sources of carotenoids include sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, and spinach (35).
Acorn squash is a highly nutritious vegetable packed with fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and carotenoids.
These nutrients have been linked to several potential health benefits, including improved digestive health, lower blood sugar, and reduced hypertension risk.
To reap the benefits of this amazing veggie, consider adding acorn squash to your next grocery list!
Amy Richter is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Missouri. She is an experienced nutrition writer and medical advisor for Healthline and Medical News Today. Amy is passionate about all things food-related and enjoys translating complex science into easy-to-understand articles.