The fall season conjures up images of crackling fireplaces, hot drinks, and delectable comfort foods. But the approach of cooler weather doesn’t have to mean heavy, creamy, unhealthy dishes. There are several produce favorites that harvest and ripen in the fall, including the delicious and nutritious squash!

Technically, squash is a fruit because it contains seeds, though it’s commonly referred to as a vegetable. There are many different varieties of squash, but they all have something in common: they’re good for you!

Here are some of the nutritional benefits of squash, “the wonder fruit”:

  • Rich with vitamins A, B6, C, and E, magnesium, manganese, fiber, folate, and riboflavin
  • High carotenoid content. Carotenoids act as antioxidants in the body, and some can convert into vitamin A, which supports healthy eyes and vision.
  • Low in saturated fat, low in cholesterol, and low in sodium
  • High in potassium, which helps maintain a healthy blood pressure
  • High in copper, which forms superoxide dismutase (an antioxidant enzyme), helps manufacture collagen, a structural protein in the body that maintains strong bones and blood vessels), plays an important role in energy production, and more
  • Good for the skin, thanks to being rich with antioxidants (beta carotene and vitamins C, E, and A)

What’s the difference between winter and summer squash? Winter squash is harvested in the fall and has tougher, harder skin, making it perfect for storing through winter and using in baked and cooked dishes. It takes longer to mature, while the growing season of summer squash is much quicker. Green thumbs will tell you that zucchini is a common type of summer squash you’ll see at the grocery store, while fall brings a wide range of winter squash worth incorporating into your autumn menu. Here are a few to look for:

  • Butternut squash – Bell shape, light tan in color, bright orange-yellow flesh that is sweet
  • Kabocha squash (green) – Resembles a mini pumpkin with a base that points outward, has a nutty, very slightly sweet taste
  • Kabocha squash (red) – Resembles an orange mini pumpkin with a base that points outward, much sweeter than its green counterpart
  • Carnival squash – Bulbous pumpkin shape but white speckled with orange, yellow flesh that is sweet
  • Sweet dumpling squash – Looks like a carnival squash but whitish-yellow with green speckles, tastes like a sweet potato
  • Spaghetti squash – Yellow, oval exterior, stringy flesh that tastes mild
  • Acorn squash – Shaped like an acorn, often green or green and orange in color, tough, orange flesh that tastes sweet and nutty

If you’re ready to roll up your apron sleeves and try out a few preparations of this tasty superfood, visit allrecipes.com, epicurious.com, or foodnetwork.com and see what you can find. Many types of winter squash can be roasted and eaten with a little olive oil and seasoning, while other varieties work well in pies, casseroles, and other oven-based dishes. The great news: you can buy winter squash and store these fruits for a while, as they don’t go bad quickly. So, get creative and enjoy discovering some scrumptious new dishes!