As the weather gets colder, you crave comfort food. Unfortunately, many comfort foods also come with empty calories, weight gain, and potential risks to your health.
Let vegetables come to the rescue to replace carbohydrates and add a new flavor to old comfort food recipes. When you switch to vegetables, you get additional nutrition and protection from serious diseases.
Spaghetti squash has nothing to do with your favorite Italian dish. The name comes from the appearance of the insides when cooked. Once the inside of the squash is pulled out and cooked, it strongly resembles spaghetti noodles.
Most people consider squash to be a winter vegetable but it is available all year long. Its bright yellow color adds vibrancy to any meal and their nutrients add health to your life.
Essential minerals: Along with a healthy dose of vitamins, spaghetti squash gives you important minerals. The most dominant mineral you get is manganese, which many people do not realize is essential to health.
Manganese helps in the production of healthy bones, tissues, and sex hormones. It also plays a role in the absorption of calcium, regulation of blood sugar levels, and metabolism.
Essential vitamins: Spaghetti squash contains vitamin A, which is essential for the efficient function of your liver, lungs, heart, and kidneys. In addition to this, you also get vitamin C and vitamin K, both of which play crucial roles in your body.
The content of B vitamins is of particular note with this squash, because it is one of the richest sources for folate. Folate is essential to the process of making blood cells as well as converting carbohydrates to energy and the production of DNA.
Dietary fiber: Getting enough fiber is essential to promoting healthy digestion and also reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Fiber is able to regulate cholesterol levels, thus preventing hypertension and other complications that can damage the health of your heart.
Your digestive system functions more efficiently when fiber content in your diet is high. Fiber also provides nutrients to your gut bacteria that help in the digestive processes.
With fiber, you feel full for longer, so you avoid snacking on unhealthy foods and the weight gain associated with that.
Heart health: The magnesium and potassium in the spaghetti squash act as a strong defense against heart disease. Potassium is a natural vasodilator, which allows it to relax blood vessels and promote health flow and reduced stress on the heart.
Steady magnesium levels are also necessary for the maintenance of a regular heartbeat and normal blood pressure. The fiber of squash also helps to neutralize homocysteine levels, a compound that has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Cutting calories: Spaghetti squash contains virtually no calories and no fat unless you cook it with butter. This makes it a great alternative to heavy carbohydrates and will leave you feeling just as full.
By avoiding the empty calories associated with most carbohydrates and processed foods, spaghetti squash can deliver only the calories you need for efficient energy production. Because there is no glucose produced, you can maintain healthy blood sugar levels too.
Diabetes management: Dietary fiber, especially pectin, is great for regulating blood sugar levels, along with cutting out carbohydrates. Spaghetti squash has plenty of pectins that will ensure that insulin and glucose activities within the body are regulated appropriately.
Respiratory health: The high content of vitamin A in squash helps to protect the health of your lungs. Reduced levels of vitamin A have been linked to emphysema, especially in those regularly exposed to smoke or pollution.
Spaghetti squash also contains powerful carotenoids that have been linked to a reduced risk of lung cancer.
The thought of switching out your beloved tortillas for a spaghetti squash when you want a burrito may not seem appealing. But, with the recipe below, you get all the flavor of your favorite burrito without the complex carbohydrates.
Besides, adding that spaghetti squash gives your burrito a new look and extra nutrition.
FOR SPAGHETTI SQUASH
2 medium spaghetti squash, halved, seeds removed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
FOR THE FILLING
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ground beef
1 tablespoon taco seasoning mix
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-oz.) can black beans
1 1/2 cups chopped cherry tomatoes
1 cup corn, canned and drained or frozen
1 cup shredded Monterey jack
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro (optional)
Preheat oven to 400°. Drizzle cut sides of spaghetti squash with oil and season with salt, chili powder, and cumin. Place the cut side of the squash down on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until tender.
Let cool slightly and then using a fork, break up the squash strands.
Start making the filling while the squash is cooking. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, then stir in garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the ground beef, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon and cook until beef is no longer pink.
Be sure to drain the fat when it is done cooking.
Stir taco seasoning into the meat, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the black beans, cherry tomatoes, and corn. Fill each cooked spaghetti squash with beef mixture and top with cheeses. Return them to the oven to melt the cheese, which will take about 5 minutes.
Garnish with cilantro and serve.
Spaghetti squash is a winter favorite and it can now add nutrition and a new spin on a classic comfort meal. Take a break from carb-loaded burritos and try these new spaghetti squash burrito boats.
With the new flavors and amazing health benefits you get from switching over, spaghetti squash will be your new go-to food for comfort and taste.