Butternut squash (photo © Good Eggs).
 Sweet potatoes (photo © North Carolina Sweet Potatoes).
 You can mash either butternut squash or sweet potatoes. The choice is yours (photo © Chef Ingrid Hoffmann)
It’s the time of year where lots sweet potatoes and winter squash are served up.
They’re both orange, a color that owes thanks to lots of the antioxidant† beta-carotene.
They’re both yummy.
But are they equally nutritious? Nope.
SWEET POTATO SHOCKER
Sweet potatoes have about double the calories, carbs, and sugar than than butternut squash (see the chart below—source).
While sweet potatoes do have more fiber and protein than butternut squash, the numbers are not significant like the calorie and carb numbers:
Fiber: 2.8g squash, 4g sweet potato
Protein: 1.4g squash, 2g sweet potato
We side with the squash.
And actually, cup for cup acorn squash is the most nutritious of all the winter squash varieties—but it’s smaller and thus yields less meat‡.
It has more calcium, folate, magnesium (nearly one-third of a day’s worth in one cup) and potassium than butternut, hubbard and spaghetti squash.
Of course, all winter squash varieties deliver on nutrition. In addition to fiber and protein, their nutrition includes:
Beta-Carotene: One of the top food sources of beta-carotene, a phytochemical (antioxidant) that the body changes to vitamin A (298% DV). Vitamin A supports healthy vision and immune function. As an antioxidant, beta-carotene protects cells from free-radical damage.
Calcium: A good source of calcium (7% DV). Beyond good bones, calcium is needed to help blood vessels and muscles contract and expand, to send messages through the nervous system, and to secrete hormones and enzymes.
Folate: A good source folate (9% DV), one of the B-vitamins. It’s needed to make red and white blood cells in the bone marrow, convert carbohydrates into energy, and produce DNA and RNA. Adequate folate intake is extremely important during periods of rapid growth such as infancy, adolescence and pregnancy.
Magnesium & Potassium: A good source of magnesium (12% DV) and potassium (14% DV), minerals tied to healthy blood pressure. One cup of cooked acorn squash and has more potassium (896 milligrams) than two medium bananas (844 mg)
Vitamin C: A good source of vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid (7% DV). Vitamin C is required for the synthesis of collagen (skin, blood vessels, bones, ligaments and tendons) and dentin (teeth). Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that protects proteins and genetic materials (RNA and DNA) from damage by free radicals.
Vitamin C cannot be made or stored by your body, so it’s important to consume it in food and/or supplements.
So at it’s basic best, winter squash is health food!
*There are 11 types of winter squash: acorn, banana, buttercup, butternut, delicata, hubbard, kabocha, pumpkin, spaghetti, sweet dumpling and turban squash. Summer squash has a thin peel that can be eaten. Yellow squash and zucchini are examples.