With its deep green skin, bright orange flesh and signature sweet flavor, kabocha squash stands out from other types of squash. In addition to offering a hearty dose of fiber and antioxidants in every serving, kabocha squash nutrition also has been linked to a long list of benefits, including better blood sugar levels, enhanced bladder function and improved digestive health — similar to acorn squash nutrition.
Plus, it’s super versatile and easy to add to your favorite recipes. In fact, besides switching it in for other types of squash, such as butternut squash, in your diet, you can also add it to curries, soups, salads and more.
Here’s what you need to know about kabocha squash nutrition, along with some simple strategies to start including it in your meal rotation.
What Is Kabocha Squash?
Kabocha squash, also sometimes called sunshine squash, is type of winter squash with firm green skin and vibrant yellow-orange flesh on the inside. It looks similar in appearance to a stout green pumpkin, which is why it’s often referred to as Japanese pumpkin in North America.
This unique type of pumpkin squash is a staple in Japanese cuisine and has a sweet flavor that is often compared to that of a sweet potato. It also has an edible rind and is usually prepared by scooping out the kabocha squash seeds, slicing it into thick wedges and roasting it with a bit of oil and salt.
It also makes a great addition to soups and side dishes and can be used in a variety of different recipes.
Although there are several similarities between kabocha squash nutrition and the buttercup squash nutrition profile and appearance, buttercup squash is a bit larger and more moist. However, kabocha squash can generally be used as a substitute for most other types of squash and can also be swapped in for some recipes that call for pumpkin as well.
There are several different types of kabocha squash available. The most common variety is called kuri kabocha and is made from seiyo kabocha, also known as buttercup squash.
Some of the other common types that are available include:
- Ajihei No. 107
- Ajihei No. 331
- Ajihei No. 335
Although each type offers slight differences in taste and texture, you can easily use the varieties interchangeably. You can also use any type as a kabocha squash substitute in your favorite recipes that call for other types of squash.
Kabocha Squash Nutrition
The raw kabocha squash nutrition profile boasts a good amount of several important nutrients, including fiber, vitamin C and vitamin B6, along with a low amount of kabocha squash calories.
One cup (about 116 grams) of winter squash nutrition contains the following:
- 39 calories
- 10 grams carbohydrates
- 1 gram protein
- 0.2 grams fat
- 1.7 grams dietary fiber
- 14.3 milligrams vitamin C (16 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligrams vitamin B6 (11 percent DV)
- 0.08 milligrams copper (9 percent DV)
- 79 micrograms vitamin A (9 percent DV)
- 406 milligrams potassium (9 percent DV)
- 0.19 milligrams manganese (8 percent DV)
- 27.8 micrograms folate (7 percent DV)
- 0.07 milligrams riboflavin (6 percent DV)
In addition to the nutrients above, the sunshine squash nutrition profile also contains some thiamine, magnesium, iron, niacin and pantothenic acid.
1. Supports Weight Loss
Many people use kabocha squash for weight loss, and for good reason. With less than 40 calories and 1.7 grams of fiber per cup, adding kabocha squash to your diet can be a great way to support feelings of satiety and boost weight loss.
Fiber moves through the digestive system slowly and keeps you feeling full between meals to help curb cravings. Additionally, despite its hard texture, the rind softens with cooking and can be consumed to take advantage of all the kabocha squash skin nutrition.
Plus, you can even try roasting kabocha squash seeds for a high-fiber, filling snack.
2. Improves Digestion
Because it’s rich in fiber, kabocha squash nutrition can be great for gut health. In addition to maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, bumping up your intake of fiber can also promote regularity and aid in the prevention of conditions like acid reflux, diverticulitis and hemorrhoids.
Fiber can also enhance the health of the gut microbiome, which plays a key role in maintaining overall health. In fact, research shows that the beneficial bacteria in your gut could potentially help improve immune function, nutrient absorption and heart health as well.
3. Stabilizes Blood Sugar Levels
High in fiber yet low in carbs, the kabocha squash glycemic index is relatively low, which means that it won’t spike blood sugar levels to the same extent as high-carb, starchy foods or added sugars. Not only can this be incredibly beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes, but it can also help sidestep some of the side effects of low blood sugar levels like hunger and fatigue.
Although research on the potential blood sugar-lowering effects is limited, one study out of Iran found that administering kabocha powder to critically ill patients with diabetes was able to effectively reduce blood sugar levels within just three days.
4. Rich in Antioxidants
According to a study published in Nutrition Research and Practice, kabocha squash nutrition is a great source of several key antioxidants, including alpha-tocopherol, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin. In addition to the flesh of the squash, the skin and seeds are also brimming with these important antioxidants as well.
Antioxidants are compounds that fight free radical damage and protect against disease. In particular, antioxidants may help ease inflammation and could help prevent chronic conditions like autoimmune disorders, cancer and diabetes.
5. Improves Bladder Function
Interestingly enough, some research suggests that kabocha could help improve bladder function and aid in the treatment of urinary conditions like overactive bladder, a condition characterized by the sudden need to urinate. In fact, one study conducted in Japan found that taking pumpkin seed oil extracted from squash helped improve urinary function in 45 people with overactive bladder after 12 weeks.
How to Pick and Recipes
Although it may be tricky to find at your local grocery store, kabocha squash is often available year-round at many farmers markets, health stores and Asian specialty shops. When picking a squash, look for one that feels heavy for its size and has a hard, green rind without any signs of spoilage like mold or soft spots.
There are many different options for how to prepare your squash. There are also lots of instructions and recipes available online for how to cut kabocha squash, how to bake squash and how to cook kabocha squash on the stove.
One of the simplest ways to enjoy kabocha involves simply slicing it in half, scooping out the seeds and roasting in the oven for 20–30 minutes with a bit of oil and your choice of herbs and seasonings. However, there are plenty of other delicious ways to enjoy this wonderful winter squash, from vegan kabocha squash recipes to curries, soups, stews and salads.
If you’re feeling creative, you can also swap it into any recipe that calls for pumpkin or other types of squash, such as acorn squash recipes, to add a hint of sweetness and flavor to your favorite dishes. Alternatively, try shredding it up and adding it to baked goods like muffins, pies and cakes to ramp up the health benefits.
Need more ideas? Here are a few kabocha squash recipe options to help get you started:
- Kabocha Squash Soup
- Kabocha Squash Curry with Lentils
- Whole Roasted Kabocha Squash with Cinnamon and Maple
- Kabocha Squash Salad
- Creamy Kabocha Squash Mashed Potatoes
Risks and Side Effects
For most people, kabocha squash can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy, well-rounded diet.
However, although very rare, some people may experience an allergic reaction after consuming squash. If you notice any side effects like itching or swelling, discontinue use immediately and consult with a trusted health care professional.
Additionally, because it can reduce blood sugar levels, you should exercise caution if you have diabetes or are taking any medications to lower blood sugar levels. If you are taking any medications, be sure to consult with your doctor before making any major changes to your diet to address any concerns.
- Kabocha is a type of winter squash with a sweet flavor that is commonly served in Japanese cuisine.
- The kabocha squash nutrition profile is high in fiber and important micronutrients like vitamin C and vitamin B6.
- Because each serving provides a low amount of kabocha squash calories and a hearty dose of fiber, it makes a great addition to a healthy weight loss diet.
- It’s also high in antioxidants and may help improve bladder function, enhance digestive health and support better blood sugar control.
- Like other types of squash, it is highly versatile and can be roasted or baked and used in a number of different recipes such as soups, salads, curries and desserts.