Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nutrition: Winter Squash vs Potatoes

Potatoes and winter squash are both starchy carbs, but there's a BIG difference in them nutritionally. Potatoes have been off my diet for several months, mainly because of the glycemic load, but I wanted to see how winter squash measure since I grew so many (and love them).

For the same weight of a baked white potato (nekkid) and a baked winter squash (also nekkid) the differences are significant where the glycemic index (affects blood sugar levels) and the IF (inflamation factor) is concerned.

Baked potato, 200g serving (that's between a medium potato and a large one)
Total carbs 42g
Calories 185
Protein 5g
Omega-3: 30mg
Omega-6: 86 mg
Est. glycemic load: 19.3 (Typical target is 100/day or less)
Inflammation factor: -119.3 (moderately inflammatory; Typical target is 50/day or higher)

Winter squash, butternut, 205g serving (1 cup)
Total carbs 21.5g
Calories 82
Protein 1.8g
Omega-3: 49.2mg
Omega-6: 28.7 mg
Est. glycemic load: 8 (Typical target is 100/day or less)
Inflammation factor: 165 (moderately anti-inflammatory; Typical target is 50/day or higher)

So, the same amount of winter squash gives me less than half the calories and half the carbs, a much better ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 essential fatty acids, a much lower glycemic load, and a significantly better anti-inflammation factor.

How to interpret the values: Foods with positive IF Ratings are considered anti-inflammatory, and those with negative IF Ratings are considered inflammatory. The higher the number, the stronger the effect. The goal is to balance negative foods with positive foods so that the combined rating for all foods eaten in a single day is positive. Experts vary on their recommendations for what your total glycemic load should be each day. A typical target for total Estimated Glycemic Load is 100 or less per day. If you have diabetes or metabolic syndrome, you might want to aim a little lower. If you are not overweight and are physically active, a little higher is acceptable.

To be fair, I also looked at the vitamin content. On the potato, only 2/3 of the amounts listed are needed to compare apples to apples (the potato values are for 299g of potato, whereas the butternut squash is for 205g).
Vitamins in 299g baked potato
Vitamins in 205g baked butternut squash

After adjusting the values of a baked potato by 2/3 for the weight difference, winter squash are higher in all vitamins except the B vitamins, and they are reasonably close even in B vitamins except B6, which I get plenty from garlic, cauliflower, cabbage, asparagus, broccoli, kale, mustard and collard greens, chard and Brussels sprouts.

I will NOT be growing white potatoes in my garden again. Winter squash are so much better for me, and so easy to grow!


  1. Thanks for the comparison!

  2. You are a good egg, giving people this worthwhile information!!! I want you to pat yourself on the back for doing this valuable work.

    1. Thanks. I always hope someone else gains some benefit from what I am learning!

  3. Very useful as my daughter wants an alternative health option for cottage pie

  4. Thanks this info is great, as my daughter is looking for a heathy alternative topping for cottage pie


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