Butternut, although not a very common sight in many markets around the country, is one nutritious fruit we should endeavour to include on our daily menu.
This yellowish coloured fruit when cooked tastes like pumpkin, and other than being delicious is rich in essential body nutrients.
According to Joseph Uwiragiye, a nutritionist at University Teaching Hospital (CHUK), butternut is rich in vitamin A, which is essential in facilitating growth in children. The fruit, he says, is as well rich in vitamins C, B1 and B6, which aid in protecting the body against diseases as well as enhancing the immune system.
Uwiragiye says the presence of vitamin A in the butternut helps in the nourishment of some body organs such as the skin and hair because it helps in the production of sebum which keeps such parts moisturised.
“Just like bananas, butternut is also good sources of potassium and sodium, which are vital in maintaining normal blood pressure. On the other hand, it is a rich dietary fiber which eases the process of digestion,” he adds.
“Butternut is a rich source of vitamin C which boosts the body’s immunity. Vitamin C also helps in repairing the skin, blood vessels and bones,” he says.
Uwiragiye points out that non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular and diabetes can be well kept at bay if one includes butternut in their daily diet.
“Another great method of making butternut useful to your health is by preparing it as a soup,” says Isaac Bikorimana, a nutritionist at Kibagabaga Hospital.
Bikorimana explains that butternut soup eases the digestion process and provides minerals and vitamins needed by the body. Butternut also helps in maintaining a healthy body weight.
“If one wants to cut some weight, butternut soup is a good option for them. Just like salad, a bowel of butternut soup daily can work wonders as far as cutting weight is concerned,” he says.
Bikorimana further notes that consuming butternut helps in reducing free radicals in our bodies and lowers the risk of getting cardiovascular diseases.
Uwiragiye also says the high content of potassium in butternut helps in controlling blood pressure because potassium lessens the effects of sodium.
“Being rich in beta-carotene and antioxidant components, consuming butternut lowers the chances of one developing asthma. And like carrots and sweet potatoes, ripe butternut is high in beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A inside the body and acts as an antioxidant that helps battle free radicals, reducing the load on the immune system and allowing it to work on other tasks to keep our bodies healthy,” he says.
Uwiragiye advises that patients of type 1 diabetes should consume butternut often because of the high fiber content which helps in lowering blood sugar levels.
Rene Tabaro, a nutrionist at King Faisal Hospital, explains that butternut seeds are as important as the fruit itself.
“To make the most of them, let them dry up well, and then mix them with salt and little oil. Thereafter, they can be roasted or baked. They are a good source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids like olive and peanut oils, which are essential in lowering the blood cholesterol levels,” explains Tabaro.
He adds that they are also a good source of dietary fiber that improves the health of the heart.
“Butternut seeds are rich in proteins, minerals and other healthy vitamins. In addition, the seeds are a good source of health-promoting amino acids and tryptophan,” Tabaro says.