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Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Asparagus

In the summer, I am a salad phenom. But come the cold months, that salad spinner enjoys an off-season and I enjoy roasted vegetables on an almost daily basis. This dish is just one variation on a very-adaptable theme: toss vegetables in extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with some salt, and roast at 425 degrees until they are done to your liking. Of course, you can add herbs or garlic to add complexity, but the simple flavors of roasted-to-perfection vegetables and olive oil are wonderful and rich enough for me!

The three vegetables in this colorful dish pack some potent nutritional benefits.

Brussels Sprouts are rich in antioxidant vitamin C and packed with vitamin K, which helps with proper blood clotting. They provide a lot of belly-filling, cholesterol removing fiber, too. Compounds extracted from Brussels sprouts have been shown to prevent oxidative DNA damage (1,2,3). Brussels sprouts contain a glucosinolate known as sinigrin. Sinigrin and it’s metabolite, allyl isthiocyanate (AITC) have been highly studied phytochemicals for their anti-cancer potential. AITC reduces proliferation of human cancer cells, and helps block cancer metastasis by inhibiting of cell adhesion, migration and invasion (4). Specific research has shown that AITC causes both androgen-independent and androge-dependent prostate cancer cells to die (5). A downstream metabolite of AITC also has been shown recently to decrease bladder cancer growth by 40%, making these compounds interesting as potential future therapeutics for bladder cancer patients (6).

I could go on and on with the fascinating (to me anyway) research on isothiocyanates… but before I lose you, I’ll stop. Safe to say Brussels sprouts are really really good for you. Eat em.

Butternut Squash, like most other bright orange vegetables is a Vitamin A powerhouse. It also harbors ample amounts of vitamin C, potassium, manganese and as we learned in the last article, calcium (without too much oxalate). I’ve bet you’ve heard of beta-carotene, that bright orange pigment that also gives hue to sweet potatoes and pumpkins, which is converted in the body to retinol, or active Vitamin A.

But did you know that butternut squash also supplies the carotenoid lutein? Unlike most other carotenoids, lutein is not converted to Vitamin A. Lutein has been investigated for it’s neuroprotective effects, specifically it’s ability to prevent age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy (read: healthy eyes) (7). In  fact, large human trials have shown that the more lutein in your diet, the less likely you are to get cataracts (8).

Asparagus is technically a spring vegetable, but is available in late winter as well. New research indicates that asparagus may have some capacity to improve blood glucose levels in type-2 diabetes by improving insulin secretion and pancreatic cell function (9). Asparagus is also noteworthy as a source of the prebiotic fiber inulin, which promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria which assist our digestive systems.

Roasted Butternut, Brussels Sprouts, and Asparagus

Butternut squash, peeled (I used 1/3 of a large one)
Brussels Sprouts (about a dozen)
Asparagus Spears (about 1/2 a bunch)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt (coarse kosher salt if you’ve got it)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil.

2. Peel, scrape out seeds, and chop the squash. Quarter the sprouts. Cut asparagus stalks into 4-inch lengths or so. Combine everything in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil, stirring to coat. Transfer to baking sheet and sprinkle as liberally or lightly with salt as you prefer.

3. Roast for 20 minutes, then stir vegetables around with a spatula and return to oven for about 10 minutes more, or until vegetables reach desired brownness. Enjoy!

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  • Chuck January 15, 2012, 11:52 pm

    Georgie, I eat a ton of butternut squash and sweet potatoes and have been told I am beginning to look orange and have a fake tan look to me. Is this ok, or is there something bad about this??