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When you think about pumpkins you probably think about pumpkin pie, Jack-o’-lanterns and pumpkin spice lattes.

But the orange gourds are more than just Halloween decorations. Pumpkins and winter squashes such as acorn, butternut, hubbard, spaghetti and delicata are a great cancer prevention and cancer survivorship food. They are rich in carotenoids, which gives squash its vibrant range of red-orange and deep yellow colors.  Carotenoids function as an antioxidant by working to strengthen the immune system, maintain healthy cells and may inhibit cancer cell growth.  Winter squashes are an excellent source of vitamin A and good sources of vitamin C, potassium and fiber.  

How to incorporate winter squashes into your meals:

  • Add pumpkin to your smoothie, overnight oats or hot oatmeal 
  • Roast pumpkin seeds for a high protein snack or to use as a salad topper
  • Try butternut squash cut up and tossed into mac and cheese or tomato sauce (you can even blend it into the sauces)
  • Try acorn squash stuffed with quinoa and top with pomegranate arils
  • Bake spaghetti squash or roast any squash, toss with olive oil, garlic and parmesan to serve as a side dish

Or try this butternut squash crab sauce recipe:

What you’ll need:

  • 4 cups cooked fresh butternut squash or 1 bag of frozen butternut squash, 15 oz, cooked according to the package directions
  • 1 can white crab meat or lump crab meat, 6 1/2 oz, drained
  • 1 can whole plum tomatoes, 14.5 oz
  • 1 can Rotel or similar product, mild, 10 oz (For more spice choose regular Rotel)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped (hint: after chopping, let garlic sit out for 15 minutes to maximize its phytonutrient potential)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or salt to taste)
  • Food processor or blender
  • Large saucepan


  • Blend cooked butternut squash in a food processor or blender with 2 tbsp olive oil until smooth.
  • In large saucepan, place blended butternut squash, Rotel, tomatoes, and salt. Stir until combined. Add the can of crab (drain first).
  • Heat to a soft boil then reduce to simmer. Stir in garlic. Place on low heat and stir occasionally until ready to serve. Serve over spaghetti or linguine.

The recipe takes approximately 15 minutes to prepare and makes four 1 1/4 cup servings

This article was written by Moffitt's Kate Allen, RDN, LDN