The cucumber belongs to the same family as squash and different kinds of melon. Cucumbers are high in water and low in calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium. They have a mild, refreshing taste and a high water content. They can be refreshing and pleasant to eat in hot weather and help prevent dehydration. It is eaten savory, but it is strictly a fruit.
Cucumbers have been grown in India for food and medicinal purposes since ancient times, and they have long been part of the Mediterranean diet. Depending on the type, cucumber can be sliced in a salad or eaten whole as a snack or to clean the palate after a meal. They can be consumed with or without the skin.
Cucumber also features in a number of beauty products. This article looks at the nutritional content of cucumber, its possible health benefits, tips for eating or using cucumber, and any potential health risks.
Fun Facts about Cucumber
- Cucumbers consist mainly of water.
- Some people use cucumber to soothe sunburn.
- Early research shows that a compound found in cucumbers might help fight cancer.
- Cucumbers contain lignan, which may help fight cardiovascular disease.
- Cucumber is a versatile food that can be added to a variety of dishes.
Fruits and vegetables of all kinds offer a range of health benefits. Plant foods, such as cucumber, have been linked to a lower risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, among others, while promoting a healthy complexion, increased energy, and a healthy body weight.
Cucumbers contain cucurbitacins A, B, C, D, and E. There are currently no current anti-cancer therapies that utilize cucurbitacins.
The chemical profile of cucumbers is thought to give them a number of possible health benefits.
Consisting 96.73% of water, cucumbers are a source of potassium and also contain phosphorus, magnesium, and a small amount of calcium. They can help prevent dehydration during the hot summer months or during and after a workout.
Adding cucumber and mint to water can increase water consumption by making it more attractive to drink. Dehydration is important for many things including maintaining a healthy intestine, preventing constipation, and avoiding kidney stones.
2) Bone Health
A sufficient intake of vitamin K has been associated with healthy bones that are less likely to fracture.
One cup of cucumber provides 8.5 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K. The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) recommends that women aged 19 years and over consume 90 mcg of vitamin K each day, and men 120 mcg. It also contains calcium. Vitamin K helps improve calcium absorption. Together, these nutrients contribute to good bone health.
3) Weight Loss
Cucumbers could potentially help you lose weight in a few different ways.
First of all, they are low in calories. Each one-cup (104-gram) serving contains just 16 calories, while an entire 11-ounce (300-gram) cucumber contains only 45 calories.
This means that you can eat plenty of cucumbers without packing on the extra calories that lead to weight gain. Cucumbers can add freshness and flavor to salads, sandwiches and side dishes and may also be used as a replacement for higher-calorie alternatives.
Furthermore, the high water content of cucumbers could aid in weight loss as well. One analysis looked at 13 studies including 3,628 people and found that eating foods with high water and low-calorie contents was associated with a significant decrease in body weight
As a member of the Cucurbitaceae family of plants, cucumbers contain high levels of nutrients known as cucurbitacins, which may help prevent cancer by stopping cancer cells from proliferating and surviving.
Cucumbers contain cucurbitacins A, B, C, D, and E. There are currently no current anti-cancer therapies that utilize cucurbitacins. Laboratory research has produced promising results, but more work is needed to confirm their antitumor effects.
5) Cardiovascular Health
The American Heart Association (AHA) encourage people to eat more fiber, as this can help prevent a buildup of cholesterol and the cardiovascular problems that can result from this. Cucumbers are a good sources of fiber, particularly in the skin. They also provide potassium and magnesium.
The AHA also recommend reducing sodium and increasing potassium intake to help prevent high blood pressure. The cucurbitacins in cucumber may also help prevent atheroslcerosis.
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Researchers have concluded that cucumbers may help control and prevent diabetes. Cucumbers, like squash, gourd, melon, and other related foods, contain Cucurbita ficifolia, which may help reduce spikes in blood sugar.
Cucumber peel, too, has been found to help with symptoms of diabetes in mice. One theory is that the cucurbitans in cucumber stimluate insuline release and regulate the metabolism of a key hormone in the processing of blood sugar, hepatic glycogen.
They also have a low score on the glycemic index (GI), which means they provide important nutrients without adding carbohydrates that can increase blood glucose.
Cucumbers are believed to have anti-inflammatory benefits. Used directly on the skin, sliced cucumber has a cooling and soothing effect that decreases swelling, irritation, and inflammation. It can alleviate sunburn. Placed on the eyes, they can help decrease morning puffiness.
Cucumber beauty tips include:
Toner: Blending and sieving to collect the juice for a natural toner. Leave on the skin for 30 minutes, then rinse. This is said to have astringent properties and to help clear the pores.
Face pack: Mix equal amounts of cucumber juice and yogurt to make a face pack that help reduce dry skin and blackheads.
The type of cucumber most commonly available is the hothouse or so-called English cucumber. It is large, with a dark green skin, and few or no seeds. Other types include:
- Armenian, or snake cucumbers: These are long, and twisted. The skin is thin and dark green with pale furrows. These are often used for pickling.
- Japanese cucumbers: These are dark green and narrow. The skin is thin with small bumps on it. They can be eaten whole.
- Kirby cucumbers: These are often used for dill pickles. They have thin skin and small seeds, and they are crispy.
- Lemon cucumber: These are around the size of a lemon, with pale skin. The taste is sweet and delicate.
- Persian cucumbers: These are shorter and fatter than the hothouse cucumber. They are crunchy to eat.
Wild cucumber, or Echinocystis lobata, is a fast-growing plant that is native to North America. Gardeners generally see it as a weed. It is not edible.
Tips for Buying and Storing Cucumber
Cucumbers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Some cucumbers are treated with a wax coating after they are picked. Do not wash these before storing but wash thoroughly or peel before consuming. Avoid cucumbers with ends that are shriveled or withered.
Eating cucumbers may lead to many potential health benefits, including weight loss, balanced hydration, digestive regularity and lower blood sugar levels.
Cucumbers are best consumed raw. They have a mild taste and cool crunch that makes them a great addition to any salad or sandwich. Try the following:
- Mix sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and feta cheese for a Greek-style side dish
- Jazz up your water by adding mint leaves and cucumber
- Slice cucumbers into thick slices and dip them in your favorite hummus
- Combine them with cheese or sliced turkeyin a sandwich
- Cucumber juice, alone or combined with the juice of other vegetables, such as carrot and celery, makes a healthful and refreshing drink
- Puree cucumbers with tomatoes, green peppers, and onionsto make a chilled gazpacho soup
Some people find some types of cucumber hard to digest, but the conventional, large cucumber seen on most grocery shelves are sometimes known as “burpless,” because they are easier to digest.
Being relatively high in vitamin K, a high consumption of cucumber could have an effect on blood clotting. People who use warfarin, or Coumadin, or similar blood-thinning drugs should not increase their intake of cucumber suddenly without consulting a doctor.
Each year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) produces a list of fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residue, known as the Dirty Dozen. Cucumbers are high on the pesticide residue list.
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The EWG suggest buying organic cucumber to reduce the risk of pesticide exposure. Some cucurbitacins are known to be toxic. Consuming these could be hazardous. People are advised not to eat the plant on which cucumbers grow, and some fruits of the same family, namely the bottle gourd, have caused illness.
The concentration of cucurbitacins in the everyday cucumber are unlikely to cause toxicity, and their nutritional benefits far outweigh any risks of pesticide or natural poisoning.