Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is a fruit that belongs to the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae, which also includes gourds, melons, and squashes. Although botanically classified as a fruit, cucumber is often prepared and eaten as a vegetable.
Cucumber is one of the oldest cultivated crops and is believed to be originated in India. Today, cucumbers are one of the most widely grown crops in the world.
Cucumbers are usually cylindrical in shape and commonly range in length from 6 to 9 inches, although they can be smaller or much larger. Their skin ranges in color from green to white and may be either smooth or ridged, depending on the variety.
There are two basic types of cucumbers: slicing and pickling. Slicing cucumbers are the most common type seen in grocery stores. They are typically six to nine inches long and have a smooth, dark green skin. Slicing cucumbers are the best choice when it comes to salads and fresh eating.
Pickling cucumbers, on the other hand, are not commonly found in grocery stores. These varieties tend to be smaller and squatter than the slicing cucumbers. As the name implies, they are the perfect choice for making pickles.
Cucumber Nutrition Facts
Cucumber is often regarded as a healthy food because it is low in calories and contains many important vitamins and minerals that make it a healthy addition to your diet.
Here are the nutrition facts for 1/2 cup (52 g) of sliced cucumber with the peel :
- Calories: 7.8
- Water: 49.5 g
- Carbohydrates: 1.9 g
- Fiber: 0.3 g
- Vitamin A: 54.6 IU
- Vitamin C: 1.5 mg
- Vitamin K: 8.5 mcg
- Potassium: 76.4 mg
- Magnesium: 6.8 mg
Health Benefits of Cucumber
1. Prevents cancers
Cucumber contains compounds known as cucurbitacins that give the fruit a bitter taste. According to a study published in the International Journal of Health Services, cucurbitacins may help prevent cancer by stopping cancer cells from reproducing .
In addition, cucumber contains the flavonoid fisetin, which has been shown to have antioxidant and anticancer effects in cells and animal models .
2. Reduces blood pressure
Since cucumbers are high in the electrolyte potassium, they may reduce sodium-induced water retention and thus lower blood pressure.
Cucumbers are also a good source of magnesium which has been shown to help lower blood pressure. Evidence suggests that magnesium supplementation may reduce the incidence of high blood pressure.
An analysis of 34 trials found that a median dose of 368 mg of magnesium significantly reduced both diastolic and systolic blood pressure values in both healthy adults and those with high blood pressure .
3. Lowers cholesterol levels
Cucumber contains pectin, a naturally occurring type of soluble fiber that could decrease blood cholesterol.
An animal study found that administration of pectin extracted from cucumbers caused a significant decrease in both blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels .
4. Regulates blood sugar
Cucumber has been shown to be effective in controlling and reducing blood sugar levels. One animal study examined the effects of the vegetable peels from cucurbitaceae family, including the cucumber peel, concluded that cucumber peel extract can reverse diabetes-associated changes in mice with the disease .
Another study found that cucumber has protective effects in diabetes complications and can be considered a safe and suitable candidate for decreasing the oxidative stress that is typically observed in diabetes mellitus .
In addition, cucumber has a low glycemic index (GI), so it is less likely to cause a rapid rise in blood glucose levels, making it suitable for diabetic patients.
5. Promotes hydration
Cucumber is made up of 95% water, making it an excellent choice for a hydrating snack.
Staying hydrated is crucial in maintaining a proper body temperature, transporting nutrients throughout your body and keeping normal muscle function following exercise.
So, snack on fresh cucumbers after sporting events or heavy exercise to help replace the electrolytes and meet your daily fluid needs.
6. Improves digestion
The soluble fiber in cucumbers can help in preventing constipation by adding bulk to stools and allowing them pass easily through your intestines. Also, the high water content in cucumber keeps the stools soft and thereby improves digestion.
7. Helps you lose weight
Cucumber is an ideal source for people who are looking for weight loss, due to its low calorie and high water content.
A 100-gram serving of cucumber contains just 16 calories. This means that you can eat plenty of cucumbers without packing on the extra calories that lead to weight gain.
One meta-analysis of 13 different clinical trials, involving over 3,600 people, found that eating foods with high water and low calorie contents were associated with a significant decrease in body weight .
8. Maintains brain health
Cucumber contains fisetin, which plays a significant role in brain health. Few studies suggest that fisetin has the ability to reduce the impact of age-related neurological diseases on brain function, and may help maintain cognitive function in mice with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) [9, 10].
9. Supports bone health
Cucumber is a good source of vitamin K, providing 22 percent of the daily value in one cup of cucumbers with the peel.
This vitamin is essential for bone health, as low vitamin K intake has been associated with a higher risk for bone fracture. Vitamin K is also important for improving calcium absorption in the bones.
11. Relieves arthritis pain
Cucumber extract is effective in reducing the pain and stiffness of knee arthritis.
A study involving 122 patients (56 males and 66 females) diagnosed with moderate knee osteoarthritis over a six months period showed that those who took 10 mg of cucumber extract daily had a significant reduction of pain levels experienced by the individuals over time, and no adverse effect was reported during the trial period .
10. Prevents bad breath
The phytochemicals present in cucumber can help kill the bacteria in your mouth that are responsible for bad breath.
To get rid of bad breath, get a slice of cucumber and hold it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for at least 30 seconds.
12. Anti-aging benefits
Cucumbers contain both vitamin C and folate. Vitamin C has the ability to stimulate new cell growth, while folic acid aids in fighting off environmental toxins that can make your skin look tired or prematurely aged.
Additionally, cucumber can help reduce and reverse the signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles, thanks to the presence of manganese and potassium.
Add cucumber juices in your regular facemask to get rid of wrinkles and tighten your skin.
13. Promotes healthy hair
Cucumbers are packed with several nutrients that are essential for hair health. They contain silicon and sulphur, which reduce hair fall and promote hair growth. The vitamin A and C found in cucumbers also help keep your hair shiny and silky.
14. Nail care
cucumbers are also great for nail health because of their high silica content. It helps make fingernails and toenails stronger and less prone to splitting. Simply soak your nails in cucumber juice extract for 5 minutes.
15. Reduces wrinkles and puffiness around the eyes
Cucumbers have long been used as a remedy for puffy eyes. They contain ascorbic acid and caffeic acid, which helps bring down the water retention in the eyes. This will reduce the swelling and puffiness around the eyes.
Put some sliced cucumber in a plastic bag and chill them in the refrigerator. Place the chilled cucumber slices over closed eyes and keep them for about 10-15 minutes.
How to Choose and Store Cucumber
When buying cucumbers, look for ones that are firm to touch and brightly colored. Avoid any with soft spots, yellowing, or easily bent.
Store cucumbers in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 6 days. Do not put cucumbers in the coldest part of the refrigerator; they prefer temperatures just above 40°F (the temperature of most refrigerators). Cut or sliced cucumbers will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 days.
Avoid storing cucumbers with apples, pears, bananas, or other fruits with ethylene, as this will cause cucumbers to yellow and deteriorate quickly.