15 Health Benefits of Cucumber
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 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 cucumber. 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 makes it a healthy addition to your diet.
Here are the nutrition facts for 1⁄2 cup (52 g) sliced, raw cucumbers 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: 8.53 mcg
- Potassium: 76.4 mg
- Magnesium: 6.76 mg
Health Benefits of Cucumber
1. Fights 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. Controls 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 may play an important role in regulating blood pressure, due to its natural muscle-relaxing ability. When blood vessels are relaxed, there is less resistance to the flow of blood and as a result, lower blood pressure.
The evidence is strong enough that the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure recommends maintaining an adequate intake of magnesium as a healthy lifestyle modification for preventing and managing high blood pressure.
3. Helps lower cholesterol
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. Reduces 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) and 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
Cucumbers are 95% water, making them an ideal choice when you need to stay hydrated.
Staying hydrated is crucial for carrying nutrients to your cells and flushing out bacteria.
Snack on fresh cucumbers after sporting events or heavy exercise to help replace the electrolytes and meet your daily fluid needs.
6. Improves digestion
Since cucumbers are high in water content, they help move food out of your stomach quicker and more easily, helping to prevent constipation.
The high fiber in cucumber can also increase stool frequency and ensures a healthy bowel movement.
7. Weight loss
Due to its low calorie and high water content, cucumber is an ideal diet for people who are looking for weight loss.
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 was associated with a significant decrease in body weight .
8. Supports 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) [8, 9].
9. Supports bone health
Cucumber are 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.
10. Get rid of bad breath
Fiber and water-rich vegetables like cucumbers can boost your mouth’s saliva production, which in turn helps wash away the bacteria that are responsible for bad breath.
To get rid of bad breath, take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds.
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 .
12. Skin care
Facial masks containing cucumber extract can be used for skin tightening. Cucumber contains polysaccharides, a type of natural carbohydrate, which create an invisible barrier on your skin to attract and retain moisture.
Cucumber also consists mostly of water that allows them to provide superior hydration to the skin. Keeping your skin hydrated is one of the keys to making skin appear smooth and young.
13. Promotes healthy hair
Cucumbers are packed with various nutrients that are good for your hair. They contain silica and sulfur, which stop hair fall and promote healthy hair. The vitamin A and C present in cucumbers also help keep your hair shiny and silky.
14. Keeps your nails strong
The high silica content in the cucumbers helps make your fingernails and toenails stronger and less prone to splitting.
15. Reduces wrinkles and puffiness around the eyes
Cucumbers are naturally hydrating and moisturizing to skin, thus making the outer skin firmer and keeping wrinkles at bay.
In addition, cucumbers contain ascorbic acid and caffeic acid. Both of these are anti-inflammatory substances that help get rid of puffiness around the eyes.
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.