Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is a fruit that belongs to the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae, which includes gourds, melons, and squashes.
Cucumber is one of the oldest cultivated crops and is believed to be originated in northern India. Today, cucumbers are one of the most widely grown crops in the world.
There are two basic types of cucumbers: slicing cucumbers and pickling cucumbers.
Slicing cucumbers are the most common type seen in grocery stores. They’re usually 6 to 9 inches long and have thick, dark-green skin. They are sometimes called “salad cucumber” because their flavor enhances the taste of salads, sandwiches, and wraps.
Pickling cucumbers, on the other hand, are not commonly found in grocery stores. They are usually sold at farmers’ markets and in specialty produce stores. Pickling varieties tend to be smaller and squatter than the slicing cucumber. One of the best-known pickling cucumbers is the small, bumpy-skinned gherkin.
Cucumber can be eaten raw with skin, such as in salads or used for pickles. The seeds are soft and edible but some people prefer not to eat them.
Cucumber is often regarded as a healthy food because it is low in calories but contains many important vitamins and minerals that makes it a healthy addition to your diet. Here are 15 health benefits of cucumber:
1. Fight cancers
Cucumber contains lariciresinol, pinoresinol, and secoisolariciresinol – three lignans that have a strong history of research in connection with reduced risk of several cancer types, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, uterine cancer, and ovarian cancer.
2. Control blood pressure
Cucumber juice contains potassium, magnesium and fiber, which are very helpful for regulating blood pressure. This makes cucumber especially beneficial for treating both low blood pressure and high blood pressure.
3. Aid in digestion
If you suffer from heartburn, gastritis, or acid reflux, fresh cucumber juice can be an excellent remedy. The dietary fiber in cucumber cleanse the digestive system and hence aid in digestion. Daily consumption of cucumber is also effective in the treatment of chronic constipation.
4. Control blood sugar
Cucumber contains certain chemicals that are needed by the cells of pancreas for producing insulin, a hormone which regulates blood glucose levels. Also, cucumber has a low glycemic index (GI), which means that it is less likely to cause a rapid rise in blood glucose levels. This can be beneficial for people with diabetes.
5. Keep your body hydrated
Cucumber has 96 percent water content that is more nutritious than regular water. This helps in keeping the body hydrated and regulating body temperature. It also helps in flushing out the toxins from the body.
6. Skin care
The high water content and the presence of certain compounds in cucumber makes it an effective natural skin care aid. Facial masks containing cucumber juice can be used for skin tightening. Ascorbic acid and caffeic acid present in cucumbers can bring down the water retention rate which in turn diminishes the puffiness and swelling under the eyes. Cucumber skin can also bring relief to the skin caused by sunburn or windburn.
7. Promote joint health
Cucumber is an excellent source of silica, which is known to help promote joint health by strengthening the connective tissues in the joints. It is also rich in vitamin C, vitamin D, and calcium, all of which contribute to a healthy joint.
8. Relieve gout and arthritis pain
Cucumber is a well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Thus, it can help relieve gout and arthritis pain by lowering the uric acid levels. A quick and easy remedy to treat arthritis pain is to take a mixture of cucumber and carrot juice.
9. Beneficial for teeth and gums
Cucumber juice is also beneficial for people with teeth and gums problems, especially in cases of periodontitis – inflammation of the gums. Cucumber is a good source of dietary fiber and this fiber massage the gums and remove bad bacteria from the teeth.
10. Nail care
The high silica content in cucumber also helps prevent your nails from splitting and breaking. It also helps to absorb calcium into the body, and therefore strengthen your nail too.
11. Get rid of bad breath
The phytochemicals present in cucumber help kills the bacteria in your mouth which are responsible for bad breath. To get rid of bad breath, just take a slice of cucumber and press it with your tongue to the roof of your mouth for at least 30 seconds.
12. Reduce cholesterol
Cucumber contains compounds called plant sterols that have been shown in clinical trials to reduce cholesterol levels. But, the greatest concentration of sterols is in the skin so be sure to eat your cucumber unpeeled.
13. Stimulate hair growth
Cucumber contains silicon and sulfur, two chemical elements that aid in stimulating hair growth and strength. For better results, try mixing it with the juice of carrot, lettuce or spinach. You can mix all the four vegetables as well.
14. Acts as a diuretic
The water content of cucumber acts as a diuretic. It encourages the elimination of waste products from the body through urination. Regular intake of cucumber has been shown to be effective in dissolving kidney stones and maintaining a healthy urinary tract.
15. Aid in weight loss
Due to its low calorie and high water content, cucumber is an ideal snack for those who wish to lose weight.
One analysis looked at 13 studies including 3,628 people found that eating foods with high water and low calorie contents was associated with a significant decrease in body weight.
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 the refrigerator as they are sensitive to heat. Uncut, waxed cucumbers will keep for several days. Cut cucumbers can be stored and wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 36 hours in the refrigerator. Avoid storing cucumbers near other fruits, especially apples, melons, bananas, and tomatoes, as this will cause cucumbers to yellow and deteriorate quickly.