Health benefits of cucumber

Cucumbers have a mild, refreshing taste and a high water content. They can help relieve dehydration and are comfortable eating in hot weather. People eat cucumber as delicious food but it’s a fruit. It also features beauty products in some.

The cucumber is a member of the Family Cucurbitaceae. Other family members include squash, and various melon types, including bitter melon. Cucumbers contain various nutrients but low in calories, fat, cholesterol , and sodium.

Since ancient times , people in India have grown cucumbers for food and medicine purposes, and they have long been part of the Mediterranean diet.

This article looks at cucumber’s nutritional content, its potential health benefits, tips for eating or using cucumber and any potential health risks.

Benefits

The cucumbers’ nutritional profile can bring a number of health benefits.

1) Hydration

Image of cucumbers
The electrolytes in cucumbers can help prevent dehydration.

Cucumbers are mostly water, and contain important electrolytes as well. They can help avoid dehydration during or after a workout in hot weather.

The addition of cucumber and mint will make it more appealing for people who don’t like drinking water.

It is necessary to stay hydrated to maintain a healthy intestine, prevent constipation, avoid kidney stones and more.

2) Bone health

Vitamin K helps to coagulate the blood, and can support bone health.

According to the US Department of Agriculture ( USDA), a 142-gram (g) cup of chopped, unpeeled, raw cucumber provides 10.2 micrograms ( mcg) of vitamin K.

The American Dietary Guidelines 2015–2020 recommends an intake of:

  • 90 mcg a day for females aged 19 years and over
  • 120 mcg for males of the same age

Cucumber also has a calcium content of 19.9 milligrams ( mg). Adults require 1,000–1,200 mg of calcium per day, depending on age and sex.

Vitamin K helps to better absorb calcium. These nutrients will together lead to good bone health.

Vitamin D also plays an important role in bone health. Learn more.

3) Cancer

As a member of the plant family Cucurbitaceae, the cucumbers contain high levels of bitter-tasting nutrients called cucurbitacin.

Cucurbitacins can help prevent cancer by stopping cancer cells from reproducing, according to an article in the International Journal of Health Services.

A 133-g cup of chopped cucumber also provides about 1 g of fiber with its skin. Fiber can help guard against colorectal cancer.

4) Cardiovascular health

The American Heart Association ( AHA) notes that fiber can help manage cholesterol and prevent cardiovascular problems associated with it.

In addition, a 142-g cup of unpeeled cucumber contains 193 mg potassium and 17 mg magnesium. The Dietary Guidelines suggest that adults, depending on sex and age, consume 4,700 mg of potassium perday and 310–410 mg of magnesium.

Reducing the sodium intake and increasing the intake of potassium can help prevent high blood pressure.

The cucurbitacins may also help prevent atherosclerosis in the cucumber.

5) Diabetes

Cucumbers can be instrumental in controlling and preventing diabetes. It contains substances that can help lower blood sugar or stop excessive blood glucose from rising.

One theory is that the cucurbitacins in cucumber help regulate insulin release and the metabolism of hepatic glycogen, a key hormone in the processing of blood sugar.

One study found that cucumber peel had helped manage diabetes symptoms in mice. That may be because of its antioxidant content.

According to the AHA, fiber can help prevent and manage type 2 diabetes, too.

Cucumbers on glycemic index (GI) score low. This ensures that they provide vital nutrients without the introduction of carbohydrates which can increase blood glucose.

6. Inflammation

Cucumbers have potential anti-inflammatory benefits. Inflammation is an Immune System function.

Experts believe that inflammation may help trigger the development of different health conditions , for example:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes
  • autoimmune conditions
  • depression
  • cancer

7. Skin care

Some work has indicated that nutrients from cucumber may be of benefit to skin health.

Applying sliced cucumber directly to the skin can help the skin to cool down and soothe, reducing swelling and irritation. It will help heal sunburn. They are placed on the eyes and can help to reduce puffiness in the morning.

Other tips on the beauty of cucumbers include:

Toner: Blend and sieve the cucumber to a natural toner to collect the juice. Leave for 30 minutes on the skin then rinse. Cucumber may have astringent properties, and the pores may be clear.

Face pack: Mix together equal amounts of cucumber juice and yogurt to make a face pack that helps to minimize dry skin and blackheads.

Cucumber is safe to use on most people’s skin. People should start with a small amount applied. If they’re not experiencing an adverse reaction, use is likely safe.

Nutrition

One 142-g cup of unpared, raw, chopped cucumber contains the following nutrients, according to the USDA:

  • water: 137 g
  • calories: 17
  • protein: 0.8 g
  • fat: 0.2 g
  • carbohydrate: 3.1 g, including 2.0 g of sugar
  • fiber: 1.0 g
  • calcium: 19.9 g
  • iron: 0.3 mg
  • magnesium: 17 mg
  • phosphorus: 29.8 mg
  • potassium: 193 mg
  • sodium: 2.8 mg
  • vitamin C: 4.5 mg
  • folate: 19.9 mcg
  • beta carotene: 44 mcg
  • lutein + zeaxanthin 22.7 mcg
  • vitamin K: 10.2 mcg

Cucumber also contains a number of vitamins B, vitamin A and antioxidants, including a lignan type.

Antioxidants help in eliminating substances known as free radicals from the body. Some free radicals come from natural processes in the body and some come from external pressures like pollution. If too many gather in the body , it can cause cell damage and various types of disease.

Studies have suggested that lignans can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer in cucumber and other foods.

Types

Hothouse, or English cucumber, is the most commonly available type of cucumber. It is large, with dark green skin, with few seeds or no.

Other types of cucumber according to one source include:

Armenian, or snake cucumbers: These are long and twisted with thin, dark green skin and pale furrows. People often use them for pickling.

Japanese cucumbers: These are dark green and narrow. The skin is thin with small bumps on it. People can eat them whole.

Kirby cucumbers: People often use these for dill pickles. They are crispy, with thin skin and small seeds.

Lemon cucumber: These are around the size of a lemon, with pale skin. The taste is sweet and delicate.

Persian cucumbers: Shorter and fatter than the hothouse cucumber, these are crunchy to eat.

The wild cucumber vine (Echinocystis lobata) is a fast-growing, North American native plant. It’s considered a weed by gardeners. Its fruits are not edible.

Tips

Choose crisp, firm cucumbers and avoid those with shriveled or withered ends. Store in fridge for up to a week.

After picking them, certain producers apply a wax coating to the cucumbers. Before storing, do not wash these but rinse them thoroughly or peel them before consuming.

People usually consume cucumbers raw. Their mild taste and refreshing crunch make them suitable for:

  • adding to salads or sandwiches
  • accompanying rich or highly flavored dishes, such as curries and stews

They pair well with a range of foods, including cheese, turkey, salmon, and nut butter.

Try the following:

  • Mix sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and feta cheese for a Greek-style side dish.
  • Jazz up water by adding mint leaves and cucumber.
  • Slice cucumbers into thick slices and dip them in your favorite hummus.
  • Blend cucumbers alone or other vegetables, such as carrots and celery, to make a juice.
  • Make gazpacho soup by blending with tomatoes, pimentos, garlic, onions, and bread crumbs and then chilling.
  • Mix with garlic, mint, and Greek yogurt to accompany a curry.

Risks

For most people, cucumber is safe to eat but there are some points to consider.

Digestive problems

Some people find certain types of cucumber difficult to digest.

One source suggests that most people can easily digest the conventional, large cucumber that is available in most grocery shelves.

Blood clotting

Cucumber has a relatively high vitamin K content. Eating too much cucumber can have an effect on how blood clots a person.

People who use warfarin (Coumadin) or similar drugs that thin the blood should not dramatically or suddenly increase their intake of cucumber without consulting a doctor.

Allergy

Some people have reported cucumber having an allergic reaction. Anyone with a known allergy should avoid all Cucumber contact.

Symptoms of a reaction include:

  • hives
  • swelling
  • difficulty breathing

If a person has trouble breathing, they need immediate medical attention. Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction which could threaten life.

Toxicity

Some cucurbitacins are harmful in consumption by humans. For example , eating bottle gourd has caused illness in some people.

People should:

  • avoid eating the plant on which cucumbers grow
  • only consume cucumber fruits that they know are edible

However, the concentration of cucurbitacins is unlikely to cause toxicity in everyday cucumber.

Should I go organic?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) produces a list of fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residue each year.

Currently the Cucumbers are sixteenth on the list.

The EWG has suggested buying organic cucumber to reduce the risk of pesticide exposure. A further option is to grow the cucumbers at home.

Growing cucumbers

People with a garden that gets plenty of sunshine and has well-drained soil might want to grow cucumbers. Thus, they may know which pesticides they have used, if any.

Home growing fruits and vegetables can also maximize nutritional value, as people can eat it as soon as they harvest it.

Plant cucumber seeds when frost is unlikely.

Takeaway

Cucumber is a refreshing, mild-tasting food that is easy to add to different dishes. Like other fruits and vegetables it is a good nutrient source.

Eating cucumber as part of a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle can offer a range of advantages.

Q:

Some suggest we should peel the cucumber in order to extract the pesticides and make them more digestible. Is this a smart idea, or is it energy wasting?

A:

One cup of chopped, peeled cucumber will provide similar nutrients with the skin on like 1 cup of cucumber. Although the skin will provide a little more fiber and nutrients, the differences are negligible.

Peeling a cucumber will help remove pesticides, but traces of pesticides may still seep into the middle of the cucumber. Natalie Olsen, R.D., L.D., ACSM EP-C

Answers represent our medical experts’ opinions. All material is purely informational and medical advice should not be considered.

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