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.
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.
Contents of this article:
- 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.
Possible health benefits
Cucumber makes a refreshing snack and it offers a range of health benefits.
Fruits and vegetables of all kinds offer a range of health benefits.
The chemical profile of cucumbers is thought to give them a number of possible health benefits.
Consisting mostly of water, and containing important electrolytes, cucumbers 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.
2) Bone health
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.
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.
4) 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 cucurbitacins in cucumber may also help prevent atheroslcerosis.
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 minues, 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.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, 1 cup of raw sliced cucumber with peel, weighing around 52 grams (g) contains:
- 49.52 g of water
- 8 calories
- 0.34 g of protein
- 0.06 g of fat
- 1.89 g of carbohydrate, including 0.9 g of fiber and 0.87 g of sugar
- 8 milligrams (mg) of calcium
- 0.15 mg of iron
- 7 mg of magnesium
- 12 mg of phosphorus
- 76 mg of potassium
- 1 mg of sodium
- 1.5 mg of vitamin C
- 4 micrograms (mcg) of folate
It also contains thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, and vitamin A.
One cup of cucumber provides around 11 percent of the daily allowance for vitamin K.
Cucumbers also contain lignans. Research suggests that these may decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer.
Types of cucumber
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.
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.
Cucumbers are best consumed raw. They have a mild taste and cool crunch that makes them a great addition to any salad or sandwich.
Cucumber and mint make a refreshing addition to water
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 turkey in 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 onions to make a chilled gazpacho soup
Possible health risks
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.
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 outweight any risks of pesticide or natural poisoning.