Health Benefits of Cucumber

Cucumber is easy to grow. Varieties, varying in size, shape, and color, are cultivated all around the world. In general, the fruit features dark-green skin, crispy moisture rich flesh, and small edible seeds concentrated at its core.

As in other squash members, cucumbers too are best-harvested young, tender and just short of reaching maturity, at the stage when they taste sweet, have crunchy texture, and unique flavor. If left uninterrupted, the fruit continues to grow in size, its skin becomes tougher and turns yellow, and seeds become hard and inedible. Fresh cucumbers are available throughout the season and can be eaten raw as is or in vegetable salads or juicing.

One of the world’s oldest cultivated crops originated in India and was grown throughout Western Asia as far back as 2,000 to 1,000 B.C. [source: CHOW]. It might surprise you to learn that cucumbers are technically fruits — they contain the seeds of the plant — and belong to the same plant family as pumpkins, zucchini and watermelon [source: CDC]. Since cucumbers are more than 90 percent water, they contain no fat, almost no carbohydrates and very few calories, making them a popular diet-friendly snack.

All that water also gives cucumbers their unique refreshing quality, especially on a hot summer day. The phrase “cool as a cucumber” is actually a scientific fact: The inside temperature of a cucumber can be up to 20 degrees cooler than the outside air [source: CDC].

The two basic categories of cucumbers are slicing cucumbers and pickling cucumbers. Slicing cucumbers are generally larger than pickling cucumbers and have a smoother, darker-green skin.

There are several common varieties of slicing cucumbers. American slicing cucumbers are typically 8 inches long (20 centimeters) and slightly bulged in the middle. These cucumbers have more and larger seeds than other varieties, but are readily available in the summer months. American cucumbers are often waxed to improve their moisture retention and shelf life. Don’t worry, though: The wax is totally edible

  • It is a very good source of potassium, an important intracellular electrolyte. 100 g of cucumber provides 147 mg of potassium but only 2 mg of sodium. Potassium is a heart friendly electrolyte helps bring a reduction in total blood pressure and heart rates by countering effects of sodium.
  • Cucumbers contains unique anti-oxidants in moderate ratios such asβ-carotene and α-carotene, vitamin-C, vitamin-A, zea-xanthin and lutein. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes. Their total antioxidant strength, measured in terms of oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC value), is 214 µmol TE/100 g.
  • Cucumbers have mild diuretic property, which perhaps attributed to their free-water, and potassium and low sodium content. This helps in checking weight gain and high blood pressure.
  • They surprisingly have a high amount ofvitamin K, provides about 17 µg of this vitamin per 100 g. Vitamin-K has been found to have a potential role in bone strength by promoting osteotrophic (bone mass building) activity. It also has established role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in their brain.
  • It is one of the very low calorie vegetables; provide just15 calories per 100 g. It contains no saturated fats or cholesterol. Cucumber peel is a good source of dietary fiber that helps reduce constipation, and offer some protection against colon cancers by eliminating toxic compounds from the gut.

Cucumbers are readily sold in the stores all around the season. Fresh varieties, depending upon the cultivar type and region, as well as preserved, pre-processed, and pickled are also made available in these stores.

In the store, buy fresh ones that feature bright green color, firm and stout in texture. Look for spots, cuts or breaks over its surface. Do not buy overly matured or yellow colored since they tend to contain more insoluble fiber and mature seeds. Furthermore, avoid those with wrinkled ends as they indicate old stock and state of de-hydration. Go for organically grown products to get rich flavor and nutrient content.