You may be familiar with the phrase “cool as a cucumber”, which speaks directly of the soothing and cooling nature of cucumbers. They have a mild, refreshing taste and a high water content that helps prevent dehydration and lowers body temperature. Some people use cucumber to soothe sunburn. Cucumber also lowers the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases while promoting healthy skin and increased energy. Read on to know more about the health benefits of cucumber!
Cucumber is commonly known as “kheera” or “kakri” in Hindi. It is one of the oldest cultivated plants and is believed to have originated in the northern sub-Himalayan plains of India. At around 2000-3000 BC, Indian civilization started using it into their rich cuisine. About 4000 years ago, the cucumber was spread beyond Indian borders and moved through Greece, Rome, China and eventually became the fourth most widely cultivated food in the world.
Cucumbers are scientifically known as Cucumis sativus and they belong to the Cucurbitaceae or gourd family. The plant is a creeper (vine) akin to other members of Cucurbita family, that develops these cylindrical, edible fruits throughout the year.
Did You Know?
– There can be a difference of 20 degrees between the inside of the cucumber and the actual temperature outside
– Do not peel cucumbers as the skin is a great source of insoluble fibers
– Despite the similarity in name, sea cucumber is a marine animal and is not related to cucumber
– Cucumbers are 95% water, which helps in re-hydrating the body
Cucumbers contain antioxidants such as vitamin A, vitamin C, lignans, flavonoids and manganese, which helps in detoxifying the body. It also contains vitamin K, magnesium, calcium and potassium which helps promote bone health. Potassium also aids in lowering blood pressure. The phytonutrient, cucurbitacin present in cucumbers has shown to have anti-cancer effects.
Different varieties of cucumber are grown in different regions and they are usually eaten fresh or pickled. Cucumbers which are eaten fresh are called slicing cucumbers. Gherkin cucumbers are specially produced to make pickles.
Cucumbers are not only used raw in salads but in many other cooked dishes. For example, “Dosakayi” is an Indian curry cooked extensively in South India. Pickled cucumbers are eaten with meals for proper digestion. “Khere ke pakore” is a tea time snack preferred by many. “Cucumber cooler sherbet” is locally sold during summers as refreshments. “Khamang kakdi” is a popular salad eaten in Maharashtra. Chicken biryani is incomplete without a plate of cucumber raita!
Health benefits of cucumber
Let us have a look at some of the health benefits of cucumber
According to a 2010 research review, published in Scientific World Journal, scientists have found that the phytonutrient compound, cucurbitacin present in cucumbers has anti-cancer benefits. Cucurbitacins help in blocking the signalling pathways that are important for cancer cell proliferation and survival. Studies have also identified the presence of bioactive compounds called lignans in cucumbers that are associated with a lower risk of oxidative stress and chronic inflammation and thereby a lower risk of cancer.
Improves Brain Health
Cucumbers contain a flavonoid known as fisetin, which protects the brain by improving memory and preventing degeneration of nerve cells due to aging. Research has found that fisetin helps in preventing progressive memory loss and learning impairments in mice suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Maintains Blood Pressure
Cucumbers contain potassium which helps in maintaining the normal activity of the heart and reduces high blood pressure. Potassium proactively helps maintain the sodium-potassium balance in the body which helps in maintaining healthy blood pressure.
Cucumbers have excellent detoxing properties which helps cleanse the body by eliminating accumulated waste and toxins. The high water content of cucumber helps the kidneys flush out toxins easily.
According to some animal studies, fresh cucumbers help reduce inflammation. Cucumber accomplishes this task by inhibiting the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes like COX-2 and by preventing the overproduction of nitric oxide in situations where it could increase the likelihood of excessive inflammation.
Promotes Bone Health
According to University of Maryland Medical Centre, one cup of cucumber contains about 19% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K. The human body uses vitamin K when building bones and the effects seem to be especially important for elderly women suffering from bone diseases such as osteoporosis. Cucumber also contains calcium which helps in maintaining bone health.
How can you include cucumbers in your daily life?
Some of the ways to use cucumbers are as follows:
- Cucumbers can be eaten raw by adding them to salads and soups, especially during summer for re-hydrating the body.
- Cucumber juice is excellent for body detoxification, so it can be consumed after workouts for a clean digestive system and glowing skin.
- Rubbing raw cucumber on the face can reduce oiliness, acne and pimples on the skin as it unclogs the skin pores.
- Putting cucumber slices on the eyes can reduce dark circles and water retention around the eyes.
- You can eat cucumbers to cure bad breath.
- Cucumbers can also cure a bad hangover.
Often, some cucumbers may turn bitter due to the presence of an excess amount of cucurbitacins. Always cut the ends of the cucumber and rub them generously, to get rid of the excess amount of cucurbitacins.
Be it a day out on a sultry sunny day or a heavy workout session, cucumbers are there to hydrate you along with providing your body with the goodness of several important nutrients.
Disclaimer: Cucumbers are relatively high in vitamin K therefore, excessive consumption of cucumber can have an effect on blood clotting. People who use warfarin, coumadin or similar blood-thinning drugs, should be careful of their consumption.
100gms of unpeeled cucumber provides 16 calories.
Percentage daily value of vitamin- Vitamin A-2%,Vitamin C-4%,Iron-1%,Magnesium-3%,Calcium-1% (based on a 2,000 calorie diet)