If you’ve always considered cucumber a vegetable, then sorry to pop your bubble, but it is a fruit. Regardless of its types, cucumbers are high in nutrients as well as certain plant compounds and antioxidants that can help treat and prevent some conditions. Cucumbers belong to the Cucurbitaceae family that includes squash and different kinds of melon.
Also, cucumbers are pretty low in calories. They contain a good amount of water, making them ideal for promoting hydration and helping you lose weight. People in India have been growing cucumbers for food and medicinal purposes since ancient times.
There are hundreds of varieties and health benefits of cucumbers. We will discuss some of the top benefits of cucumbers along with their edible types. So, let’s get started.
Nutritional Profile of Cucumbers
One 300-gram of unpeeled, raw cucumber contains:
- 45 calories
- 0g fat
- 11g carbs
- 2g protein
- 2g fiber
- Vitamin C: 14% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 62% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 10% of the RDI
- Potassium: 13% of the RDI
- Manganese: 12% of the RDI
Varieties of Cucumbers
- Armenian Cucumbers
Armenian cucumbers are distinguished by their long length and thin shape. They are slightly variegated in darker and lighter shades of light green or a yellowish-green.
You can eat them raw or slice them for a delightful and crunchy treat.
Armenian cucumbers have soft seeds and thin skin. Hence, they don’t require seeding or peeling for eating.
- Garden Cucumbers
Garden cucumbers are the most commonly available variety in North America. They have relatively smooth skin, which is dark green. These cucumbers are slightly waxed when sold at grocery stores to retain moisture. For this purpose, it is better to peel their skin before eating them. If you want 100% organic, un-waxed varieties, you can get them at farmers markets. However, you may still want to peel the skin if it is thick or bitter.
Garden cucumbers have big seeds. Hence many recipes call for seeding them before using. Once you remove their seeds, they are perfect to use in any recipe.
- English (Or Seedless) Cucumbers
Also known as hot-house cucumbers or seedless cucumbers, English cucumbers are long, thin, and have dark green skin. You will find this variety wrapped in plastic at stores. Also, you can find the unwrapped ones at the farmers market.
English cucumbers have a mild (almost non-existent) flavor. They are known for their thin skin and having minimal seeds. Like Armenian cucumbers, seedless cucumbers are best sliced and eaten raw. Moreover, they are not suitable for pickling. However, they taste great in cocktails.
Gherkins cucumbers are very small – they are not even two inches long. If you want to use cucumbers for pickling, then gherkins are a great choice. This is because they can easily fit in a jar. They are quite popular in France, where their pickled form is known as cornichons. They make a classic accompaniment to pâté.
- Kirby Cucumbers
Kirby Cucumbers are also short and usually bumpy. Their skin color can vary from yellow to dark green. They are crunchy for eating raw as well as perfect for pickling. Sometimes, they are also sold under the name “pickling cucumbers.”
- Lemon Cucumbers
As the name suggests, these cucumbers look like lemons (yellow in color and round in shape. Unlike lemons, lemon cucumbers are sweet and don’t have the bitter edge that most cucumbers have. This variety of cucumbers have thin skins and minimal soft seeds.
They make an excellent choice for making delicious pickles and salads.
- Persian Cucumbers
Persian cucumbers are visually indistinguishable from fresh, unwrapped English cucumbers. However, the only major difference is that Persian cucumbers are available in a variety of lengths. Some are longer, some are shorter, and some even have slightly bumpy skin just like a Kirby.
Health Benefits of Cucumbers
- Keeps you Hydrated
The best thing about cucumbers is that they consist of 95% water, making them an excellent choice for keeping you hydrated during the summer. According to Eating Well Magazine, a cup of sliced cucumbers is as thirst-quenching as a glass of water.
Not just cucumbers are high in water content but also contain some important nutrients like magnesium and potassium. However, in very low quantities.
Cucumbers’ anti-inflammatory compounds help remove waste from the body and reduce skin irritation.
- Great for Eyes
If you think placing slices of cucumbers over your eyelids is vain and not much helpful, then it is quite the opposite. Cucumber slices and peels for your eyelids offer a lot more than cosmetic value. Apart from getting adequate sleep and taking measures to lower your stress levels, you can take some help from cucumbers.
Cucumbers have vitamin C and antioxidants (such as caffeic acid) that are believed to help promote healing. Therefore, putting sliced cucumbers on your eyelids isn’t a bad idea at all.
- Rich in Antioxidants
Antioxidants block oxidation in your body, a process that causes the production of free radicals. According to research, free radicals can lead to severe chronic illnesses, including cancer, heart, lung, and autoimmune diseases.
Fruits and veggies, including cucumbers, are rich in antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of these conditions.
A study was conducted to measure the antioxidant power of cucumbers. In this study, researchers supplemented 30 older adults with cucumber powder for 30 days. After a month, a significant increase in several markers of antioxidant activity was noticed due to the consumption of cucumber powder.
However, one thing to keep in mind here is that cucumber powder used in this research had a greater dose of antioxidants than a typical serving of cucumber.
- Magical for Your Skin
As already mentioned above, cucumbers are great for your eyes as well as skin. This is the reason why people at a spa are seen relaxing with cucumber slices over their eyelids. Cucumbers have a cooling and soothing effect that decreases irritation,inflammation, and swelling when used topically.
If your eyes look puffy every morning, then put slices of cucumbers on the eyes to decrease puffiness and even treat sunburn by placing them on the affected areas. A preliminary research also found out that cucumbers can help prevent wrinkles and slow down aging to some extent.
- Promote Bone Health
Vitamin K present in cucumbers can help with blood clotting, hence supporting bone health. The best thing is that 142g of chopped, raw cucumbers contain about 10.2mcg of vitamin K.
According to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is recommended that females aged 19 years and over should consume 90mcg of vitamin K, while males of the same age should take 120mcg of vitamin K a day.
Besides containing vitamin K, cucumbers also provide us with 19.9 milligrams of calcium.
- May Aid in Weight Loss
Cucumbers can help you shred some pounds from your body in a few different ways. First, they are quite low in calories – one cup of cucumbers (104 grams) contains just 16 calories, while a large cucumber of 300 grams contains only 45 calories. You can eat them to fill your stomach while not stuffing yourself with extra calories.
You can also use cucumbers as a replacement for higher-calorie alternatives in your everyday diet. Furthermore, the high content of water in cucumbers also plays a vital role in weight loss.
- Improves Digestive Health
Hydration is essential for healthy digestion, and the great thing is that cucumbers provide you with enough water content to keep you hydrated. In addition to its water content, cucumbers also contain some amount of fiber that aids in digestion. Furthermore, it helps eliminate toxins from your body.
- Improves Brain Health and Memory
According to a 2013 review in the journal Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, cucumbers are a good source of fisetin. Fisetin is associated with protecting nerve cells, which helps in decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s in mice and improving memory. The same review also found promising results in the relationship between fisetin and cancer prevention.
- Cancer Prevention
As cucumbers belong to the Cucurbitaceae family of plants, they contain high levels of bitter-tasting nutrients that are known as cucurbitacin.
According to an article published in the International Journal of Health Services, cucurbitacin can help prevent cancer by stopping cancerous cells from reproducing.
Moreover, according to research, a 133g of chopped cucumbers (with skin) provides 1 gram of fiber, which can help protect against colorectal cancer.
Buying and Storing Tips
- When buying cucumbers, always go for the ones that are crisp and firm. Don’t buy those cucumbers that have withered or shriveled ends.
- Make sure to wash cucumbers before using them as some producers may apply a wax coating on them before sending them to the supermarkets.
- Don’t wash before storing them. You should rinse thoroughly or peel before consuming them.
- Mix cucumbers with garlic, mint, and Greek yogurt and serve them with a curry
- Prepare detox water by adding mint leaves, lemons, and cucumbers.
- Make a juice of cucumber alone or by blending it with other veggies, such as carrots and celery.
- To prepare a Greek-style side dish, mix some sliced cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, and feta.
- Slice a cucumber into thick slices and dip them in the hummus of your choice.
Risks of Eating Cucumbers
Although cucumber is the least nutritious fruit, there can be a few risks of eating them. One of the major risks of consuming them is that their exposure to pesticide residue is high. Moreover, some producers might wax the cucumbers to help protect them during shipping.
According to World’s Healthiest Foods, both conventionally grown and organic cucumbers may be waxed, but the organic ones should only use wax that is non-synthetic and includes chemicals that are approved under organic regulations.
Cucumbers are a refreshing, soothing, hydrating, and incredibly versatile addition to any diet. Although they are quite low on calories, they contain some important vitamins and minerals. Eating cucumbers can help provide you the benefits that we have mentioned above and more. You can include cucumbers in your diet and lifestyle to have a range of benefits. Stay Healthy.