Cucumber belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family and just like all other members (Pumpkin, watermelon, squash, zucchini etc) of this family, this cool vegetable also provides many health benefits and has numerous medicinal properties. Cucumber constitutes of mainly water (96%), dietary fiber and many nutrients and hence is considered as an ideal diet food. They can either be eaten raw or in the pickled form. Pickling cucumbers helps to preserve this vegetable for a long period of time. Eating cucumbers on a hot summer’s day is a perfect way to stay hydrated and fresh. They are widely cultivated in many parts of the world and are also used in the various cuisines around the world.
Nutritional value of cucumber
Cucumber is a wonderful source of many nutrients and its consumption can help prevent nutrient deficiencies. 96 percent of this vegetable is made of water and it is a low calorie food. It contains some amount of dietary fiber and is loaded with several vitamins and minerals that are essential to the health of human beings. It is absolutely free from cholesterol and saturated fats. Cucumber is a wonderful source of many essential vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. It is also rich in a number of minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, iron and selenium. Cucumbers contain potent anti-oxidants such as beta carotene, alpha carotene zea-xanthin and lutein. These compounds scavenge the free radicals and protect your body against oxidation stress caused by these free radicals.
Health benefits of cucumber
When it comes to health benefits, cucumbers have not received the importance they deserve as opposed to many other vegetables. The presence of a large number of nutrients along with various antioxidant phytonutrients makes cucumber a very healthy food option. Here are a few reasons for including cucumber in your daily diet:
Cucumber has antioxidant properties
Cucumber is packed with numerous antioxidants such as vitamin C, beta-carotene and flavonoids, such as apigenin, quercetin, luteolin, and kaempferol that provide disease fighting capabilities. Antioxidants protect the body from oxidation damage caused by free radicals and also improve the immune response of the body. Quercetin prevents the release of histamine, making it a natural antihistamine. Kaempferol is known to aid in lowering your risk of serious diseases including heart disease and cancer.
Cucumber and skin benefits
There are numerous beauty products in the market that make use of cucumber as one of their key ingredients. It is a well known fact that this vegetable is used in facials and other beauty treatments. Cucumber helps in revitalizing and rejuvenating the skin. The pulp and juice of this incredible vegetable is used to improve complexion and also to add a glow to the skin. Cucumber is effective in reducing puffiness of the eyes. The caffeic and ascorbic acids found in it reduces water retention and lowers the puffiness and swelling around the eyes. The cooling and healing properties of cucumber can be used to cure sunburns. Placing cucumber slices on the eyes helps in eliminating dark circles. This vegetable is also helpful in removing blemishes and wrinkles. It helps in removing unwanted cellulite by pulling out excess fluids and tightening collagen.
Cucumber as an anti-aging food
Cucumber, with all its vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients are excellent in slowing down the aging process. The antioxidants fight off the free radicals and prevent oxidation damage, thus helping to reduce wrinkles, fine lines and other signs of aging. The silica in cucumber strengthens your ligaments, tendons, cartilage and bones, thus helping you maintain a youthful appearance.
Cucumber protects your brain
Cucumbers contain fisetin, an anti-inflammatory flavonol that helps in improving the health of the brain. It also helps in enhancing your memory, preventing progressive memory damage, protecting the nerve cells from age-related decline and preventing learning impairments. Cucumber contains vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that prevents oxidation of brain cells. It contains magnesium that helps to improve memory and focus. Potassium in this vegetable controls the electrical activities in the brain and improves memory and learning. Cucumber contains trace mineral called molybdenum, which is needed for motor control, memory retention and proper brain function. This mineral is also important for the enzyme functions in the whole body, including the brain.
Cucumber is an anti-inflammatory food
Studies reveal that cucumber contains substances that can inhibit the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes such as cyclo-oxygenase 2, or COX-2, thereby reducing unwanted inflammation. It also helps in preventing the excessive production of nitric oxide in the body, which may increase inflammation. As an anti-inflammatory food that helps in lowering inflammation in the body, cucumber helps in preventing inflammatory conditions like arthritis, asthma etc. Cucumber seeds also have anti-inflammatory effects, which is beneficial in the treatment of swellings that occur in the mucous membranes of the nose and throat.
Cucumber lowers your risk of cancer
The various polyphenols lignans such as lariciresinol, pinoresinol, and secoisolariciresinol, found in cucumber may help in lowering your risk of different types of cancers including breast, ovarian, uterine, and prostate cancers. This vegetable also contains cucurbitacins, which are phytonutrients that have anti-cancer properties. According to scientists, cucurbitacins have the ability to block the different signaling pathways that are needed for the development and survival of cancer cells.
Cucumber is good for your digestive system
The high amount of water and dietary fiber in cucumbers are found to be very effective in getting rid of the toxins from the digestive system, thereby supporting the health of the digestive system. The skin of cucumber is rich in insoluble fiber, which adds bulk to your stool and helps in the easy and fast movement of food through the digestive tract, thereby promoting regular bowel movements. Regular consumption of cucumbers can thus help in eliminating digestive disorders like constipation. If you have acid reflux, eating cucumber can help suppress the symptoms of this condition by altering the pH of the stomach. The seeds of cucumber are considered to be a natural remedy for getting rid of intestinal worms.
Eat cucumber to freshen your breath
If you have halitosis or bad breath, eat cucumber regularly, as it is a natural breath freshener. Cucumber increases the production of saliva, which washes away the odor causing bacteria. To get rid of bad breath, hold a slice of cucumber between your tongue and the roof of your mouth for a few seconds. The phytochemicals present in cucumber helps to get rid of the bacteria that cause bad breath.
Cucumber aids in weight loss
Eating cucumbers as part of a well balanced diet can help in attaining weight loss. Low in calories and rich in dietary fiber, this vegetable can make you feel full for a long period of time without adding an extra amount of calories. When you are filled up, your appetite reduces and you will be less likely to eat frequently or overeat. As a result, your total calorie intake is reduced further, thus enabling you lose to lose body fat. Eating cucumbers is a healthy and effective way to cleanse your body of all the toxins and to get rid of those extra pounds.
Cucumber and heart health
High levels of triglycerides in the blood can increase your risk of heart diseases. It can lead to the accumulation of plaque in the inner walls of the arteries leading to atherosclerosis. Cucumber contains certain substances that can lower the levels of triglycerides. Moreover, cucumbers contain good amounts of magnesium that promotes proper blood circulation. The potassium found in this vegetable helps in regulating blood pressure. These features of cucumber help in protecting the heart and preventing cardiovascular diseases.
Cucumber is great for bone health
Your body needs silica to maintain healthy and strong bones. It helps in the assimilation of calcium and also in the production of collagen. Low levels of this mineral can lead to bone loss, brittle nails and dry hair. Cucumber is a great source of silica and eating this vegetable can replenish the silica stores in the body. Vitamin K found in cucumber lowers your risks of bone fractures and aids in the absorption of calcium by the bones. In addition to these nutrients, cucumber is also rich in other bone benefitting minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
Cucumber for healthy kidneys
The high water content of cucumber makes it an effective kidney cleanser, helping to eliminate toxins, stones and debris from the kidneys and urinary bladder. According to studies, the regular consumption of cucumbers helps in regulating the levels of uric acid in the body, thus preventing the occurrence of kidney and bladder stones.
Cucumber can help in managing diabetes
Cucumber has low calories and a low glycemic index, which makes it an ideal food for people suffering from diabetes. It contains certain hormones which is important for the pancreas for producing insulin. Being a good source of dietary fiber and having high water content, cucumber helps in lowering your blood glucose levels. When the glucose levels in the blood are too high, water helps in eliminating the excess sugar from your body. Eating cucumbers can increase your water intake, thereby helping to lower your blood sugar levels.
Cucumber is effective in reducing hangovers
One way to get rid of hangovers and associated headaches is to eat cucumber. The high water content in this vegetable replenishes the nutrients and flushes out the toxins that are formed as a result of drinking alcohol. The electrolytes, vitamin B and sugar present in cucumber will help to relieve the hangover and headache associated with it.
Cucumbers have a refreshing taste, are low in calories and densely packed with health benefitting nutrients, making them an excellent nutritional option. Not only is this vegetable effective for beating the scorching heat, but it is also worthy of being called a super food owing to its effects on your overall health and wellbeing.Image Credits: Wikimedia- Muu-karhu