Cucumbers are a tasty food that is nutritious and hydrating.
They are mild, crisp, and refreshing in flavor and most often have a crunchy texture when eaten raw.
Not only that, they contain tons of health benefits.
Keep reading to find out all you need to know about cucumbers.
Table of Contents
- History & Facts
- Types Of Cucumber
- Nutrition Facts
- Health Benefits
- Ways to Consume
- Potential Risks
- Frequently Asked Questions
History & Facts
The cucumber, also known as Cucumis sativus, comes from the plant family Cucurbitaceae which includes other fruits and vegetables like watermelon, pumpkin, gourds, and squash.
They are believed to originate from India and western Asia around 3,000 years ago. They then spread to Greece, Italy, and then Europe. Today, they are grown all over the world. When they first originated, many thought they were poisonous.
Although many consider cucumber a vegetable, it is technically a fruit according to the botanical definition.
Did You Know?:Cucumbers grow best in the warmer months.
Types Of Cucumber
Cucumber is typically described as 3 different varieties: pickling, slicing, and seedless
Cucumbers to eat fresh are called slicing cucumbers. The type of slicing cucumber that is most commonly seen and available on the market is the hothouse or English cucumber. This cucumber is large, round, dark green in color, and will typically have minimal to no seeds.
Pickling cucumbers are created by pickling cucumbers with brine, sugar, vinegar, and spices. Cucumbers used for this process are typically Kirby, Armenian, and Gherkin cucumbers.
Other common cucumber types include Japanese, lemon, and Persian cucumbers. Persian cucumbers are very popular in North America and are typically shorter, fatter, and crunchier than other types of cucumbers.
Fun Fact:A single vine can produce as many as 25-125 cucumbers.
Cucumbers are made up of 96% water (1). But, other than water, there are plenty of nutrients in them too. To get the most out of the nutrients in cucumber, it is best to try to eat them unpeeled.
In ½ cup of raw cucumber with the peel, there are the following macronutrients (2):
- Calories: 7.8 calories (kcal)
- Protein: 0.3 grams (g)
- Total Fat: 0.05 grams (g)
- Carbohydrate: 1.9 grams (g)
- Fiber: 0.2 grams (g)
As you can see, cucumbers are low in calories and contain a large amount of water and fiber (3). This may make them food that can help curb appetite, promote hydration, and potentially aid in weight loss. To get the most fiber from the cucumber, they should be eaten unpeeled with the skin still on.
Summary:Cucumbers are low in calories and high in water content, as well as fiber which can help promote satiety.
Vitamins and Minerals
In ½ cup of sliced cucumbers with the peel on, there are the following vitamins and minerals (4):
- Calcium: 8.3 milligrams (mg)
- Magnesium: 6.7 milligrams (mg)
- Phosphorus: 12.5 milligrams (mg)
- Potassium: 76.4 milligrams (mg)
- Vitamin C: 1.46 milligrams (mg)
- Folate: 3.64 micrograms (mcg)
- Choline: 3.12 milligrams (mg)
- Vitamin A: 2.6 micrograms (mcg)
- Beta Carotene: 23.4 micrograms (mcg)
- Lutein + Zeaxanthin: 12 micrograms (mcg)
- Vitamin K: 8.5 micrograms (mcg)
Cucumbers are a great source of vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium (5). Additionally, cucumbers contain antioxidants like beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, and more. Antioxidants like these can help reduce harmful free radicals throughout the body (6). When free radicals are not efficiently eliminated, oxidative stress can occur, leading to issues like cancer, heart and lung disease, and autoimmune conditions.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, helps your body form collagen, which is important for healthy skin and connective tissue (7). This vitamin is also vital for wound healing and immunity (8).
Cucumber seeds are also very beneficial. They contain cucurbitacin E, which has been shown to prevent the growth of certain cancer cells by inhibiting their ability to spread and metastasize (9). This may be because cucurbitacin E blocks the growth of new blood vessels that allow cancer cells to spread throughout the body.
Again, to get the most out of these fabulous micronutrients in cucumbers, it is best to consume the cucumber unpeeled. Once peeled, the amounts of vitamins and minerals get reduced.
Summary:Cucumbers contain several important vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium.
In addition to the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in cucumbers, there are several health benefits of cucumbers. Let’s have a look at some of the prominent ones.
May Promote Weight Loss
If you’re trying to lose weight, there are a lot of different strategies you can try. But it turns out that cucumbers may be able to help in their unique way. Cucumbers contain water and fiber, which can make you feel fuller and more satisfied after eating them (10).
One medium-sized cucumber contains just 40 calories and has no fat or cholesterol (11) This makes it a great choice for those following a low-carb diet, as well as those who want to lose weight. Cucumber-based salads are a great way to get your daily serving of veggies without adding too many calories to your meal plan. They are a great replacement for higher-calorie alternatives.
For many dieters, weight loss is a goal that can be elusive. The latest research suggests one way to help dieters meet their goals may be as simple as eating cucumbers.
Researchers found that the participants who ate cucumbers lost more body fat than those who didn’t. While both groups consumed fewer calories than they would normally eat, the group consuming cucumbers also consumed more water.
While this study was not large enough to draw any definitive conclusions, it does suggest that adding cucumbers to your diet might help with weight loss.
Summary:Cucumbers are high in water and fiber, making them a great low-calorie food that may help aid in weight loss.
May Help Balance Blood Sugar Levels
Several studies have found that people who consume cucumbers tend to have lower levels of glucose in their blood than those who didn’t eat any. Furthermore, animal and test-tube studies have found that cucumbers effectively reduce high blood sugar and helped control sugar levels, which can be useful for those with diabetes.
Cucumbers contain a type of fiber called pectin, which has been shown to slow down digestion and reduce blood sugar levels after meals in some animal and test-tube studies. Pectin may also help lower cholesterol by interfering with its absorption from the intestine into your bloodstream (12).
Furthermore, some studies found a reversal of diabetes-associated changes and caused a decrease in blood sugar with consuming cucumber peel. Further research is needed to determine how cucumbers may affect blood sugar in humans.
Summary:Studies have found that consuming cucumbers may help to reduce high blood sugar levels and have an effect on diabetes itself.
May Promote Digestive Health
Studies have found that consuming cucumbers can help support regular bowel movements (13). This is because cucumbers are high in fiber, which helps to remove waste from the body (14). Additionally, dehydration is a big contributor to constipation and can make passing stools uncomfortable and difficult. Because cucumbers are high in water, they can help improve stools, preventing constipation and promoting regular bowel movements (15).
Cucumbers also contain a compound called lignin, which is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. The anti-inflammatory properties of lignin may help reduce inflammation in the intestines, which can improve bowel movements and overall digestion (16). Cucumber also contains pectin, a type of fiber that helps to regulate bowel movements (17). Consuming food with pectin has been shown to speed up the movement of the intestinal muscles, therefore promoting digestive health.
Another study published in 2018 found that consuming cucumber juice may help improve bowel movements. The study had 80 participants take either 10 grams of pectin or a placebo for two weeks. The researchers found that those who took pectin had an increase in intestinal muscle activity, which helped speed up their bowel movements.
Summary:Some of the different components in cucumber have been found to help promote regular bowel movements, improve stool motility, and prevent constipation.
Ways to Consume
Cucumbers are a crispy, refreshing food with a mild flavor. They are most commonly enjoyed raw or pickled and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.
Here are some ideas for incorporating them more into meals, snacks, and even as a drink:
- add them to your favorite salad by slicing them, peeling them, or dicing them into small chunks
- eat them as a snack on their own or dip them into fun dips like hummus, vegetable dip, or a tasty salad dressing
- squeeze lime juice on top of sliced cucumbers for a refreshing snack
- slice them and add them to your favorite sandwich
- eat them pickled
- add them to plain water for a flavor boost
- incorporate them with your favorite smoothie ingredients
- juice the cucumber and drink it as a beverage
Summary:There are plenty of ways to consume cucumber, in meals, snacks, and even with beverages.
Overall, cucumber is safe for most people to eat and part of a balanced diet, however, it can cause issues for some.
- Medication Interaction: Because cucumber is high in vitamin K, it may affect people who are taking blood clotting medications like warfarin. Warfarin is an anticoagulation medication, commonly taken for the prevention of blood clots (18). Cucumber contains a large amount of vitamin K. Vitamin K is most commonly known for helping to make proteins that are necessary for blood clotting (19). Consuming cucumbers, it may decrease the effect of warfarin. Be sure to talk to your doctor.
- Allergy: Some people may have an allergic reaction to cucumbers. Allergic reactions to cucumber may look like hives, difficulty breathing, swelling, and/or rash.
- Digestive Issues: For some people, cucumbers can be difficult to digest and cause issues such as discomfort, bloating, and gas. This is especially more common in those who have gastrointestinal medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Summary:Overall, cucumbers are part of a balanced diet. However, they can cause digestive issues and allergies for some and can interfere with medications like warfarin.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I pick a good cucumber?
Look for a solid green cucumber that should be firm when feeling them. Avoid choosing cucumbers that are shriveled on the ends.
How should I store a cucumber?
Cucumbers last the longest when stored in the refrigerator (20). They will stay fresh and ready to eat for about one week. Be sure to rinse them thoroughly before using them.
Did You Know?:The leaves and vines surrounding cucumbers contain a substance called cucurbitacins, which are toxic in some people and have been found to cause illness.
Cucumbers can be eaten fresh or pickled and enjoyed in a variety of ways. They can be eaten as a snack, used to add flavor to a variety of dishes, or added to water or juiced
Not only that, but they pack a ton of nutrients and water while being overall a low-calorie food.
Consuming cucumbers has many potential health benefits, including weight loss, lowering high blood sugar levels, and promoting digestive health.
Pick up a cucumber and start enjoying them today!