Cucumber Health Benefits, Calories And Nutrition Facts
Benefits of cucumber include keeping our body hydrated and providing nutrition without adding extra calories. Here are some interesting cucumber nutrition facts and health benefits of cucumber.
By Sahana Charan
Many of us would fondly remember the cucumber face pack our grandmothers applied on our face to get rid of that stubborn teenage acne. Or, the freshly cut cucumber slices, sprinkled with pepper, kept on the dining table when we came home from school. At some point or the other, many of us would have experienced the healing and rejuvenating benefits of cucumber juice on our skin, face and body.
So, what is it about cucumber that makes it such a valuable and healthy fruit? As a parent, you may want to educate your child about the interesting facts and health benefits of cucumber.
From being introduced to America by Christopher Columbus to being a part of the special menu for the Roman emperor Tiberius, who insisted on eating it every day, the cucumber features in some fascinating tales of yore. Did you know that the cucumber is actually a fruit and not a vegetable and that it belongs to the gourd family? Having its origins in ancient India, where it was used in meals as well as in preparing medicine, the cucumber was taken to China and then to other parts of Asia, North Africa and Europe.
The cucumber plant (scientific name Cucumis sativus), is a creeper with large leaves and has fruits that are cylindrical. There are different types of cucumbers that are grown all over the world for eating raw, cooked or in pickled form. The most common ones are those used in salads and sandwiches, and have a mild, watery taste; some varieties may taste bitter. Cucumbers are also used in pickles, curries or stir-fries.
Here are some of the popular types of cucumbers:
- Slicing cucumber: This is the most common and readily found variety. These cucumbers are available in almost every vegetable shop. The skin of slicing cucumber is usually dark green in colour with a watery, lighter green flesh and many seeds. Some varieties may be light green on the outside. An example of the slicing variety is the Persian cucumber.
- Pickling cucumber: As the name suggests, these cucumbers are ideal for pickling and relatively small in size. They have thicker skin compared to other cucumbers. They may be pale or dark on the outside and slightly bumpy. The most common pickling varieties are gherkin and pickle bush.
- Snake melon or Armenian cucumber: These cucumbers are often long and curly. They are sometimes used in curries. They may either be light green on the outside or dark green with pale lines. The flesh is light green in colour, which may turn yellow on ripening.
- Malabar cucumber or dosakai: This type of cucumber is commonly grown in Southern India and used in a variety of dishes. The outer skin is yellow with dark green furrows and the flesh is white in colour, with many seeds bunched together in the middle. The dosakai has a mild taste and is not too watery like the regular cucumbers.
- English cucumber: Also known as burpless cucumber, this variety is longer than the slicing cucumber and can be eaten along with the skin. It grows up to two feet in length. The seeds are small and edible. The English cucumber tastes slightly sweet and is great for making salads.
- Lemon cucumber: This variety resembles a lemon and hence the name. The lemon cucumber has yellow skin and pale-coloured flesh. It has a fresh, mild taste and is used in pickling.
Cucumber: Nutrition value and facts
Cucumbers give instant energy, quench thirst and supply the much-needed dose of vitamins and minerals to our body. Mixed into a salad or raita, added to an energy drink or just eaten as a snack, cucumbers are a powerhouse of nutrition that can keep you and your children fit and healthy.
A medium-sized, raw cucumber with the peel is packed with essential nutrients including 11g carbohydrates, 2g protein, 48g calcium, 0.8mg iron, 39mg magnesium and 442mg potassium.
A large part of the cucumber is water, which is why it is great for hydration. Along with quenching thirst, this humble fruit provides dietary fibre and is a good source of vitamin C, K and A. Eating cucumber can help soothe an irritated bowel and improve digestion.
Cucumber calories: You do not have to worry about calories when munching on a cucumber. One cup of cucumber slices with the skin contains only 16 calories.
Health benefits of cucumber
In a research paper titled, ‘Evaluating the potential benefits of cucumbers for improved health and skincare’, published in The Journal of Aging Research and Clinical Practice, noted physician and wellness expert Dr Howard Murad says, “Cucumbers are literally one of the most versatile fruits as it can be used topically, internally and also for mood stability when modulating stress. Early research shows that its phytochemicals may provide cancer drug-enhancing activity while it staves off cardiovascular disease. In addition to its soothing properties and digestive benefits, cucumbers fortify cells so they may remain hydrated and work at the highest levels, and may slow age-related cellular deteriorations.”
Here are some vital health benefits of cucumber:
Hydration: During summer, you must have seen roadside stalls selling cucumber wedges smeared with chilli powder to give relief from the sweltering heat. Since 95 per cent of cucumber is water, it is the ideal snack to beat dehydration during the summer. Cucumbers not only quench our thirst and keep our skin hydrated but also provide important antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to our body.
Apart from including them in your salad, add a few slices of cucumber to a large jug of drinking water along with some lemon wedges and ice cubes. Sip this water throughout the day to stay hydrated in summer.
Bone health: Cucumber contains calcium which is necessary for good bone health. Also, the vitamin K present in the fruit helps improve calcium absorption, resulting in stronger bones and preventing fractures.
Cancer: Cucumbers have many health-boosting properties and recent research has shown that they can help fight cancer. A 2018 study, ‘Cucurbitacin D exhibits its anti-cancer effect in human breast cancer cells by inhibiting Stat3 and Akt signaling’, by Ku et al revealed that cucurbitacin D, a compound found in cucumbers and pumpkins, shows effects similar to the chemotherapy drug Adriamycin on breast cancer cells. Cucumbers are also rich in the nutrient lutein, which is known to have anti-cancer properties.
Cardiovascular health and diabetes: Cucumbers contain no fat and hardly have any sugar content. Moreover, they are low in sodium and are a rich source of dietary fibre, especially when eaten with the skin. This makes them the ideal food for combating diabetes and cardiovascular problems. One of the benefits of eating cucumber also includes gaining an important nutrient lignin which helps maintain heart health.
Skin: You must have often heard this piece of advice — keep slices of cucumber on tired and puffy eyes and get rid of dark circles under the eyes. The reason behind this is caffeic acid, a substance found in cucumbers that has an anti-inflammatory action. The vitamin C combined with this acid helps in soothing the skin and keeping skin problems at bay.
In their study, ‘Exploring cucumber extract for skin rejuvenation’, Akhtar et al concluded that a stable topical cream containing cucumber extract helped in brightening the skin and the formulation’s ability to decrease skin sebum content helped in getting rid of acne.
Cucumbers are often used as an active ingredient in many brightening, rejuvenating and anti-ageing beauty products. But, instead of buying expensive face masks and beauty creams, why not use the humble fruit for homemade face packs? These will do wonders to your skin and are free of the chemicals found in shop-bought cosmetics.
Here are some simple cucumber face pack ideas and cucumber face mask benefits:
- Cucumber juice and lemon: Mix some cucumber juice with a few drops of lemon juice and gently apply this mixture on your face and neck with some cotton. This will close open pores and rid your skin of tan.
- Oats and cucumber: In a blender, mix a handful of oats, about two spoonfuls of honey and an equal amount of cucumber juice to make a fine paste. Apply this pack on the face and wash off after 10 minutes to reveal smooth and visibly bright skin.
- Cucumber and aloe vera: Mix equal amounts of aloe vera gel and cucumber pulp for a face pack to soothe irritated skin, reduce sunburn and make the skin smooth.
Weight loss: Are you trying hard to drop the kilograms but finding it difficult to stop the constant snacking? Here’s an easy solution — replace the potato chips and fried peanuts with cucumber batons sprinkled with some chilli powder and see the difference. The fibre and water content of the cucumber will keep you feeling full for longer, so you will not be tempted to reach for oily and salty snacks. Cucumber and weight loss go hand in hand – so go ahead and have them if you want to shed some kilos.
Antioxidants: Cucumbers are a rich source of many antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin A, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, flavonoids and so on. These help in removing toxins and shield the body from free radicals, thus slowing down the ageing process.
A healthy diet rich with the goodness of cucumber will hydrate the body and protect you from various ailments. Ensure you include this versatile fruit in your salad, curry and juice to take advantage of its many health benefits.
About the author:
Written by Sahana Charan on 11 October 2019
Sahana Charan is an independent writer and journalist with an interest in writing about health and wellness, environment, urban living and child rights.
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