For centuries, cucumbers have been well-loved. From a crunchy snack to a refreshing juice, it can be enjoyed in so many ways. It also works as a light garnish for a heavy meal. That’s not all, though. This vegetable has been on the radar of both ancient and modern medical professionals, thanks to a range of awesome healing properties. In fact, it even scored a mention in the ancient Sanskrit texts on medicine such as Shushruta Samhita and Shaligram Nighantu. The seeds, pulp, and the whole vegetable in both raw and ripe forms can be healthier than you think. Here’s what you need to know.
The Cool Cucumber
A cucumber is made of 95% water.1 In summer, the temperature of a cuke’s inside flesh can be 20 degrees cooler than the outside!2 It’s also one of the few vegetables that contain zeaxanthin and the antioxidant beta cryptozanthin, which are necessary for protecting tissues.3 To top it off, the cuke has a ton of other important nutrients that make it extremely healthy.
Know The Health Benefits Of Cucumber
Cucumber benefits the body is various ways thanks to its high water, high nutrient, and low calorie content.
1. Fights Cancer
The cucurbitacin and triterpenoids in cucumber are in the spotlight for all the right reasons. Specifically, recent studies are pointing to their anti-cancer potential. These chemicals hinder cellular pathways that cancer cells use to grow and survive, thus preventing the spread of cancer.4
The fisetin in cucumber is also a natural chemopreventive agent. It has the potential to stop the spread of several kinds of cancer, including melanoma and cancer of the pancreas, prostate, and lungs.5 It goes without saying that cucumber is a talented one.
2. Battles Insomnia
Can’t sleep a wink? Cucumber seed oil can come in handy if you have insomnia. The oil is useful in treating frontal headaches along with the associated pain and stress. In turn, this can help you get a good night’s rest.6 To use, simply massage some oil onto your scalp. You can dilute it with a carrier like coconut oil if your skin is sensitive. Folk remedies also suggest rubbing the vegetable on the soles of the feet to cool and relax the body, allowing you to easily slip into a slumber.
3. Wards Off UTIs
You can fight urinary tract infections, dysuria (painful urination), and urinary stones with cucumber. Their seeds are especially noteworthy.7 Since it’s full of water, this vegetable doubles as the perfect diuretic. It can help your system flush out bacteria and toxins through urine. So, if you’re prone to urinary tract infections, consider chowing down on cucumbers or making a fresh juice. It might be just what you need to replenish lost minerals, stay hydrated, and, most importantly, keep that urinary tract infection-free.
4. Holds The Body Together
Cukes are an excellent source of silica, a trace mineral that contributes to the strength of the connective tissue. This tissue helps connect, support, bind, and separate other tissues and organs in the body.8
5. Fights Anemia
The folic acid and iron content in cucumber may be surprising to you. A 100 gm portion of cucumber contains 0.28 mg of iron and 7 µg of folate.9 Therefore, eating cucumbers is a good way to get in these nutrients – especially if you’re tired of scarfing down green leafy vegetables. The same goes if you can’t eat too much meat due to high cholesterol or a vegetarian diet.10
6. Offers Antioxidant Power
Ever heard of free radicals? These are highly reactive molecules produced in your body during various metabolic processes. In excess, free radicals react with the components of cells, causing them to function poorly or even die. This can lead to diseases like cancer, stroke, heart attack, and diabetes. This is where antioxidants come in. These powerful substances protect you by fighting free radicals.
As it turns out, cucumbers have flavonoids and tannins, two powerful antioxidants.11 Animal studies also show that extracts of cucumber have the ability to reduce blood sugar and the harmful LDL cholesterol (by a whopping 86%).12
7. Provides Beauty Benefits
Thanks to the cooling effects of cucumbers, its derivatives are often used in cosmetics as skin-conditioning agents.13
Cucumber’s high water content can hydrate your skin and give it a glow.14 On the other side, cucumber contains ascorbic acid and caffeic acid, both of which prevent water retention. This is exactly why cucumbers can give you soothing relief for swollen eyes, burns, and dermatitis. Cucumber juice, an excellent source of silica, can also improve complexion and skin health. It’s a pretty good trade-off for an expensive facial.
8. Strengthens The Bones
The vitamin K in cucumbers makes them excellent for bone health. The bone needs this vitamin to improve calcium absorption, maintain general health, and ward off fractures.15 One 100 gm serving of cucumbers gives you 16.4 µg of the nutrient.16
9. Fights Tummy Troubles
If you have digestive issues, this one’s for you. Studies have shown that cucumber pulp has a gastroprotective property – that is, cucumber has the ability to protect the gastric mucous layer from aggressive agents. This may be exceptionally useful for treating ulcers.17
An animal study also showed that cucumber extract has a significant laxative activity thanks to glycosides, flavonoids, polyphenols, and terpenoids.18 19 This is how it reduces bloating associated with digestive irregularities.
10. Protects Your Brain
The anti-inflammatory effect of cucumber can do more than soothe your skin and stomach. It might do your brain a favor, too. The fisetin in cucumbers is believed to limit the damage from age-linked neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.20 Studies indicate it could even help patients keep their cognitive function intact.21
11. Can Help Reduce Fat
Several properties of the cucumber make it a welcome snack for weight watchers. Cucumber can help reduce belly fat. How? It has zero fat and very few calories, thanks to the high water content. It can improve your digestion and serve as a diuretic, flushing out toxins and reducing bloating. In an animal study, it could bring down the bad cholesterol by 86% and triglycerides by 72%. Cucumbers can also reduce blood glucose. High blood glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides make the unholy trinity that is linked to visceral abdominal fat.22
Keep The Peels On
To maximize nutrient intake, don’t peel your cucumbers. The skin is jam-packed with nutrients like beta-carotene, fiber, and vitamin A.23 Fully ripe cucumbers with a slight yellow tinge are considered to be the most medicinal. Cucumbers can also be juiced and mixed with apple, celery, or carrot juice to improve the taste.24 Whatever you do, keep the skin on. Hey, it’s one less thing you need to do in the kitchen.
Always Eat Organic
Despite their many talents, cucumbers should come with a disclaimer. These veggies are notorious for accumulating pesticide residues, earning them a spot in the top 12 most pesticide-contaminated foods in the United States.25 Try and stick to the organic variety.
Cukes, whether grown organically or traditionally, are usually coated with wax to prevent damage during transportation. However, unlike conventionally grown cucumbers, the wax coating in organic versions don’t have synthetic and harmful contaminants. As usual, organic is the way to go.26
|↑1, ↑9, ↑16||Cucumber, with peel, raw. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.|
|↑2, ↑23||Watch your garden grow: Cucumber. University of Illinois Extension.|
|↑3||Cucumber. The Louis Bonduelle Foundation.|
|↑4||Lee, Dhong Hyun, Gabriela B. Iwanski, and Nils H. Thoennissen. “Cucurbitacin: ancient compound shedding new light on cancer treatment.” The Scientific World Journal 10 (2010): 413-418.|
|↑5, ↑20||Khan, Naghma, Farrukh Afaq, Deeba N. Syed, and Hasan Mukhtar. “Fisetin, a novel dietary flavonoid, causes apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in human prostate cancer LNCaP cells.” Carcinogenesis 29, no. 5 (2008): 1049-1056.|
|↑6||Shah, Pritesh, Swati Dhande, Yadunath Joshi, and Vilasrao Kadam. “A review on Cucumis sativus (Cucumber).” Research Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry 5, no. 2 (2013): 49-53.|
|↑7||Changade, Jayashree V., and Anil H. Ulemale. “RICH SOURCE OF NEUTRACEUTICLE: CUCUMIS SATIVUS (CUCUMBER).” International Journal of Ayurveda and Pharma Research 3, no. 7 (2015).|
|↑8||Murray, Michael T., Joseph E. Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno. The encyclopedia of healing foods. Simon and Schuster, 2005.|
|↑10||Changade, Jayashree V., and Anil H. Ulemale. “Rich Source of Neutraceuticle: Cucumis sativus (Cucumber).” International Journal of Ayurveda and Pharma Research 3, no. 7 (2015).|
|↑11||Kumar, D., S. Kumar, J. Singh, B. D. Vashistha, and N. Singh. “Free radical scavenging and analgesic activities of Cucumis sativus L. fruit extract.” Journal of Young Pharmacists 2, no. 4 (2010): 365-368.|
|↑12||Sharmin, R., M. R. I. Khan, Most A. Akhtar, A. Alim, M. A. Islam, A. S. M. Anisuzzaman, and M. Ahmed. “Hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects of cucumber, white pumpkin and ridge gourd in alloxan induced diabetic rats.” Journal of Scientific Research 5, no. 1 (2012): 161-170.|
|↑13||Belsito, M. D., Ronald A. Hill, Curtis D. Klaassen, Daniel Liebler, James G. Marks Jr, and C. Ronald. “Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber)-Derived Ingredients as Used in Cosmetics.” (2012).|
|↑14||Lim, T.K., Edible Medicinal And Non-Medicinal Plants: Volume 2, Fruits. Springer. 2012|
|↑15||Vitamin K. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑17||Sharma, Swapnil, Jaya Dwivedi, Meenakshi Agrawal, and Sarvesh Paliwal. “Cytoprotection mediated antiulcer effect of aqueous fruit pulp extract of Cucumis sativus.” Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Disease 2 (2012): S61-S67.|
|↑18||Sharma, Swapnil., Yadav, Sachdev., Singh, Gyanendra., Paliwal, Sarvesh and Dwivedi, Jaya. “First report on laxative activity of Cucumis sativus.” International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences Review and Research, (2012).|
|↑19||Rahman, A. H. M. M., M. Anisuzzaman, Ferdous Ahmed, A. K. M. Rafiul Islam, and A. T. M. Naderuzzaman. “Study of nutritive value and medicinal uses of cultivated cucurbits.” Journal of Applied Sciences Research 4, no. 5 (2008): 555-558.|
|↑21||Currais, Antonio, Marguerite Prior, Richard Dargusch, Aaron Armando, Jennifer Ehren, David Schubert, Oswald Quehenberger, and Pamela Maher. “Modulation of p25 and inflammatory pathways by fisetin maintains cognitive function in Alzheimer’s disease transgenic mice.” Aging Cell 13, no. 2 (2014): 379-390.|
|↑22||Sharmin, R., M. R. I. Khan, Most A. Akhtar, A. Alim, M. A. Islam, A. S. M. Anisuzzaman, and M. Ahmed. “Hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects of cucumber, white pumpkin and ridge gourd in alloxan induced diabetic rats.” Journal of Scientific Research 5, no. 1 (2012): 161-170.|
|↑24||Lust, John. The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published. Courier Corporation, 2014.|
|↑25||Environmental Working Group “EWG’s 2016 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™”. 2016.|
|↑26||Cucumbers. George Mateljan Foundation.|