Cucumbers are extremely beneficial for overall health, especially during the summer since they are mostly made of water and important nutrients that are essential for the human body. The flesh of cucumbers is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and folic acid, while the hard skin is rich in fiber and a range of minerals including magnesium, molybdenum, and potassium. Additionally, cucumber contains silica, a trace mineral that contributes greatly to strengthening our connective tissues. They are known to heal many skin problems, under eye swelling, and sunburn. Cucumbers also contain ascorbic and caffeic acids which prevent water loss, therefore they are frequently applied topically to burns and dermatitis.
What is Cucumber?
Cucumber is a fruit from the Cucurbitaceae family. Scientifically known as Cucumis sativus, it belongs to the same family as zucchini, watermelon, pumpkin, and other types of summer squash. The plant where cucumber grows is a creeping vine that develops these cylindrical, edible fruits throughout the year.
You will find different varieties of cucumber grown in different regions, and they are usually eaten fresh or pickled. Cucumbers, typically eaten fresh, are called slicing cucumbers. Gherkin cucumbers are specially produced to make pickles. These are much smaller in size than the slicing ones. Slicing cucumbers are available throughout the year, but they are at their best between May and July.
Cucumbers originated in India almost 10,000 years ago, but are now cultivated in many countries. Different varieties of cucumbers are traded in the international market and you will find them in abundance all year long.
In the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, and Rome, the cucumber was very popular, and its uses were not limited to just being food. It was also praised for its beneficial effects on the skin. Louis XIV cherished cucumbers greatly and the process of cultivating them in greenhouses was invented during his time to make sure he was able to have a steady supply of the enjoyable fruit during any season. The American colonists also took this variety of crunchy and healthy squash to the United States.
It is still unknown when cucumbers began to be used for pickling, but researchers have speculated that the gherkin variety of cucumber was developed from a native African plant. Spain was one of the countries, during ancient times, that started pickling cucumbers since Roman emperors imported them from this Mediterranean country.
Features and Varieties of Cucumbers
You are probably familiar with the phrase “cool as a cucumber”, which speaks directly to the soothing and cooling nature that cucumbers have when eaten. These fruits are grown mainly to be eaten fresh, and in India, you will often find sliced cucumbers being sold on sunny afternoons. They are usually cylindrical in shape and vary in length from about six to nine inches. However, the size of cucumbers varies according to a variety of cultivating factors as well.
The skin of the cucumbers can vary in color from green to white, and sometimes it may be smooth or ridged depending on the variety. Inside the cucumber skin, you will find pale green flesh that is thick yet aqueous and crispy at the same time. The interior core of cucumber has numerous, edible fleshy seeds.
Many cucumber varieties are also grown in greenhouses; they are seedless with thinner skin and a longer length, usually between 12 and 20 inches. Often known as “burpless”, this variety of cucumber is bought by a majority, since it is easier to digest than the other kinds of cucumbers.
Health Benefits of Cucumbers
The health benefits of cucumber are not widely known in many cultures. The taste of fresh cucumber is somewhat bland in comparison to other squashes, but the thirst quenching and the cooling qualities of this squash are truly refreshing. Cucumber benefits range from preventing acidity to keeping skin well-toned.
Cucumber is rich in silica, which is an essential component that aids in developing strong and healthy connective tissues in the muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and bones. Doctors often recommend cucumber juice because of the silica content for a healthier and brighter skin. Cucumber’s high water content makes it naturally hydrating, and it is well known that moisture is the best friend to healthy skin, so why not acquire the hydration naturally! The extract of cucumbers is often used topically for treating various types of skin ailments like sunburn and swelling under the eyes. Ascorbic and caffeic acid are the two vital compounds in cucumbers that prevent water loss from the body. These are some of the reasons why cucumbers are applied topically for various skin problems. You will be quite surprised to know that this squash also promotes healthy hair growth and can treat skin ailments like psoriasis, eczema, and acne.
Prevent Constipation & Kidney Stones
Cucumbers are a perfect blend of both fiber and water. Therefore, they help to protect your body from constipation and kidney stones. Reports say that a majority of Americans prefer to have a cucumber rich salad regularly as it is a great way to increase the fiber intake. Cucumber is also a good source of vitamin C, silica, potassium, and magnesium; all of which have their own health benefits. These fruits have an extraordinary amount of water (about 96%) that is naturally purified, thus making the water content much higher in quality than ordinary water. Cucumber skin contains high levels of vitamin A, so you will gain more nutrition if you eat the entire thing.
Control Blood Pressure
The studies done at DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) consisted of people consuming foods high in magnesium, potassium, and fiber. The results were clear; their blood pressure lowered to normal levels. The group eating a diet rich in these complexes along with the other foods on the diet like seafood, low-fat dairy items, lean meat, and poultry saw their blood pressure falling by 5.5 points (systolic) over 3.0 points (diastolic). Cucumber, therefore, regulates blood pressure and contributes to the proper structure of connective tissues in our body, including those in the muscles, bones, ligaments, cartilage, and tendons.
Cucumbers have been used for diabetic patients for many years. They possess a hormone required by the beta cells during insulin production. The glycemic index (GI) of cucumbers is actually zero. The presence of carbohydrates and their result on the body is measured by the quantity of glycemic index (GI). Every food item contains essential nutrients in different percentages. The carbohydrates contribute to raising the glucose level, however, the ones present in the cucumber can be easily digested by diabetic patients. Thus, consumption of this cool fruit keeps the glucose level in check. Nowadays, most commercial stores have cucumber supplements as spiny sea cucumber extract powder, which is very effective in combating the effects of diabetes.
Maintain Overall Health
Cucumbers have excellent cleaning properties, and they actively remove accumulated waste and toxins from your body. These fruits are very good for optimizing urinary bladder, kidney, liver and pancreatic functions. Cucumber juice along with carrot juice is extremely effective for rheumatic conditions caused by excessive uric acid in the body. Drinking cucumber juice on a regular basis also helps cure gout and eczema. If you are having lung or stomach problems, be sure to add it to your diet. It also promotes muscle flexibility, while the magnesium content of cucumbers ensures proper blood circulation and relaxed nerves. Since cucumbers are rich in minerals, they even prevent splitting of the finger and toenails. Cucumbers often act as antioxidants when you consume them with barbecued and fried foods.
Cucumber has high alkaline levels, thus regulating the body’s blood pH and neutralizing acidity. People with gastric issues should consume cucumbers frequently.
Cucumbers help normalize body temperature during summer. Cucumber juice is a diuretic, so it is able to prevent kidney stones too. It can also counter the effects of uric acid, which prevents inflammation from conditions like arthritis, asthma, and gout.
How to buy Cucumbers?
Cucumbers are very sensitive to heat, so try to select the ones which are displayed in the refrigerated cases in the stores. Look for firm ones and check if the color is bright medium green to dark green. Avoid the yellow, puffy cucumbers that have water-soaked areas or wrinkled tips. You will find fewer seeds in the thinner cucumbers.
How to store Cucumbers?
Storing cucumbers in the refrigerator will help retain their freshness for a longer time. If the entire fruit is not used in one meal, then wrap the remainder tightly in plastic or place it in a closed container so that it does not get dried out. Try to eat cucumbers within one or two days of buying them or else they will become limp, especially if kept for more than a week.
How to cut and eat Cucumbers?
Cucumbers can be cut into various shapes and sizes and can be sliced, diced or cut into sticks. Cucumber seeds are edible and very nutritious, but some people prefer not to eat them. You can cut them lengthwise and use the tip of a spoon to gently scoop the seeds accordingly.
Cucumbers are commonly used in a number of recipes. You can use half-inch thick cucumber slices and serve them with chopped vegetable salads. Cut the cucumbers into a dice shape, mix them with sugar snap peas, mint leaves, and pour rice wine vinaigrette into the mixture.
You can also make an excellent purée with cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, and onions. Add salt and pepper for some extra flavor. Cucumbers give a fresh taste to tuna fish or chicken salad preparations. They can be eaten alone in their sliced form or with sprinkled salt and pepper. No matter how you eat cucumbers, you are sure to get a whole lot of nutrition from these truly “cool” foods.