Cucumbers: Nutrition, Health Benefits, & Recipes

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

Cucumbers can be beneficial for overall health and are particularly enjoyed during the summer months given their high water content. They can also contain important nutrients and antioxidants essential for the human body. Cucumbers’ flesh may also be rich in fiber and a range of minerals.

What is a 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. Cucumbers, typically eaten fresh, are called slicing cucumbers. Gherkin cucumbers are specially produced to make pickles (also known as pickled cucumbers). 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. [1]

The plant where cucumber grows is a creeping vine that develops these cylindrical, edible fruits throughout the year. Different varieties of cucumber are grown in different regions of the world.

Watch Video: 7 Surprising Benefits Of Cucumbers

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Fresh whole and sliced cucumber on a chopping board

Health benefits of cucumbers are linked to their high antioxidant content. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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 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. [3]

Nutrition Facts

Cucumber, with peel, raw
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]95.23
Energy 15
Energy [kJ]65
Protein [g]0.65
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.11
Ash [g]0.38
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]3.63
Fiber, total dietary [g]0.5
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]1.67
Sucrose [g]0.03
Glucose (dextrose) [g]0.76
Fructose [g]0.87
Maltose [g]0.01
Starch [g]0.83
Calcium, Ca [mg]16
Iron, Fe [mg]0.28
Magnesium, Mg [mg]13
Phosphorus, P [mg]24
Potassium, K [mg]147
Sodium, Na [mg]2
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.2
Copper, Cu [mg]0.04
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.08
Selenium, Se [µg]0.3
Fluoride, F [µg]1.3
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]2.8
Thiamin [mg]0.03
Riboflavin [mg]0.03
Niacin [mg]0.1
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.26
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.04
Folate, total [µg]7
Folate, food [µg]7
Folate, DFE [µg]7
Choline, total [mg]6
Betaine [mg]0.1
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]5
Carotene, beta [µg]45
Carotene, alpha [µg]11
Cryptoxanthin, beta [µg]26
Vitamin A, IU [IU]105
Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]23
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.03
Tocopherol, beta [mg]0.01
Tocopherol, gamma [mg]0.03
Tocotrienol, alpha [mg]0.04
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]16.4
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.04
14:0 [g]0.01
16:0 [g]0.03
18:0 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.01
18:1 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.03
18:2 [g]0.03
18:3 [g]0.01
Phytosterols [mg]14
Tryptophan [g]0.01
Threonine [g]0.02
Isoleucine [g]0.02
Leucine [g]0.03
Lysine [g]0.03
Methionine [g]0.01
Cystine [g]0
Phenylalanine [g]0.02
Tyrosine [g]0.01
Valine [g]0.02
Arginine [g]0.04
Histidine [g]0.01
Alanine [g]0.02
Aspartic acid [g]0.04
Glutamic acid [g]0.2
Glycine [g]0.02
Proline [g]0.02
Serine [g]0.02
Sources include : USDA [4]

Cucumber Nutrition

Cucumbers can be a rich source of antioxidants and various other nutrients, vitamins, minerals, energy, and water. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, cucumbers may be a good source of potassium, phosphorus, vitamin C, and K. They may also provide small amounts of iron, sodium, and B-vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B-6). [5]

Health Benefits of Cucumbers

Cucumbers may help in improving skin health, digestion and more. Let us take a look at the health benefits below.

Can be Rich in Antioxidants

Cucumbers can often act as antioxidants when consumed along with processed foods and high sugar foods. As per a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging, month-long consumption of cucumber powder can show improvement in the body’s antioxidant activities. This may help in fighting oxidative damage and can improve overall health. [6] [7]

Skin Care

Cucumber can be rich in silica, which is an essential component that can aid 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 healthier and brighter skin. Additionally, research in the journal Nutrition Review highlights the importance of fluids and hydration for skin health. Cucumber’s high water content can make it naturally hydrating. The extract of cucumbers may often be used topically for treating various types of skin ailments like sunburn and under-eye swelling, due to its rich antioxidant content. It may also be recommended to assist in the treatment of other skin ailments like psoriasis, eczema, and acne. [8] [10] [11]

May Prevent Constipation

Cucumbers can be a perfect blend of both fiber and water. Regularly enjoying a cucumber rich salad is a great way to increase fiber intake which can help in loosening up your stool. Cucumber seeds are also known to have cooling effects on the body, thereby can reduce the risk of constipation. [12]

Health benefits of cucumber infographic

Cucumbers give a fresh taste to tuna fish or chicken salad preparations.

May Control Blood Pressure

The studies done at DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet was developed based upon research from the United States National Institute of Health as a method that may help lower blood pressure. It found that consuming foods high in magnesium, potassium, and fiber can be the key. The same research also mentions cucumbers as a part of the potassium food group, thereby can contribute to controlling blood pressure. [13]

Can Manages Diabetes

A study published in the journal Bioimpacts in 2016 sheds light on the anti-hyperglycemic effect of cucumber. Cucumbers can be used for assistance with glucose control in people with diabetes. They possess a hormone required by the beta cells during insulin production. [14]

The presence of carbohydrates and their impact on the body is measured by the glycemic index (GI). Glycemic Index measures how carbohydrates contribute to raising glucose (or blood sugar) levels. Every food item contains essential nutrients in different percentages. The glycemic index (GI) of cucumbers is zero, meaning that it can be a good choice for diabetic patients and, thus, can help keep the glucose level in check. [15]

Nowadays, most commercial stores have cucumber supplements as spiny sea cucumber extract powder. It is thought to be effective in combating the effects of diabetes. [16]

Cucumber Recipes

Cucumbers can be cut into various shapes and sizes; they can be sliced, diced or cut into sticks. Cucumber seeds are edible and nutritious, but some people prefer not to eat them. Those that wish to avoid the seeds, can cut cucumbers lengthwise, and use the tip of a spoon to gently scoop the seeds. Cucumbers are commonly used in several recipes. Let us see how.

Cucumber sandwich: The simplest and tastiest way to add cucumbers to your diet is by adding them in between bread. Check out our cucumber sandwiches recipe here – Classic Cucumber Sandwich Recipe.

Regular cucumber salad: You can use half-inch thick cucumber slices and serve them with chopped vegetable salads. Cut cucumbers into a dice shape, mix them with sugar snap peas, mint leaves, and pour rice wine vinaigrette into the mixture.

Cucumber and watermelon salad: Cut the watermelon and cucumber into bite-sized cubes and garnish them with honey, olive oil, and more. Click here for full recipe – A Step By Step Guide To Make Watermelon And Cucumber Salad.

Cucumber water: Drinking cucumber water is a good way to keep yourself hydrated and improve your skin health. Look at how to make it here – Cucumber Water Recipe: The Popular Detox

Cucumber puree: 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.

Buying & Storage

Cucumbers can be very sensitive to heat, so aim to select the ones which are displayed in the refrigerated cases in the stores. Squeeze them for firmness (they should be) and check that the color is a bright medium 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.

Storing cucumbers in the refrigerator can 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 dry 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. If you’re trying to figure how to store cucumbers for a longer shelf life, head over to our article on the same which gives out a detailed guide.

Cucumbers History

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 may 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.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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