The cucumber (Cucumis sativus), while somewhat underrated, is extremely nutritious and definitely worthy of celebrating. Usually grouped together with vegetables, it is actually a fruit, and a relative of both melons and squash.
Cucumbers have a rich and ancient history, and are thought to have originated in India thousands of years ago. These fruits are mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest surviving pieces of literature, which is set around 2500 BC.
The following are seven of the many reasons to keep delicious cucumbers stocked in your kitchen:
A hydrating and cooling food
These fruits are not only delicious, they are extremely hydrating. Cucumbers are composed of about 96 percent water. In addition, they contain essential minerals which help the body to replenish water lost through sweat, such as when you undergo intense exercise.
Dr. Susan Shirreffs, an exercise physiologist at Loughborough University, explains, “to be properly hydrated, you need to replace fluid lost from the body with one that’s similar to the body’s natural composition. Watery fruits and vegetables often contain levels of minerals and sugar that mirror this, so they can hydrate you more effectively than water alone.”
Cucumber also has cooling properties aside from hydration. It has been traditionally used to help relieve heartburn, and when smoothed onto the skin, may help to cool a nasty sunburn.
Rich in nutrients
Cucumbers contain beta carotene, several B-vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K, as well as the minerals calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. These nutrients combine to give your body and mind the support that they need to function optimally, along with free radical-fighting antioxidant powers.
Cucumbers are also rich in fiber, which promotes better digestion and a healthy cardiovascular system.
One of the polyphenol antioxidant groups found in cucumbers is known as lignans. When plant lignans enter the body, they are converted by gut bacteria into compounds which bind onto estrogen receptors. This action has been linked to a lower risk of certain cancers related to estrogen, such as breast, ovarian, uterine and prostate cancers.
A diet rich in plant lignans has also been associated with a lower risk of developing heart disease.
Other important anti-inflammatory antioxidants
Aside from lignans, cucumbers contain numerous flavonoid antioxidants, including luteolin, kaempferol and quercetin, as well as another antioxidant group known as cucurbitacins. These antioxidants provide the body with potent anti-inflammatory benefits, and have also been linked to aiding in the prevention of cancers and other chronic ailments.
On top of that, these fruits boast sterols, compounds which have been found to help reduce LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol levels.
Supports healthy detoxification
Thanks to their high water and fiber content, as well as their numerous antioxidants, cucumbers are a great addition to a detox regimen. As they have a slightly-sweet, mild flavor, they make an excellent base for superfood juices and green smoothies, which are both delicious ways to amplify your detox.
Great for making probiotic pickles
One of the most famous preparations for cucumbers is to brine and ferment them into pickles. In fact, there are specific varieties of cucumbers grown specifically for making pickles, which are usually smaller and thinner-skinned than other cucumbers.
Not only are pickles a delicious compliment to a nutritious lunch, they also provide the body with probiotics, due to the fermentation process. Probiotics are important for supporting healthy gut bacteria, which are key to both proper digestion, and the optimal functioning of the immune system.
Note: Not all pickles are fermented; make sure the variety you choose is fermented to enjoy the probiotic benefits.
Give your skin a healthy glow
Cucumbers have been used in beauty regimens for generations. Their cooling properties, antioxidants and rich mineral content nourish the skin, making it look vibrant and youthful. The tradition of placing cucumber slices on your eyes at the spa works to reduce puffiness, and can leave you feeling – and looking – more alert.
The silica found in cucumbers not only improves skin condition, it can also aid in strengthening your hair and nails.
The best source of fresh cucumbers – aside from growing your own – is your local farmers market. Just make sure they are grown organically, as you don’t want to be consuming potentially harmful pesticide residues.
-The Alternative Daily