The power of cucumber

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By Okoronjama Ifunanyachukwu

Cucumber is a member of the cucurbitaceae family. Other members of the family include squash and different kinds of melons, and yes, that includes bitter melon.

Since ancient times, Indians have grown cucumber for food and medicinal purposes. Through various research it has been discovered that there are different types of cucumber, the most commonly available type of cucumber is the hot-house or English cucumber. It is large with dark green skin with little or no seed.

Other types are:

  • Armenian or snake cucumber: They are long and twisted with thin dark green skin and pale furrows. People often use them for pickling.

  • Japanese cucumber: These are dark green and narrow. The skin is thin with small bumps on it. People can eat it whole.

  • Kirby cucumber: People often use it for dill pickles. They are crispy with thin skin and small seed.

  • Lemon cucumber: They are around the size of a lemon, with pale skin. It tastes sweet and delicate.

  • Persian cucumber: Shorter and fatter than hot house cucumber, these are crunchy to seed.

  • The wild cucumber vine (Echinocystis lobata) is a fast growing plant that is native to North America. Gardeners consider it a weed, its fruits are not edible.

Pickles are cucumbers. They all start the same way as cucumbers. After cucumbers are picked they are washed and soaked in a pickling solution often made with water, salt, spices and vinegar.

Pickling is an instance of processing something in brine (salt water; water saturated or strongly impregnated with salt) or other solution.

Though it’s commonly referred to as a vegetable, cucumber is actually a fruit. It is high in beneficial nutrients, certain plant compounds and antioxidants that may help treat or prevent some health conditions.

Cucumber is also low in calories, 95% water and soluble fiber making. It is good for hydration and weight loss.

This article takes a look at a few of the top health benefits of eating cucumber.

Hydration

As mentioned earlier cucumbers consist mostly of water and import electrolytes. They help prevent dehydration in hot weather and after a workout. Staying hydrated is essential for maintaining a healthy intestine, preventing constipation and more.

For people who don’t like drinking water, adding cucumber and mint can make it more attractive.

Bone health

Cucumbers are packed with vitamins K, B and C along with minerals like copper, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium which helps with blood clotting; improve calcium absorption and support or contribution to good bone health.

Cancer

A cucumber contains high levels of bitter tasting nutrients known as cucurbitacin. According to an article in the International Journal of Health Services, cucurbitacins may help prevent cancer by stopping cancer cells from reproducing.

Diabetes

Cucumbers may play a role in controlling and preventing diabetes. It contains substances that may help lower blood sugar or blood glucose from rising too high. A theory suggests that the cucurbitacin in cucumber helps to regulate insulin release and the metabolism of hepatic glycogen, a key hormone in the processing of blood sugar.

Cucumbers score low on the score on the glycerix index (GI). This means that they provide essential nutrients without adding carbohydrates that can increase blood glucose.

Inflammation

Cucumbers have anti-inflammatory benefits. Inflammation is a function of the immune system. It is believed by experts that inflammation may help trigger the development of various health conditions such as: cancer, depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, auto immune conditions, etc.

Skin care

Some research has suggested that cucumbers’ nutrients may produce benefits for skin health. Applying sliced cucumber directly on skin can help cool and soothe skin and reduce irritation and swelling, alleviate sunburn. Placed on the eye can help reduce morning puffiness.

The cucumber can also be used as a toner and face pack.

Nutritional composition

According to the USDA, one 142g cup of raw, chopped cucumber contains the following nutrients;

  • Water: 137g
  • Calories: 17g
  • Protein: 0.8g
  • Fat: 0.2g
  • Carbohydrate: 3.1g (including 2.0g sugar)
  • Fiber: 1.0g
  • Calcium: 19.9g
  • Iron: 0.3g
  • Magnesium: 17mg
  • Phosphorus: 29.8mg
  • Potassium: 193mg
  • Vitamin C: 4.5mg
  • Folate:19.9mcg
  • Beta carotene: 44mcg
  • Lutein + Zeaxanthin : 22.7mcg
  • Vitamin K: 10.2mcg

Cucumbers also contain a range of vitamin A, B vitamins and antioxidants including lignans. Lignans in cucumber and other foods may help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer.

Bottom line

Cucumbers are refreshing, nutritious and an incredibly versatile addition to any diet. They are low in calories but contain many important vitamins and minerals, as well as a high water content.

Eating cucumber may lead to many potential health benefits, including weight loss, balanced hydration, digestive regularity and lower blood sugar levels.

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