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Does the phrase “As cool as a cucumber” ring a bell? Truly, we all would agree that there is no pleasure like eating a cool and crunchy cucumber on a hot summer day.  Also known by its botanical name, Cucumis sativus, cucumber is very helpful in combating the sizzling summer heat. Cucumber is a member of the gourd family Cucurbitaceae. While they are widely classified as vegetables, cucumbers grow from flowers of cucumber plant and have seeds. Hence, they are actually a type of fruit.

Cucumbers grow in different shapes, sizes, and colours and it can be easily grown in your backyards. On the basis of usage and presence of seeds, cucumber can be of three types. One type is seedless. The other two types are based on their use; either as slices for raw consumption or for pickling. Many different varieties of cucumber are developed from these 3 basic types. They are known to originate from the Indian subcontinent but are presently cultivated all over the world.

The earliest cultivation of cucumber has been dated around 3000 years ago. It was first grown in India and later spread to Europe through Greece and Italy.  In fact, traditional Indian medicine has been using cucumber since antiquity.  Mentions of cucumber consumption have also been found in the Bible. Presently, it is widely grown all over the world, with China being the major producer for cucumbers and gherkin. The production in China amounts to 77% of total world production.

The juicy crunch of cucumber is enjoyed all over the world. The entire cucumber fruit is consumable and healthy along with its peel and seeds. Cucumber is specifically known for its high water content. But that is not the only upside of eating cucumbers. They contain phytonutrients, which are disease protecting plant chemicals. Besides, the fruit is also rich in minerals like Potassium, Calcium, and various vitamins as well.

Cucumber, popularly known as kheera in India, grows best in warm climates. The cucumber vine does not require much care except regular watering. While cucumber is mostly eaten raw or used in salads and Mediterranean recipes, quite a few Asian dishes are made from cucumber. Water with cucumber slice immersed in it is considered to be a detoxifying and a healthy alternative for plain water.

Some basic facts of Cucumbers

  • Botanical name: Cucumis sativus
  • Family: Cucurbitaceae
  • Common name: Cucumber, Kheera
  • Sanskrit name: Urvarukam
  • Parts used: Flesh of cucumber, seeds and the skin can all be consumed raw. Cucumbers can also be used in the form of pickles.
  • Native region and geographical distribution: Cucumbers are from Ancient India where it grew in the wild. Greeks and Italians introduced it to Europe while it was introduced in the USA by immigrants.
  • Interesting facts: Buddhist temple priests in Japan practice cucumber blessing where they pray for a safe summer.
    Roman Emperor Tiberius would insist on placing a cucumber on his table all throughout the year. He even used greenhouse-like techniques to cultivate cucumber all through the year.
  1. Cucumber nutrition facts
  2. Cucumber health benefits
  3. Cucumber side effects
  4. Takeaway

Cucumbers are 90-95 percent water and have a limited amount of calories, fats, cholesterols, and sodium. It also contains about 6% of Vitamin A and Vitamin B6, and 14% Vitamin C. Cucumbers are a good source of silica that allows the connective tissues to be strengthened and promotes healthy joints.

Cucumbers contain three lignans which are lariciresinol, pinoresinol, and secoisolariciresinol. All these lignans have traits of reducing the risk of different types of cancers such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, and prostate cancer.

Based on the USDA Nutrient Database, 100 g of cucumber contains the following]

Nutrient Value per 100 g
Water 95.23 g
Energy 16 kcal
Protein 0.65 g
Fat 0.11 g
Carbohydrate 11.05 g
Fibre 3.63 g
Minerals  
Calcium 16 mg
Iron 0.28  mg
Magnesium 13 mg
Phosphorus 24 mg
Potassium 147 mg
Sodium 2 mg
Zinc 0.2 mg
Vitamins  
Vitamin B1 0.027 mg
Vitamin B2 0.033 mg
Vitamin B3 0.098 mg
Vitamin B5 0.259 mg
Vitamin B6 0.04 mg
Vitamin B9 7 μg
Vitamin C 2.8 mg
Vitamin K 16.4 μg

A relative of melon, cucumber contains high amounts of water. The fruit is 95% water and high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It has a very low amount of cholesterol, carbohydrates, fat and calories. Hence, cucumber is an excellent substitute for water as it not only hydrates the body cells but also provides essential nutrients for your body. Besides, it is also beneficial for skin and provides relief against oxidative stress. The skin and seeds of cucumber contain beta-carotene which is good for eyes and skin. Let us explore some health benefits of cucumber:

  • For the skin: Cucumber has several benefits for your skin as it is an excellent hydrating agent. It helps to get rid of rashes and swelling and is effective against tans, sunburn and inflammation of the skin.
  • For the hair: Cucumber helps to moisturise and nourish your hair relieving hair fall and dry hair.
  • For better digestion: Cucumber has a cooling effect on the body and helps to control excess acid production. It is also loaded with insoluble fibres, which helps in adding bulk to the faeces and relieving the symptoms of constipation.
  • For diabetes: Cucumber can be helpful in the management of diabetes as it caters to reduce blood glucose levels, especially in men. This is attributed to the presence of flavonoids and other bioactive compounds.
  • For blood pressure: The intake of cucumber juice has been found to lower blood pressure in the elderly and thus, it is recommended for hypertensives.
  • For atherosclerosis: As cucumber helps to lower blood cholesterol levels, it helps in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disorders especially atherosclerosis.
  1. Cucumber for diabetes
  2. Cucumber for blood pressure
  3. Cucumber for healthy skin
  4. Cucumber benefits for hair
  5. Cucumber for inflammation
  6. Cucumber for healthy bones
  7. Cucumber for digestion
  8. Cucumber benefits for brain
  9. Cucumber prevents atherosclerosis
  10. Cucumber as a diuretic

Cucumber for diabetes

In a study conducted on healthy individuals, the difference in glucose levels was monitored after consumption of cucumber. It was found that cucumber is very effective in reducing the glucose level, specifically in men. The presence of polyphenols, Vitamin C and flavonoid nutrients were attributed for these antidiabetic and antioxidant properties of the vegetable.

(Read more: Diabetes treatment)

Cucumber for blood pressure

In a study done in Indonesia, adults aged 60 and above were subjected to a monitored amount of cucumber juice for a definite period of time. It was found that consumption of cucumber significantly reduced blood pressure levels of these elderly people. In an Indian research, cucumber was found to have low sodium content. Hence, it is highly recommended for people suffering from hypertension.

Cucumber for healthy skin

Cucumber has a number of health benefits for skin:

  • It is highly hydrating for the skin.
  • It is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent so it can help get rid of swelling and rashes on the skin. 
  • Cucumber receives waste material and chemical toxins from the body and cucumber juice have a nourishing effect on the skin.
  • It is also effective against sunburn.

Research shows that cucumbers contain Rutin and ascorbic acid oxidase. Both these compounds function as free-radical scavengers that tremendously help in protection against skin damage. Furthermore, some research has suggested that cucumbers have photoprotective activities and provide an SPF value of 0.2 on its own. More recent investigations deduce that topical creams with cucumber extract showed a remarkable decrease in melanin and skin sebum, resulting in skin whitening and anti-acne effects.

(Read more: Acne causes)

Cucumber fruit, extract, juice, and water are used extensively in cosmetics. These ingredients reportedly act as skin conditioning agents in the cosmetics. Cucumber fruit extract is used in 534 cosmetic formulations, more than 50% of which are leave-on type products. The highest reported use of concentrations of cucumber fruit water is in foundations. Cucumber fruit extracts are extensively used in eye lotions, under eye creams and products to be used on the face and neck. The major fatty acids in cucumbers are palmitic acid, linoleic acid, and linolenic acid. Several of these chemical constituents have previously been assessed as safe for use in cosmetics.

Cucumber benefits for hair

Silicon and sulphur found in cucumber are believed to enhance hair growth and nourish them.

Additionally, the antioxidants and hydrating effects of cucumber may be helpful in moisturising your hairs reducing symptoms of hair fall. Cucumber juice of cucumber pulp can be used topically to get rid of dry hairs.

Cucumber for inflammation

Excessive stress results in cell damage which in turn increases reactive oxygen in the body leading to weakening of the membranes and inflammation. Consumption of cucumber compensates for the excessive water loss and inflammation subsequently controlling the stress.

Cucumber for healthy bones

Cucumber is a rich source of Vitamin K. Recent studies suggest the benefits of Vitamin K for maintaining bone health. Vitamin K is beneficial in increasing mineral density of bones and is, thus, effective against fractures and other bone damages.

Cucumber for digestion

Besides being a water-rich fruit, cucumber also contains insoluble fibres. The insoluble fibres add bulk to the food and help in combating constipation. Cucumber seeds also have a cooling effect and help in reducing excess acid production in the stomach.

Cucumber benefits for brain

Cucumber contains a flavonoid named fistein which enhances the functioning of the brain. It protects the nerves from ageing and helps retain good memory.  Alzheimer's has found to be associated with a lot of dementia cases all over the world.

Research is hence being conducted worldwide to study the efficiency of this compound against Alzheimer’s disease.

Cucumber prevents atherosclerosis

Hardening of arteries is called as atherosclerosis. This is normally caused due to high levels of lipids in arteries or hyperlipidemia. In a clinical study, patients suffering from high cholesterol were given cucumber seed extract for consumption. It was observed that the seeds of cucumber are very effective in lowering the lipid levels.

Cucumber as a diuretic

Cucumber is rich in water and potassium and has a low sodium content. This property of cucumber makes it an ideal diuretic. Consumption of cucumber helps in getting rid of excess body waste through frequent urination.

While cucumber has many health benefits, the phrase 'too much is never too good' applies in case of cucumber too. Excessive consumption of cucumber may lead to serious side effects and allergies. We often come across and consume bitter cucumbers but these can be toxic and prove fatal if consumed in high quantities. Some commercially available cucumbers are wax coated to protect them against insects. However, consumption of wax coated foods is generally not good for health.

  1. Bitter cucumber can be fatal
    The bitter taste in cucumber is attributed to a compound named cucurbitacins. These compounds are highly toxic and excessive consumption of bitter-tasting compounds can be fatal.

  2. Cucumber may lead to excessive urination
    Due to its high water content, cucumber helps in removal of waste from the body through urination. However, consumption of excessive cucumber may lead to too much urination which is not good for health, especially in pregnant women, as it may lead to dehydration.

  3. Cucumber can lead to flatulence
    Cucumber can be classified as a vegetable with cooling effects. However, this property of cucumber is also responsible for the production of gas in the stomach even if consumed in moderation.

  4.  Cucumber can aggravate sinus
    Consumption of cucumber juice may cause an inflammatory reaction in the nose and a blockage in the airway. When cucumber was given to sinusitis patients who were under treatment, it was found that the vegetable aggravated their condition and even led to symptoms like vomiting, dysphagia, dyspnea, etc.
    (Read more: Sinusitis treatment)

  5. Cucumber can prove harmful to the eyes
    In a study, six healthy patients’ eyes were exposed to cucumber juice. The juice caused severe irritation of eyes and led to conjunctivitis, corneal edema.

We definitely cannot imagine summers without cucumbers. Whether consumed as a salad or in sandwiches keeps us fresh in the summer heat. It is cooling and hydrating for the body. Raw sliced cucumbers are commonly eaten with every Indian meal.

The high water content combined with array of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and fibre of cucumber assure innumerable health benefits. It can also be pickled or fried which enhances its taste. It is used in different ways in Indian and South Asian cuisine. However, too much consumption of cucumber can be harmful. There are also several types of cucumbers some of which are not ideal for consumption. As with every good thing cucumber also comes with its share of adverse effects. Hence, it is advisable to avoid too much cucumber. On the contrary, achieving a right balance through an adequate plant diet with different varieties oincluded can help in achieving a fit and healthy life.

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References

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