What is Cucumber?
Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is a widely-cultivated creeping vine plant in the Cucurbitaceae gourd family that bears cucumiform fruits, which are used as vegetables.
Three Main Varieties of Cucumber
Slicing cucumbers are planted by direct seeding and by transplanting seedlings. Cucumbers should be planted after soil temperatures reach 60 °F and the danger of frost has passed. Between-row and with-in-row plant spacing for cucumber plantings varies by region and production system.
Pickling cucumbers – Growing pickling cucumber plants is just like growing other types of cucumber. They prefer a soil pH of 5.5, well-drained soil, and lots of nitrogen. You may either plant in rows or in hills. Sow the seeds about 1 ½ inch deep and cover the seeds lightly with soil.
Burpless cucumbers (Cucumis sativus “Burpless”) produce fruits that feature a mild flavor, tender skin, and small seeds. Like the fruits of other cucumber varieties, burpless varieties’ fruits grow during the warm, frost-free days of summer. The fruits are called cucumbers.
Types of Cucumbers
The most commonly available type of cucumber is the hothouse or English cucumber. It is large, with dark green skin, and few or no seeds.
According to one source, other types of cucumber include:
Armenian, or snake cucumbers: These are long and twisted with thin, dark green skin and pale furrows. People often use them for pickling.
Japanese cucumbers: These are dark green and narrow. The skin is thin with small bumps on it. People can eat them whole.
Kirby cucumbers: People often use these for dill pickles. They are crispy, with thin skin and small seeds.
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.
According to the USDA, one 142-g cup of unpared, raw, chopped cucumber contains the following nutrients:
- water: 137 g
- calories: 17
- protein: 0.8 g
- fat: 0.2 g
- carbohydrate: 3.1 g, including 2.0 g of sugar
- fiber: 1.0 g
- calcium: 19.9 g
- iron: 0.3 mg
- magnesium: 17 mg
- phosphorus: 29.8 mg
- potassium: 193 mg
- sodium: 2.8 mg
- vitamin C: 4.5 mg
- folate: 19.9 mcg
- beta carotene: 44 mcg
- lutein + zeaxanthin 22.7 mcg
- vitamin K: 10.2 mcg
Cucumber also contains a range of B vitamins, vitamin A, and antioxidants, including a type known as lignans.
Antioxidants help remove substances from the body known as free radicals. Some free radicals come from natural bodily processes, and some come from outside pressures, such as pollution. If too many collections in the body, they can lead to cell damage and various types of disease.
StudiesTrusted Source has suggested that the lignans in cucumber and other foods may help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer.
Health Benefits of Cucumbers
Cucumbers are 95 percent water, according to Ware. This makes cucumbers a great way to stay hydrated, especially during the summer. A cup of cucumber slices is “nearly as thirst-quenching as a glass of water,” according to Eating Well magazine.
“They say we can get 20-30 percent of our fluid needs through our diet alone, and foods like these certainly help,” added Lemond. “Not only are they high in water content, but they also contain important nutrients that play a part in hydration like magnesium and potassium.”
The anti-inflammatory compounds in cucumbers help remove waste from the body and reduce skin irritation, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Preliminary research also suggests cucumbers promote anti-wrinkling and anti-aging activity, according to an article in the journal Filoterapia.
Cucumbers contain two phytonutrient compounds associated with anti-cancer benefits: lignans and cucurbitacins. In recent years, pharmaceutical companies have been paying special attention to cucurbitacins, hoping to use them in new cancer drugs.
According to a 2010 research review published in Scientific World Journal, scientists have found that cucurbitacins can help block the signaling pathways that are important for cancer cell proliferation and survival.
Cucurbitacins can also inhibit the growth of pancreatic cancer cells, according to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Cancer Research looked at cucurbitacin B (which cucumber contains) on human pancreatic cancer cells and found that cucurbitacin supplements inhibited the growth of seven pancreatic cancer cell lines by 50 percent, and also increased apoptosis, or “death by suicide,” of pancreatic cancer cells.
You’ve probably seen pictures of people at a spa relaxing with cucumber slices over their eyes. It turns out there’s science behind this pampering ritual. Ware explained, “Cucumbers have a cooling and soothing effect that decreases swelling, irritation, and inflammation when used topically.
Cucumber slices can be placed on the eyes can decrease morning puffiness or alleviate and treat sunburn when placed on the affected areas.” She also noted that high vegetable intake is associated with a healthy complexion in general.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, in the past few decades, it has become clear that vitamin K is important to bone health, and one cup of cucumber contains about 19 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K.
One review published in Nutrition noted that vitamin K intake might reduce fracture rates, work with vitamin D to increase bone density, and positively affect calcium balance.
“Foods that are high in antioxidants allow your body to function optimally. Antioxidants help prevent damage and cancer,” Lemond said.
Cucumbers contain several antioxidants, including vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese, as well as flavonoids, triterpenes, and lignans that have anti-inflammatory properties.
Vitamin C is well known for its immune system benefits, and beta-carotene has been shown to be beneficial for vision, according to the Mayo Clinic.
“Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables of all kinds is associated with a reduced risk for many health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and obesity,” said Ware. Cucumbers’ potassium content may be especially helpful in this regard.
One cup of sliced cukes contains only about 4 percent of the body’s daily potassium needs, but it comes with significantly fewer calories than most high-potassium foods like bananas.
Several studies have linked cucumber consumption to reducing hypertension. Many studies have linked it with lower blood pressure because it promotes vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels), according to Today’s Dietitian.
A 2017 study published in Public Health of Indonesia found that elderly participants with hypertension saw a significant decrease in blood pressure after consuming cucumber juice for 12 days.
Additionally, a 2009 review in the Indian Academy of Clinical Medicine suggested that hypertension sufferers incorporate cucumbers into their diets because of the fruit’s low sodium content. The vitamin K in cucumbers is also known to be essential in the blood-clotting process, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
A 2013 review in Fitoterapia noted that cucumbers might help relieve constipation because they provide both fiber and water. Tufts University notes that cucumbers can pack even more of a digestive punch if they are turned into pickles during a home-fermentation process.
Cucumber pickles contain probiotic bacteria that promote healthy digestion and cultivating beneficial gut flora. Store-bought pickles usually do not have these bacteria because they have been boiled out.
Cucumbers are a low-calorie food, therefore a popular ingredient in diet meals. A 2011 study in the journal Obesity found that greater water consumption correlated with more weight loss in middle-aged and older adults.
Participants who consumed 1 pint (500 milliliters) of water prior to eating a meal lost an average of 4 lbs. (2 kilograms) more than participants who did not. Snacking on water-dense foods like cucumbers can be an effective way to up the water intake.
Brain Health and Memory
Recently, scientists have taken interest in the flavonoid fisetin. Cucumbers are a good source of fisetin, which studies have associated with protecting nerve cells, improving memory, and decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s in mice, according to a 2013 review in the journal of Antioxidants & Redox Signaling.
The same review found promising results for the relationship between fisetin and cancer prevention
Tips for Buying Cucumbers
Choose crisp, firm cucumbers and avoid those with shriveled or withered ends. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Some producers apply a wax coating to cucumbers after picking them. Do not wash these before storing, but rinse thoroughly or peel before consuming.
Cucumbers are one of the fruits and vegetables that the Environmental Working Group has placed as with the highest levels of pesticide residue,
Cucumber is safe for most people to eat, but there are some points to consider.
Some people find some types of cucumber hard to digest.
One source suggests that the conventional, large cucumber available on most grocery shelves is easy for most people to digest.
Cucumber is relatively high in vitamin K. Eating too much cucumber could affect how a person’s blood clots.
People who use warfarin (Coumadin) or similar blood-thinning drugs should not increase their intake of cucumber dramatically or suddenly without consulting a doctor.
Some people have reported an allergic reaction to cucumber. Anyone with a known allergy should avoid all contact with cucumber.
Symptoms of a reaction include:
- difficulty breathing
If a person has breathing problems, they need immediate medical attention. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening.
Some cucurbitacins are toxic for people to consume. Eating bottle gourd, for example, has caused illness in some people.
- avoid eating the plant on which cucumbers grow
- only consume cucumber fruits that they know are edible
The concentration of cucurbitacins in the everyday cucumber is unlikely to cause toxicity, however.
Tell us in the comments:
1. How have you used cucumber in your diet?
2. What health benefit do you gain from it”
3. Have you used it topically? In what way>
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