Cucumbers: Health Benefits | Nutrition, Natural Remedies, Cooking Tips | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Cucumber Health Benefits


Why cucumbers are good for you!

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What do you know about the mighty cucumber? They are a natural pick-me-up, a great hydrator, headache and stress reliever, hunger suppressant, stress reliever, and breath freshener! Check out cucumber’s many health benefits—plus, all the home remedies that cukes can tackle!

Close relatives of squashes, melons, and gourds (aka, the cucurbit family, Cucurbitaceae), cucumbers originated in northern India around 4,000 years ago. After surges and dips in popularity, they have risen to become the fourth most-cultivated vegetable in the world. They come in an astonishing variety of shapes, sizes, colors, textures, and flavors. In fact, some scientists have even created heart-shaped cucumbers! 

Nutrition and Calories

The trick with cucumbers is to eat the skin, which contains most of a cucumber’s fiber and the lion’s share of its nutrients and phytocompounds. In just a single cup of cucumber slices, you’ll get 14% to 19% of the vitamin K you need for the day. Plus, cucumbers contain vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folic acid, vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. 

A cucumber is low in calories. A raw, unpeeled cucumber has 30 calories (and 0 fat), making it an ideal snack to support weight loss. In fact, cucumbers were used for centuries by Europeans as a way to alleviate hunger (in their case, starvation!).

Hydration and Weight Loss

Ever heard the expression, “cool as a cucumber”? The phrase first appeared in “A New Song of New Similes” by John Gay (1685-1732), in a simile suggesting its renown as a cooling agent. That’s probably because it contains 96 percent water, more than any other fruit or vegetable. An average-sized cucumber contains the equivalent of a 10-ounce glass of water.

At only 16 calories per cup, you can boost both the nutrient and hydration values by eating lots of cukes in season.


Medicinal Value of Cucumbers

Historical records reveal that in traditional cultures, cucumbers (not only the fruits, but also the seeds, leaves, stems and flowers) were valued more as medicine than as food, used in some form to treat nearly every malady of body or mind.

A large percentage of our modern drugs came initially from plants. It’s no wonder then that the cucumber has come under intense investigation in modern laboratories for its potential to prevent or treat a wide variety of illnesses.

Researchers have discovered that the plant contains numerous bioactive phtyocompounds, variously described as anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antidiabetic, antibacterial, antifungal, pain-killing, wound-healing, and laxative. Three classes of phytocompounds under study include cucurbitacins, lignans, and flavonoids (such as finestin).

Researchers suggest that alone or synergistically, cucumber phytocompounds may one day help prevent or heal many types of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, bowel diseases, diabetes, and skin disorders, and speed wound healing.


Natural Health Remedies

Although medical science hasn’t advanced to the point where care providers can recommend cucumbers to treat serious conditions, you might grab a cuke for one of these tried-and-true home remedies for minor problems:

  • Bad breath? Here’s a temporary fix for the dragon breath that results from overindulging in that garlicky-hummus dip: Press a slice of cucumber against the roof of your mouth with your tongue for about 30 seconds or chow down on a few cucumber spears. The phytochemicals will kill the bacteria in your mouth that causes bad breath.
  • Got a sunburn? Though it’s better to avoid sunburns in the first place, if you do get one, blend chilled cucumbers into a thick mash and apply to the burned areas; alternatively, slice cold cucumber lengthwise and rub it over the skin. Researchers theorize that both the high water content and the many antioxidant, antibacterial, and analgesic compounds in cucumbers help cool the skin and aid in healing. See more sunburn remedies
  • Puffy eyes? The classic advice: Lie back for a few minutes with a slice of chilled cucumber (or pads moistened with blended cold cucumber flesh) over each eye to reduce under-eye swelling. Not sleeping enough, smoking, and drinking are also responsible for under-eye bagginess.
  • Stressed out? Cut up an entire cucumber and place the slices in a boiling pot of water. The steam will release phytochemicals and nutrients that have been shown to relax, sooth, and reduce stress.
  • Feeling tired in the afternoon? Cucumbers are a better pick-me-up that that caffeinated soda for a host of reasons. Cucumbers will provide the carbs and B vitamins for a pick-me-up that lasts.

5 Home Remedies

Cucumbers are beneficial around the kitchen and home, too! Here are five of many everyday use.

  1. Rub a slice of cucumber on taps, sinks or stainless steel to make them shine and remove tarnish.
  2. If your bathroom mirrors fog up after a shower, rub a cucumber slice along the mirror! It not only eliminates fog but also provides a soothing, spa-like fragrance.
  3. If you’re a gardener, place slices of cucumber in a small aluminum tin amidst plant rows and it will keep the grubs and slugs away.
  4. Use a freshly cut cucumber to polish your shoes for a quick shine that repels water.
  5. Got a squeaky door? Take a cucumber slice and rub it along the hinge!

Cooking with Cucumbers

These mild-flavored fruits come into their own in midsummer, adding crunch to salads and snacks, delivering zing as pickles.  But they’re also versatile: You can juice or blend whole fruits to use as the base for cooling summer beverages, dips, and cold soups.

Check out our pickling articles here.

chilled-cucumber-soup.jpgThis chilled cucumber soup is a wonderful light meal for a hot summer day. Photo Credit: Africa studios/shutterstock. 

Of course, the best cucumbers are those grown in your own garden! Check out our Cucumber Growing Guide for tips on how to plant, grow, and harvest the healthy, refreshing cucumber!

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