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The Often-Overlooked Benefits Of Cucumbers
When it comes to so-called “superfoods,” a number of fruits and vegetables, such as kale, blueberries, and acai, usually hog the limelight. But many people are unaware that one of the most commonly used vegetables, the humble cucumber, is actually a very good option for those who want a nutrient-packed veggie that won’t break the bank.
What the heck are cucumbers?
There are many different varieties of vegetable, but most of them fit into the cruciferous (leafy green) category, or the root category, like beets, carrots or potatoes. Cucumbers, however, don’t fit into either one of these neat categories. Few would believe it if you told them, but the truth is that cucumbers are technically a fruit! They are a member of the cucurbitaceae family of plants, which also encompasses things like squash and various types of melons. There are many varieties of cucumber, but the one you’ll see sold most often is the common garden cucumber (cucumis sativus).
Cucumbers have a mild, subtle taste, which makes them a nice addition to salads and other dishes. They’re also used to make pickles, which are a popular snack food and condiment around the world.
The health benefits of cucumbers
So, we’ve covered what cucumbers are, but why should you care? Well, it’s because this common fruit (feels weird saying that, doesn’t it?) is packed full of nutrients and offers many health benefits most people are unaware of. Let’s explore these benefits in more detail.
1. They keep you hydrated
When you ask people about how to stay healthy, the first things you’ll hear are comments about vitamins and minerals and eating less fat (fatty food doesn’t make you fat — that’s outdated science, but that’s a different argument for a different day). And yes, nutrients are important, but perhaps the most fundamental thing you can do to preserve your health is to make sure you stay hydrated! It’s so simple and basic, but you would be amazed how many people fail to take this into account.
The good news is that cucumbers are one of the most water-dense foods you can eat! Cucumbers are composed of approximately 95 percent water, and with summer coming up, it will be a good idea to keep plenty on hand as a healthy and light snack food that will help keep you hydrated. According to an article in Eating Well, eating a cup of cucumber slices offers as much hydration as glass of water!
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2. They have a good nutritional profile
The parts of a cucumber that have the highest concentration of nutrients are the skin and the seeds, so don’t throw those parts away! They offer nutrients like beta carotene, which helps maintain healthy eyesight, as well as modest amounts of vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C and minerals like potassium, which plays an important role in balancing the levels of sodium in the body and lowering blood pressure.
Cucumbers also have phytonutrient compounds that offer some potentially significant health benefits. Research suggests that two types of compounds in particular, cucurbatacins and lignans, may protect against some forms of cancer. A study in the Journal on Cancer Research suggests that one of these compounds, called cucurbitacin B, contributed to apoptosis (cell death) of pancreatic cancer cells. Other scientific reviews have found promising data regarding cucumber phytonutrients and other forms of cancer as well. While we certainly aren’t making the argument that cucumbers are some kind of magic cure for cancer, this is definitely interesting news that warrants further research.
3. Cucumbers are great for your skin
You’ve probably seen photos of people in spas with cucumbers slices on their eyes. There’s a reason for this: Cucumbers contain chemical compounds that can help reduce puffiness and inflammation and keep the skin hydrated. Eating lots of green foods in general is linked to having clear and healthy skin, and cucumbers are no exception.
How much more evidence do you need? Go pick up some cucumbers at the store today! They’re cheap andversatile and they offer so many health benefits that there’s just no reason not to be eating more of this common and underappreciated resident of the veggie aisle.