Surprise! Cucumbers are more than just water. While it may seem that these vegetables (technically fruits) have little to offer in terms of nutrition, the health benefits of cucumbers say otherwise. From fighting free radical damage and reducing inflammation in the body, cucumbers are one produce item you’ll want to keep in your fridge at all times.
The thing I love about cucumbers is that you can add them to practically everything. You can use them as a boost in smoothies, make juices out of them, add them to salads, sandwiches and wraps or even just eat them on their own. And if you have any left-over cucumber in the fridge that you don’t want to eat, cut them into slices and place on your eyes for a quick way to reduce swelling and puffiness.
Cucumbers are 95% water, but that doesn’t mean they don’t come packed with nutrition. They’re low in calories, but contain an impressive amount of vitamins, minerals and crucial phytonutrients.
Here is some cucumber nutrition data for you to feast your eyes on below. Just a half a cup of cucumber (with the peel) has about:
– 7.8 calories
– 1.9 grams carbohydrates
– 0.3 grams of protein
– 0.1 gram of fat
– 0.3 grams of fiber
– 8.5 micrograms of vitamin K
– 1.5 micrograms of vitamin C
– 6.8 milligrams of magnesium
– 76.4 milligrams of potassium
10 Health Benefits of Cucumbers
Whether you love cucumbers or not, these 10 incredible health benefits of cucumbers will have you eating them at almost every meal! Loaded with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and beneficial antioxidants, cucumbers support our health in more ways than one.
1. Inflammation & Joint Pain Relief
Cucumbers are high in silica. Silica plays an important role in bone growth and calcification, and forming collagen and connective tissues. This is the main reason it helps individuals with arthritis and gout (diseases that affect the cartilage in our joints), because the silica promotes collagen production. It has also been shown that cucumber extracts inhibit cyclo-oxygenase 2 (COX-2) activity (a pro-inflammatory enzyme), and thus reduces inflammation in the body (1).
Cucumbers also have the ability to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract. The electrolytes and magnesium in cucumber hydrates our intestines on the deepest, cellular level possible, helping nourish the gut and digestive lining.
The high concentration of antioxidants and polyphenols from cucumber juice is another powerful tool for healing gut inflammation. Cucumber juice can help repair the leaky junctions lining our intestinal walls, so that undigested food matter doesn’t leak into our bloodstream (which, under unresolved circumstrances, would trigger body-wide inflammation).
2. Reduces Cholesterol
Cucumbers contain plant sterols which may help reduce LDL cholesterol levels (aka. the “bad” cholesterol; 2). Fibre helps to lower LDL cholesterol as well (3), and cucumbers (given you leave the skin on) are a great source of fibre (1.5g of fibre per one cucumber). In the intestine, fibre reduces the absorption of dietary cholesterol. Fibre also attaches itself to bile which is made of cholesterol and thus helps the body excrete extra cholesterol in bowel movements.
3. Liver Healing
When eaten on a daily basis, cucumbers can help reverse liver damage by repairing the years of hard work that this detox organ performs day in, day out.
The liver, along with our kidneys, is a major filtration system for toxins. When our liver is functioning only sub-optimally (which is the case for most individuals, given the amount of environmental pollutants we’re exposed to on a daily basis), it doesn’t perform the job it is supposed to do very well. If you’re dealing with lots of skin problems, excess body odour, difficulty with fatty foods (heartburn, indigestion), or have difficulty losing weight, your liver could be to blame! Fortunately, 2-4 cups of cucumber juice a day can help speed healing of the liver.
4. Detox Miracle
Again, being high in fibre, the cucumber is extremely effective at aiding our digestive tract and can be used as a remedy for chronic constipation. If our guts aren’t eliminating properly, we’ll likely feel sick and bogged down (as well as at risk for developing certain disease down the line).
Cucumber comes with tiny compounds called cucurbitacins. These compounds help support the digestive tract and liver by scavenging free radicals and reducing toxic load on these delicate organs. Cucumber also acts as a natural diuretic, so it speeds up the flushing of toxins and other compounds in the body so that they don’t stick around for too long.
5. Prevents Headaches
Cucumbers contain B vitamins and electrolytes (such as potassium) that help nourish the nerves in our body, and decrease the likelihood of developing headaches.
Cucumbers are also incredibly hydrating. Symptoms of dehydration can include headaches and migraines — so making sure you’re properly hydrated (whether that means drinking more water, or more drinking more cell-activating water found in cucumber juice) will likely help rid yourself of that nasty headache.
6. Fights Cancer
Cucurbitacins in cucumbers are currently being studied by pharmaceutical companies in hopes of developing new anti-cancer drugs. Signalling pathways required for cancer development such as JAK-STAT and MAPK pathways have been shown to be inhibited by cucurbitacins found in cucumbers (4). Cucumbers also contain lignans (lariciresinol, pinoresinol, and secoisolariciresinol) which have been shown to be linked with reduced risks of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, uterine cancer and prostate cancer (5, 6, 7).
How do cucumber lignans work in the body? It mainly has to do with their role in the digestive tract and the bacteria that lines it. Bacteria take the plant lignans we consume (such as those from a cucumber) and convert them into enterolignans. Enterolignans can have either or both pro-estogenic and anti-estrogenic effects by binding onto estrogen receptors. Estrogen-related cancers such as those listed above are reduced when we consume plant foods high in lignans.
7. Rehydrates & Remineralizes the Body
We all know the cucumber is incredibly high in water (up to 95%!), and it therefore helps to refresh and rehydrate all the cells in our body. Cucumbers also have most of the vitamins we need in a day – given you leave the nutrient-rich peel on the cucumber. For a refreshing drink try adding cucumber to a glass of water and spritz some lemon or lime juice in there too! Let this sit for an hour before drinking.
8. High Silica Content for Healthy Hair
Cucumbers are high in the compound called silica. It is a trace mineral not found in many foods but is high in the skin of cucumbers. Silica, as explained above, helps to maintain connective tissues in your body such as collagen and elastin. Silica is also great for the skin, helping to give it elasticity and keeps hair lustrous and nails strong.
9. Improves Diabetes Symptoms
Cucumbers contain a hormone needed by cells of the pancreas (beta cells) to produce insulin (beta cells in the pancreas produce the hormone insulin). A study found that rats who were given an aqueous extract of cucumbers had significant increases in liver glycogen and serum insulin levels and decreases in blood glucose, glycosylated hemoglobin levels, total cholesterol and serum triglycerides. In addition, the cucumber extract increased HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels (8).
10. Controls Blood Pressure
Cucumber, a natural diuretic, helps to lower blood pressure in our arteries. Foods that are high in potassium, magnesium and fibre can help reduce blood pressure, and these minerals are most readily found in the cucumber. Cucumbers also contain Vitamins A and K, caffein acid, folate, Vitamin C (powerful antioxidant that can help lower blood pressure), and silica. All of these compounds have been found to significantly reduce and regulate blood pressure, and thus makes cucumbers great for treating both low and high blood pressure.
(1) Ghebretinsae, A., Thulin, M., & Barber, J. (2007). Relationships of cucumbers and melons unraveled: molecular phylogenetics of Cucumis and related genera (Benincaseae, Cucurbitaceae). American Journal of Botany, 94, 1256-1266s.
(2) Katan, M., Grundy, S., Jones, P., Law, M., Miettinen, T., & Paoletti, R. (2003). Efficacy and safety of plant stannous and sterols in the management of blood cholesterol levels. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 78, 965-978.
(3) Brown, L., Rosner, B., Willett, W., & Sacks, F. (1999). Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fibber: a meta-analysis. American Society for Clinical Nutrition, 69, 30-42.
(4) Lee, D., Iwanski, G., & Theonnissen, N. (2010). Cucurbitacin: ancient compound shedding new light on cancer treatment. Scientific World Journal, 10, 413-418.
(5) McCann, S., Freudenheim, J., Marshall, J., & Graham, S. (2003). RIsk of human ovarian cancer is related to dietary intake of selected nutrients, phytochemicals and food groups. The American Society for Nutritional Sciences, 133, 1937-1942.
(6) Shannon, J., Ray, R., Wu, C., Nelson, Z., Gao, D., Li, W., Hu, W., Lampe, J., Horner, N., Satia, J., Patterson, R., Fitzgibbons, D., Porter, P., & Thomas, D. (2005). Food and botanical groupings and risk of breast cancer: a case-control study in Shanghai, China. Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 14, 81.
(7) Wang, L. (2002). Mammalian phytoestrogens: enterodiol and enterolactone. Journal of Chromatography B, 777, 289-309.
(8) Salahuddin, M., & Jalalpure, S. (2010). Antidiabetic activity of aqueous fruit extract of Cucumis trigonus Roxb. in streptozotocin=induced-diabetic rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 127, 565-567.