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3 Health Benefits of Cucumbers + 6 Recipe Ideas and Tips

The cucumber is such a versatile plant. While you’ve probably had a cucumber in a salad before, there is a lot more to them than that. Find here all of the health benefits of cucumbers, plus potential risks and tasty recipe hacks.

Cucumbers are a delicious and nutritious food, have many other uses, and come in tons of different varieties. If you’ve always wanted to know more about cucumbers and their hidden benefits, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you want to know. Let’s jump straight in.

Interesting Facts about Cucumbers

Interesting Facts about Cucumbers

The cucumber plant is a vine that can grow up trellises, other plants, or even simply along the ground.

It produces cucumber fruits, which vary widely but are generally rounded or cylindrical with a mild taste and a high water content.

They’re grown all over the world and have a long history of being loved and enjoyed by many.

Is Cucumber a Fruit?

Is Cucumber a Fruit?

Cucumbers are technically a fruit. Officially, fruits come from the flowering part of the plant and contain seeds, whereas vegetables are all other edible parts of a plant (such as the roots, stem, bulb, or leaves), and do not contain seeds.

However, in culinary terms, the cucumber is often treated like a vegetable like tomatoes, squashes, or avocados, and is prepared in savory dishes.

That’s not to say that you can’t have cucumber desserts though, and they’re often eaten on their own as well.

Origin and Where Cucumbers Grow

Origin and Where Cucumbers Grow

Cucumbers originated in Asia, occurring naturally in parts of India, China, and Thailand. However, cucumbers spread across the world early and were enjoyed during the Roman Empire and throughout the Middle Ages all over Europe.

Sometime in the 1500s, the cucumber was introduced to North and South America by Europeans (likely the Spanish).

By the time English settlers reached the East Coast of the now United States, Native Americans were already cultivating cucumbers along with other European and local crops and shared that knowledge.

In the 1600s, the cucumber was sometimes mistakenly referred to as the “cowcumber” or “coucumber” by New English settlers. They also remarked that the crop grew to larger sizes in North America than it did back home.

Today, cucumbers are grown all over the world, though the largest producers of cucumbers are still China and India followed by Russia and the United States.

Cucumbers can grow anywhere it’s warm and mild, and are commonly grown in greenhouses when the climate outside is more variable 9though they can also be grown in fields).

In the United States, Florida is the leading region for cucumber production, though cucumbers are sometimes imported from Mexico in the winter months to account for unmet demand.

When Are Cucumbers in Season?

When Are Cucumbers in Season?

Cucumbers are a summer vegetable and are in their prime from May through August (in the Northern Hemisphere).

This is the time of year you’ll find the largest selection of types of cucumbers, and the biggest and freshest fruits. However, due to their ability to be grown in greenhouses, you are likely to be able to find cucumbers year-round.

If you’re growing cucumbers at home, you should plant them in mid-spring when the soil temperature is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit and there is no risk of another frost.

Types of Cucumbers

Types of Cucumbers

One of the best things about cucumbers is how many different varieties there are. These can range from Persian and English cucumbers to Mexican sour gherkins.

While they all share a high water content and vine growth, these types of cucumbers are distinctly different as well in appearance and taste:

  • Persian cucumbers: These cucumbers grow to five to six inches in length and are fairly skinny with thin skin. They are nearly seedless, crunchy, and have a subtle, sweet taste
  • English cucumbers: English cucumbers are probably the most basic and classic type of cucumber. They’re about a foot long, have a mild watery taste, close to no seeds, and a pleasant refreshing crispness
  • Pickling cucumbers: These cucumbers are shorter and thicker than slicing cucumbers, and may have a bumpy outside. This variety is drier, allowing them to soak up more of the brine. While they’re ideal for pickling, you can also still eat these cucumbers raw
  • Kirby cucumbers: Kirby cucumbers are small, generally shorter than six inches, and have firm flesh and bumpy skin. They’re frequently pickled, but also great sliced
  • Lemon cucumbers: Lemon cucumbers get their name because they are small, round, and yellow. However, they’re not tart in flavor and taste like a normal mild watery cucumber.
  • Armenian cucumbers: Armenian cucumbers are super long, around thirty to thirty- five inches in length, pale or bright green in color, and have thick ridges in their skin. While these plants taste and look quite like cucumbers (hence the name), they’re technically a species of melon.
  • Japanese cucumbers: Japanese cucumbers are medium length and slender, with a thin, dark green skin. They have a stronger taste than many varieties of cucumbers and are bright, melony, and crunchy

Nutritional Facts, Calories, and Protein of Cucumbers

Nutritional Facts, Calories, and Protein of Cucumbers

In general, cucumbers are a healthy and low-calorie food. While the exact count will vary depending on the variety and size of the cucumber, in general, a whole cucumber contains only thirty calories.

As a cucumber is roughly ninety-five percent water, it doesn’t have too much room for other components.

However, it does give you over fifty percent of your daily recommended vitamin K, with lower but still decent amounts of vitamin A, magnesium, manganese, and potassium.

Cucumbers contain around six grams of carbohydrates, three grams of protein, and two grams of fiber. They are fully fat-free as well.

Health Benefits of Eating Cucumbers: Why It Is So Good for You

Health Benefits of Eating Cucumbers: Why It Is So Good for You

Cucumbers haven’t always been seen as a healthy food. In the 1700’s there was widespread concern over eating uncooked vegetables, with rumors flying that they were fit only for livestock.

However, today we know that’s far from the case, and cucumbers are seen as a great option for a side dish, salad, or snack.

Hydration

Hydration

Due to their extremely high water content, cucumbers are a very hydrating vegetable. While you can’t get all of your water intake through cucumbers alone, they’re excellent in helping you feel refreshed and preventing dehydration.

Additionally, many people enjoy cucumber water – pure iced water with slices of cucumber – to add a subtle taste and some nutrients to this essential drink.

Nutrient-rich

Nutrient-rich

Cucumbers are high in Vitamin K, which is necessary in the body for blood clotting, healing, and bone health.

They also have small amounts of other vitamins which are necessary for life and will help you look and feel your best.

Additionally, cucumbers are a fibrous vegetable, which aids digestion and gastrointestinal health.

Weight Management

Weight Management

Cucumbers are often seen as a diet food. They are low in calories and completely fat-free, making them an excellent choice if you want to snack without worry. They’re also a healthy substitute for chips or pretzels, as they’re great for dipping in yogurt, hummus, and other sauces.

Potential Risks of Cucumbers

Potential Risks of Cucumbers

Cucumbers are generally a very safe food. It’s pretty rare that anything will go wrong, and they are safe to eat raw, with the skin on. However, there are a few potential hazards that you should be aware of just in case.

Pesticide Residue

Pesticide Residue

Like any commercially grown vegetable, there is a minor risk of pesticide residue left on the skin of the plants.

While you can peel cucumbers, and many do, you can also just rinse them gently in warm water before eating, to ensure they are clean and safe.

The skin is also where all of the nutrients in this veggie are, so it’s great to eat them skin-on if you can.

Many store-bought cucumbers will have a thin, waxy coating on them that is either naturally occurring or added during the manufacturing process to keep them fresh for longer.

This coating is fully safe to eat, but it can also be rinsed off if you prefer.

Gastrointestinal Upset

Gastrointestinal Upset

Cucumbers, along with many other similar plants, contain cucurbitacin – a natural chemical compound that gives the veggie its very slight bitterness.

Unfortunately, some people are sensitive to cucurbitacin, and consuming too much of it can cause gas, bloating, a sore stomach, and other gastrointestinal issues.

If cucumbers upset your stomach, look for “burpless” cucumbers, which have much lower levels of cucurbitacin and are generally milder and easier on the stomach.

Of course, if you are becoming very unwell it may be best to minimize your consumption of cucumbers in general. For those without an intolerance or sensitivity, however, cucumbers can actually aid digestive function due to their high water content and fiber.

Allergic Reactions

Allergic Reactions

While allergic reactions to cucumber are rare, they can occur. The most common type of reaction is in relation to latex fruit syndrome.

Around thirty to fifty percent of people who are allergic to latex are also allergic to some fruits, including cucumber, banana, and kiwi.

Additionally, there is a small but non-zero chance of oral allergy in relation to pollen, and true anaphylaxis. If you react badly to eating a cucumber, the best option is to seek medical attention immediately and to avoid the fruit moving forward.

Cucumber for Skin

Cucumber for Skin

Outside of the culinary world, cucumbers are probably the most well-known in the spa.

Even if you haven’t used cucumber in skincare yourself, you’ve likely seen characters getting papered with cucumber slices over their eyes in movies or television shows.

This is because cucumbers, especially straight from the fridge or freezer, have a cooling and refreshing sensation that makes you feel good.

In addition, the cold acts as a vasoconstrictor, tightening the blood vessels and slowing blood flow, which can smooth the skin and reduce puffiness.

This means that cucumber slices on your eyes can aid you in looking less tired and instead alert, refreshed, and even younger.

This cooling effect also helps soothe irritations and imperfections and relax and refresh the skin. This makes cucumber treatments a good choice for skin prone to dryness, redness, or acne.

Cucumber treatments are also often used to treat sunburn, in combination with aloe vera and other ingredients.

Are Cucumbers in Pregnancy Good For You?

Are Cucumbers in Pregnancy Good For You?

If you have an underlying condition or sensitivity including gastrointestinal issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), it’s especially important to be careful what you eat during pregnancy.

If you’ve had a reaction to cucumber in the past (or have developed one while pregnant), you should avoid it unless advised otherwise by your primary care physician or other medical staff.

That being said, there are some potential benefits to eating cucumber in moderation during pregnancy. While all of these benefits are relatively minor, they can help ensure the health of the mother and child, and make everyone more comfortable (and happy) while doing so.

Hydration

Hydration

During pregnancy, you need to drink more water than normal. It can feel really difficult to meet these goals, and frustrating (especially if you’re already having to urinate often.)

Cucumbers can provide respite from continually drinking water, while still supplying the hydration needed.

Oxidative Stress

Oxidative Stress

Increased oxidative stress (an imbalance in the systems that work to repair damage from oxygenation in your body) is unfortunately a normal and expected part of pregnancy.

However, it can cause common but undesirable symptoms, including fatigue, brain fog, headache, sensitivity to noise, and even gray hair and wrinkles.

Antiinflammatories such as the vitamins found in cucumbers can help minimize the impact of oxidative stress.

Swelling Prevention

Swelling Prevention

Swelling is another completely normal but frustrating side effect of pregnancy. The dehydrating effects of cucumber as well as their potassium levels help to reduce water retention and minimize swelling.

Other foods high in potassium include bananas, salmon, dates, apricots, spinach, and sweet potatoes.

Bone Development

Bone Development

The nutrient that is highest in cucumbers is vitamin K. This essential vitamin becomes even more essential in pregnancy as it aids the development of the baby’s bones and promotes general bone health.

It also will help healing and pain reduction in the mother as well.

Can Dogs and Cats Eat Cucumbers?

Can Dogs and Cats Eat Cucumbers?

Now that you’re sold on cucumbers, do you want to share with your furry friends? You’re in luck: cucumber is not toxic to pets.

Dogs often enjoy cucumber, though they shouldn’t be fed too much at once (especially if they haven’t had it before).

Make sure to cut up the cucumber into bite-sized pieces to prevent choking. Cucumbers are healthy for dogs, as they are hydrating and nutritious.

You may have seen funny videos of cats being frightened of whole cucumbers. It’s a mystery why this innocent vegetable frightens felines, though some theorize that cucumbers trigger a natural reaction toward snakes.

However, if your kitty can get over its fear, it’s fine to give cats a little bit of cucumber. As cats are naturally carnivorous, cucumbers do not have nutritional benefits for them but are also not harmful if given in moderation. It’s really important to never give cats (or dogs) pickles, however.

This is because they are too salty and may contain spices such as garlic which are toxic to animals.

Delicious Recipe Ideas with Cucumbers

Delicious Recipe Ideas with Cucumbers

While cucumbers are a delightful treat just sliced up on their own, they’re great in things as well. There are plenty of recipes to be found showing all kinds of cucumber recipes. However, these three are our top picks.

Cucumber Smoothie

Cucumber Smoothie

If you’re after a smoothie that’s incredibly refreshing and jam-packed full of nutrients, consider the cucumber.

To make a cucumber smoothie, peel and chop a cucumber, then add it to a blender with Greek (or coconut) yogurt, a ripe banana, frozen pineapple, and some spinach leaves.

The resulting smoothie is delicious, and a great way to start your day full of energy, or as an afternoon pick me up.

Greek Cucumber Salad

Greek Cucumber Salad

Classic Greek salad is one of the most well-known salads with cucumber – and for good reason. This salad is amazingly fresh, bright, zesty, and tasty. If you haven’t made Greek salad before, it’s super simple as well.

All you need to do is seed and slice an English cucumber, and arrange on a platter with chopped bell pepper, halved cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and cubed feta cheese.

Toss in a simple dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, oregano, and Dijon mustard. Finish with salt and pepper, garnish with mint and oregano, and enjoy.

Cucumber Sushi Rolls

Cucumber Sushi Rolls

Cucumber rolls are a vegetarian (and vegan) staple at most Japanese restaurants. However, you can also go the extra mile and make your sushi rolls wrapped in thinly sliced cucumber rather than seaweed.

While you can fill your rolls with whatever you like; our recommendation is seasoned cream cheese, avocado, bell pepper, and carrot. If you’d prefer more protein, smoked or raw salmon also go really well.

Tips for Using Cucumbers

Cucumbers are pretty useful, delicious vegetables. Like any other food though, there are some tips and tricks you can use to get the most out of your veggies. Here are our go-to suggestions.

How to Store Cucumbers

How to Store Cucumbers

Unfortunately, store-bought cucumbers can be rather delicate and go soft and squishy easily. To get the most out of your cucumbers and keep them crisp and fresh, make sure you’re storing them correctly in your fridge.

For whole cucumbers, wrap them in a paper towel and place them in the warmest part of your fridge (typically the door.) They will typically stay fresh for five to six days.

For sliced cucumbers, place them in a sealed container ( like a Tupperware or Ziploc bag) with some water. Use them as soon as you can, as they will only stay crisp for a day or two.

Cucumber Slicing Techniques

Cucumber Slicing Techniques

There are many ways you can slice cucumbers to keep things fresh, fun, and interesting. Of course, slicing the cucumber into rounds is the most classic, but cutting it lengthways also has a perk – it’s easier for dipping.

You can also dice your cucumbers for smaller pieces in a salad, or use a guillotine (carefully) to get thin, translucent sheets.

Adding Cucumbers to Drinks

Adding Cucumbers to Drinks

A final amazing use for cucumbers is in drinks. Cucumbers are super refreshing in pitchers of water, especially alongside ice and lemon. However, they are also commonly used in cocktails.

Try adding a round of cucumber to your next gin and tonic, and enjoy the melding of the flavors.

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