Before we talk about cucumber benefits, we need to bring an important piece of information to your attention: cucumber is a fruit. Yes, seriously.
Though you probably store this crunchy, hydrating snack in your veggie drawer, technically, it is not a vegetable. If you’ve ever found yourself in a heated discussion over what counts as a fruit or vegetable, you’ll appreciate this clear explanation from SciShow host Hank Green.
Botanists put a lot of thought into classifying fruits and vegetables, and it all comes down to anatomy. Seed-bearing structures that develop from the ovary of the plant are fruits, and all other plant parts—including roots, leaves, and stems—are veggies.
Of course, those of us who are less well-versed in plant anatomy tend to go by the way we use these plant offerings, which is why we’re apt to call avocadoes, beans, corn, olives, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers vegetables, despite the fact that they’re technically fruits.
Although it’s exceptionally low in calories, the cucumber fruit contains tons of highly beneficial nutrients along with a sizable dose of water and soluble fiber. This makes cucumbers an ideal weight-loss food, among other benefits.
Based on the ratio between the calories in cucumbers and the nutrients in cucumbers, they’re an incredibly nutrient-dense food. Eating just a single cucumber delivers a significant portion of many of the vitamins and minerals you need to consume each day.
A single cucumber with a length of approximately 8 inches contains the following nutrients:
Keep in mind that the average serving size is one-third of a cucumber, so it’s more common to take in approximately one-third of the nutrients listed above per serving.
If you’re looking to maximize your nutrient intake, make sure to eat unpeeled cucumbers. Peeling them cuts down on the fiber content as well as the percentages of certain vitamins and minerals.
As you now know, cucumber is absolutely loaded with nutrients. So it’s hardly surprising that adding cucumber to your diet can dramatically improve your health. Here are five of the most significant ways that eating cucumber can help you look and feel your best.
Water-rich foods like cucumber can help to ensure you stay optimally hydrated. Proper hydration is vital to your overall health and well-being. Having an adequate supply of water ensures that your body can regulate its temperature, transport nutrients and waste products, efficiently digest food, and perform at peak physical capacity.
Drinking water is, of course, the primary way that many of us meet our bodies’ hydration needs. However, researchers have found that for some people, nearly 40% of their water intake each day comes from the food they eat.
One study found that increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables that contain lots of water, like cucumber, can significantly improve hydration levels. Cucumbers are actually composed of 96% water, so they’re a wonderful fruit to add to your diet to help you meet your hydration goals.
Adding cucumber to your diet can support you as you work to reach healthy weight-loss goals. A 1-cup serving of cucumber adds up to a mere 16 calories and provides a full 100 grams of water!
Scientists use the term “low energy density food” to describe foods like cucumbers that contain a low number of calories compared to their overall weight. Most low energy density foods have high water and fiber contents. According to a study published in 2016, eating low energy density foods can lead to significant weight loss.
Eating antioxidant-rich foods like cucumber can improve your health in so many ways.
Once you ingest them, antioxidants work to block oxidation, a chemical reaction that generates compounds called free radicals that can cause major damage inside your body. When free radicals are allowed to accumulate unchecked, several types of chronic illness can develop, including heart disease, lung disease, cancer, and a number of autoimmune conditions.
A study conducted by a team of Indian scientists found that cucumber contains sizeable concentrations of flavonoids and tannins, two especially potent types of antioxidants. Not only do those antioxidants scavenge for free radicals, but the authors proposed that they may also be responsible for cucumber’s pain-relieving properties.
A number of studies indicate that cucumbers may be able to bring blood sugar to healthier levels, which can in turn prevent complications associated with diabetes.
One study examined the ability of 12 different plants to reduce and regulate blood sugar levels. The authors found that cucumber significantly improved multiple markers related to blood sugar levels.
And a 2016 test-tube study found that cucumber can prevent cytotoxicity markers linked to the development of diabetes. The researchers concluded that cucumber has protective effects and shows potential as a treatment option for diabetes.
Just one cucumber delivers over 50% of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin K.
A 2017 study found that vitamin K may be far more important than has historically been recognized, particularly when it comes to bone health. After reviewing a number of articles on vitamin K, as well as books and conference proceedings, the authors determined that vitamin K can be a useful part of an osteoporosis treatment plan. When used in conjunction with vitamin D and calcium, it can even rival bisphosphonate therapy, the first-line treatment for osteoporosis. Better still, it has none of the associated toxicity!
There’s no wrong way to enjoy health-promoting cucumbers! Their mild, yet distinctly crisp and refreshing flavor makes them a welcome addition to salad, sandwiches, and more.
Typically eaten raw (or pickled!), cucumbers are also delicious when sliced into sticks or wedges and paired with a dip like hummus.
Cucumbers make a delightful smoothie ingredient too. Or simply slice them, place the cucumber in water, and enjoy an even more delicious and revitalizing beverage.