My summer garden this past season included a bumper crop of cucumbers, and what a treat they were.
Cucumbers add a delicious crunch to salads, and they are tasty by themselves as a quick snack, especially on a hot day. Like their cousin, the watermelon, cucumbers are made up of 95 percent water, making them a good source of hydration.
However, the benefits of cucumbers extend far beyond their taste and their water content. Here are 10 reasons you should be eating them all year long.
1. Digestive health. Cucumbers contain two ingredients that help support your digestive system – water and fiber. Cucumber skin contains insoluble fiber, which helps food move through your digestive tract, reducing constipation.
A word of warning: Cucumbers sold in supermarkets often have been waxed as a protective measure for transport and handling. While these waxes are supposed to be safe for consumption, it is a good idea to select organic cucumbers or to grow your own.
2. Brain function. Cucumbers contain fisetin, an anti-inflammatory substance that may boost cognitive function and protect against age-related neurological diseases.
3. Strong bones. A one-cup serving of cucumber contains 22 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin K. Vitamin K is important for improving the absorption of calcium in the bones, and low vitamin K is connected with a higher risk of bone fracture.
4. Reduced inflammation. Cucumbers contain polyphenols called lignans, which can help reduce inflammation in the body. They also contain nutrients called cucurbitacins, which can potentially lower the risk of certain cancers.
5. Antioxidants. Cucumbers are a source of vitamin C and beta-carotene and other antioxidants (quercetin, apigenin and luteolin), which help the body fight off infection and disease.
6. Heart health. Cucumbers contain 152 mg of potassium per cup, so eating cucumbers is an easy way to boost your intake of this essential nutrient. Potassium can help lower blood pressure, and it is associated with a lower risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.
7. Stress reduction. Cucumbers contain vitamin B1, vitamin B5 and vitamin B7 (biotin), which can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
8. Fresh breath. Chewing on cucumber helps boost the amount of saliva you produce, which helps cleanse your mouth. Also, the fiber and water content in cucumbers can help wash away the bacteria in your mouth that cause bad breath.
9. Skin refresher. You’ve probably heard about or seen photos of people with cucumber slices over their eyes. This is more than just an old wives’ tale. Cucumbers contain lavonoids and tannins, which are anti-inflammatory substances that can help reduce wrinkles and other age-related skin problems. Plus, the water content of cucumbers helps hydrate dry skin.
10. Weight maintenance. Cucumbers contain only about 16 calories per cup, and their water and fiber content can be part of a healthy diet for weight loss or weight maintenance.
Cucumbers are great raw, but you also can enjoy them in other ways. They make a great base for vegetable juice, and you can ferment them, and, of course, pickle them. Cucumbers are easy to grow, and they do well in small spaces, such as patio containers, as long as they have something to climb on.
Have you discovered other benefits of cucumbers? Share your tips in the section below: