A cucumber is a type of melon that comes from the same family as watermelon, squashes, and zucchini. It is cylindrical in shape and is usually from six to nine inches long.
It has similar skin as that of a watermelon which ranges from green to white. The flesh inside is pale green and juicy.
Some of the health benefits of cucumbers are its cooling and anti-inflammatory properties which reduces gout attacks.
Nutritional Benefits of Cucumbers
Cucumbers are good sources of phytonutrients which are the chemicals in plants that have disease preventive properties, such as lignans, flavonoids, and triterpenes.
Phytonutrients have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer benefits.
Cucumbers contain about 96% naturally distilled water and its skin has high levels of Vitamin A. If you are sure that the cucumber you use is organic, you should not peel the skin off, but if you are not sure, it is advised that you remove the peel as it may be waxed or contain pesticides.
Cucumbers contain alkaline-forming minerals which mean that they help create an alkaline environment in your body which can inhibit bacteria and disease.
Cucumbers are a good source of Vitamin A and C which are both anti-oxidants. They also contain folate, potassium, sulfur, manganese, molybdenum, silica, sodium, calcium, phosphorus, and lesser amounts of Vitamin B complex.
Beauty practitioners often place slices of cucumbers on their eyes. It is said that the caffeic acid in cucumber helps prevent water retention and when applied topically, helps reduce swollen and puffy eyes.
Anti-Cancer Benefits of Cucumbers
Studies on the anti-cancer benefits of cucumbers are still in its early stage and research has been confined to animal and lab studies.
There are two phytonutrient compounds which are associated with anti-cancer benefits that are present in cucumbers: cucurbitacins and lignans.
It is interesting to note that pharmaceutical companies are studying one of the phytonutrient compounds found in cucumber which is called cucurbitacins hoping that their research may lead to the development of new anti-cancer drugs.
Cucurbitacins belong to a family of phytonutrients called triterpenes. The presence of Cucurbitacins A, B, C, D and E have been identified in fresh cucumbers.
In a 2010 research review published in Scientific World Journal, scientists have found that cucurbitacins can help to block the signaling pathways which are vital for the proliferation and the survival of cancer cells.
In a 2009 study published in the Journal of Cancer Research, cucurbitacins have been found to inhibit growth of pancreatic cancer cells. The study looked at the effect of cucurbitacin B on human pancreatic cancer cells and they found that cucurbitacin supplements have inhibited the growth of seven pancreatic cancer cell lines by 50%. Cucurbitacin supplements also increased apoptosis (programmed cell death) of pancreatic cancer cells.
The other phytonutrient associated with anti-cancer benefits are lignans. The lignans pinoresinol, lariciresinol, and secoisolariciresinol have been found within cucumbers.
Lignans may protect the body against cancer through working with the bacteria in the digestive tract, according to World Healthiest Foods.
When these plant lignans are consumed, the bacteria in the digestive tract take the lignans and convert them into enterolignans, such as enterodiol and enterolactone.
Enterolignans bind into estrogen receptors which may produce both anti-estrogenic and pro-estrogenic effects. The intake, therefore, of dietary lignans from plant foods like cucumber may help reduce the risk of estrogen-related cancers, such as endometrial, prostate, ovarian, and breast cancers.
But research is not clear yet on whether lignans actually have anti-cancer benefits.
There is a 2009 meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Cancer which found little or no association between the intake of lignan and decreased risk of breast cancer.
Similar studies have not found a connection between lignan intake and decreased prostate cancer risk, though one study involving older Scottish men which was published in the British Journal of Nutrition have shown that the consumption of enterolactone-containing serum have decreased the risk of prostate cancer.
A Journal of Nutrition study involving nearly 800 American women found that the women with the highest intake of lignans had the lowest risk of ovarian cancer.
Also, a study which was published in the Journal of National Cancer Institute observed nearly 1,000 women in the San Francisco area and they found that postmenopausal women with the highest intake of lignan had the lowest risk of endometrial cancer.
Eventually, we may see more studies to confirm the anti-cancer benefits of cucumbers.
Other Health Benefits of Cucumbers
The alkalinity of the minerals in cucumber juice helps regulate the blood PH of the body and neutralize acidity. Cucumber juice also soothes gastric and duodenal ulcers.
Helps Cool Body Temperature
When the weather is hot and dry, it helps to drink a glass of cucumber and celery juice to help normalize body temperature. It is also a suitable drink when you have fever.
Helps in Waste Removal
Cucumber juice is a diuretic which can encourage removal of waste through urination. It can also help dissolve kidney stones.
Promotes Hair Growth
The sulfur and silicon content in cucumbers helps promote hair growth. You can juice cucumbers with carrots, lettuce or spinach to help in hair growth.
Reduces Puffy Eyes
When you wake up in the morning with puffy eyes, it is probably due to water retention or you had cried yourself to sleep the previous night. Reduce the puffiness by putting 2 slices of cucumber on your eyes while you lie down for about 10 minutes.
Helps Clear Skin Conditions
Due to the high amount of Vitamin C and anti-oxidants in cucumber, it has become an important ingredient in beauty creams that treats acne, psoriasis, eczema, etc.
When sunburned, sooth your discomfort by gently rubbing cucumber juice on affected areas for that cooling and healing effect.
Cucumber’s cooling effects helps heal sunburn or heartburn. The consumption of cucumber can help relieve your body from the bad effects of heat.
Reduces Water Retention
Cucumber helps reduce water retention by supplying necessary electrolytes and restoring hydration to the body cells.