Our vegetable of the week is cucumbers!
Cucumbers have such a mild, refreshing taste and are perfect to top any salad or sandwich with or eat with a cool, sour cream/Greek yogurt based dip. Sooo refreshing on a hot summer day! More on ways to use these long, lean and green vegetables later but first, let’s talk about the health benefits of cucumbers. Even though cucumbers are up to 96% water, they are still loaded with many vitamins and nutrients. They help keep you hydrated and feeling refreshed.
FUN FACTS: Ever heard the phrase “cool as a cucumber?” This is because the center of a cucumber can be up to 20 degrees cooler than the outside air temperature.
Christopher Columbus brought cucumbers to be planted in Haiti in 1494 thus beginning the spread of cucumbers into the New World.
Cucumbers are yet another “fruit” that we call a vegetable.
With just 20 calories for ½ of a large cucumber, they are a great addition to your plate if you are trying to lose weight. These 20 calories are nutrient dense, low carb calories too! Consuming nutrient dense foods provide your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to keep you healthy and full of energy, especially if you are reducing calories to shed a few pounds.
Think of it like this… 20 calories of ice cream (what, is that like 1-2 bites? Can you even stop at just 1-2 bites? I can’t!) Anyways, 20 calories of ice cream are not the same as 20 calories of cucumbers. While foods like ice cream are super yummy, they do not provide many, if any nutrients to fuel our bodies and protect it from diseases. I promise you, you would NOT feel satisfied with just 20 calories of ice cream either!
But…. You would feel more satisfied and way FULLER after eating large serving of cucumber.
So, let’s jump into the health benefits of Cucumbers and the magic that fills them!
What are the Health Benefits of Cucumbers?
1 large cucumber provides 55% of your RDA (recommended daily allowance) of vitamin K! Vitamin K is critical for blood clotting and has been shown to help us build stronger bones and teeth. You can read more here on how vitamin K can be life saving, especially in older adults.
Cucumbers are rich in flavonoids, lignans and tannins. These are powerful compounds with antioxidant properties that help prevent chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Here’s an analogy… just like metal can rust and weaken, so can the cells in our bodies! This is due to oxidation.
When an apple turns brown after cutting, that’s also oxidation.
When our cells “rust” they are more prone to diseases. Consuming a diet rich in antioxidants can slow down the “rusting” or weakening of cells within our bodies.
This may be an overly simplified explanation but you can read more on the health benefits of antioxidants here.
Do you have elevated blood sugar levels? Cucumbers have been shown to not only lower your blood sugar levels but help maintain healthy levels. This is in part due to the fiber content in cucumbers. The fiber slows the absorption rate of glucose.
1 cucumber provides 2 grams of fiber. Fiber is critical for digestion and gut health. It helps us feel fuller longer and prevents constipation.
Most people only eat 15 grams a day of fiber where women should eat 25 grams per day and men should eat 38 grams per day or more.
To learn more about how eating a diet high in fiber has been shown to reduce our cholesterol and reduce our chances of developing type 2 diabetes click here.
Important to note: The peel and seeds of a cucumber have the most fiber and nutrients! Be sure to eat the peel as well.
Do you suffer from inflammation or arthritis? Cucumbers have anti-inflammatory benefits! This is because they are a good source of phytonutrients. These are compounds produced by plants that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
Want to learn more health benefits of cucumbers?
1 large cucumber provides approx. 442 grams of potassium or about 17% of the RDA. Not only does potassium help reduce our blood pressure but it helps lower your risk of stroke, may help prevent kidney stones and is needed for muscle contraction and nerve function.
Do you ever get leg cramps? This may be due to low potassium levels. Eating more cucumbers can help.
Suffer from mood swings? The vitamin B6 in cucumbers helps to stabilize our moods by helping our brain produce more serotonin. Serotonin gives us a general feeling of happiness and regulates feelings of anxiety.
Cucumbers contain other B vitamins as well. 1 large cucumber provides about 16% of the RDA for vitamin B5. B5 is nicknamed the “anti stress” vitamin.
Cucumbers also provide B1, B2, B3 and I already mentioned they are a rich source of B5 and B6.
You can more on the benefits of B vitamins here.
Did you sit in the sun too long and feeling a bit burned? Cucumbers have an AMAZING cooling effect for sunburns. Simply mash up the cucumbers into a paste and apply directly to the skin. You can even chill the cucumber mash to really cool down your skin.
Wake up to puffy eyes? Cucumbers have powerful minerals like potassium and magnesium that help reduce puffy eyes. They also have silica which helps restore damaged skin.
Have bad breath and no gum? Using your tongue, simply hold a cucumber slice against the roof of your mouth for a minute or 2. The phytonutrients in a cucumber kill the bacteria that causes bad breath.
Cucumbers are fabulous for our health and weight loss. They are low in calories, low carb and high fiber! There are so many amazing health benefits of cucumbers and I hope you’ll eat of them more often.
How to choose the perfect cucumber to maximize the health benefits of cucumbers
Cucumbers are readily available year-round, but cucumbers are in peak season from May-August in North America.
When choosing your cucumbers, look for ones that are dark green and uniform in color. The ideal size is 6-8”. Avoid ones that are yellowing as they are likely over ripe and will taste bitter. There should be no blemishes, black spots, or soft spots. They should feel heavy for their size. You may notice the cucumber is waxy feeling. Some stores do spray a wax on them to help preserve them. You can simply wash them with a little bit of warm water and a wash cloth or use some vinegar water to remove the wax.
How to store, cook and prepare cucumbers:
Storing your Cucumbers
Fresh, uncut cucumbers will keep 1-2 weeks at room temperature. Does that surprise you?! I think most people store them in the fridge. But due to their high-water content, they are prone to rotting and molding when kept long term in the fridge. They will keep for up to 1 week in the fridge. They are more refreshing when chilled so place your cucumber in the fridge on the day you plan to eat it. Once cut, cucumbers only last a few days.
Ways to cook and prepare Cucumbers:
I absolutely love lots of sliced cucumber in my garden salads or on a sandwich!
Of course cucumbers can be combined with tomato and onion for a refreshing summer salad. The salad is usually mixed with a vinaigrette dressing.
Cucumbers can also be combined with a mayo based dressing for a creamier type salad.
Cucumbers are the perfect vessel for hummus, dip or even ranch dressing!
I love to eat cucumbers topped with pimento cheese spread.
You can even top cucumbers with a tuna salad or chicken salad for a low carb option.
My favorite salad is a Greek salad with lots of cucumbers, chickpeas, diced tomato, black olives and feta cheese! Add some shredded chicken for added protein. You can serve this on a bed of spinach or garden greens. Or add pasta for a Greek pasta salad. DELISH and so refreshing on a hot summer day!
I recently made tzatziki sauce for the first time. I am now OBSESSED with this dressing/dip. You can use it as a salad dressing, (pairs perfectly with my Greek salad) a dip for a relish tray, a dressing for chicken and even fish! Use it in place of mayo on sandwiches, salads or even on a turkey burger! And a gyro isn’t complete without some Tzatziki sauce.
Cucumber added to water is so refreshing and great way to add flavor and help you drink more water. You can add in lemon, strawberries or even watermelon along with the cucumber. Oh, and mint leaves are fabulous as well!
Making avocado toast? Top it off with a few cucumber slices.
As I mentioned before, most of the fiber and nutrients are in the peel so be sure to eat them with the peel.
I’ve saved the best for last… PICKLES! I love pickles! When I was a little girl, my Grandma and Grandpa would get me jar of pickles every year for Christmas! Haha I love dill pickles, bread-n-butter, sweet relish, dill relish…. My love for pickles runs deep! You can add pickles to burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, tuna salad, eat them plain for a snack. I have used pickle juice to brine chicken and I love sweet relish in my potato salad. YUM! And yes, I have been known to take a few sips of pickle juice. Haha
What is your favorite way to eat cucumbers? Do you love or hate pickles? Be sure to let us know in the Veggie Obsessed Facebook group!
How to grow Cucumbers
Now that you know the Health Benefits of Cucumbers, it’s time to dig into how to grow it!
Even if you don’t have a green thumb and have ZERO intention of growing your own cucumbers, I think it’s important that we know how our food grows and what it looks like as it grows.
Here is what a Seed of Cucumbers looks like: You’ve likely cut into a cucumber and have seen all the seeds inside. Amazing that something so small can grow into a BIG vine with lots of cucumbers.
The seeds germinate in about 3-10 days. They grow pretty quickly and in about 2 weeks’ time you have seedlings ready for the garden.
Cucumber seedlings quickly grow into large vines and are best when staked or trellised. This keeps the fruit off the ground and prevents rotting and bug damage. They get a pretty, yellow flower and have each vine will have both male and female flowers. The female will have a little baby cucumber at the base as shown in this pic. I just love seeing all the adorable, itty, bitty, tiny cucumbers. The male will just be the flower and no baby cucumber.
Cucumbers grow fast in just 1 day and 1 vine produces lots of cucumbers so picking daily is best. When the cucumber is on the vine too long, they turn more yellow and will be bitter tasting. Best to pick when young and green. A family of 4 only needs to grow about 2 vines. You can grow more if you plan to make relish or pickles. There are bush varieties you can grow as well if you are short on garden space. 4 bush plants is enough for a family of 4.
Heading 3: Now that you know the Health Benefits of Cucumbers, will you be adding cucumbers to your shopping list and menu?
Have additional ways you like to eat cucumbers? I’d love to hear all about them! Be sure to comment below or share them in our Veggie Obsessed Facebook Group!
Hey there my friend! My name is Jodie Crandall and I’m a veggie loving certified health and nutrition coach on a journey to spread the word about how amazing veggies are for our health! I am a self-proclaimed “plant-based meat eater” who has recently lost almost 50 pounds by eating more veggies!