Cucumbers not only taste great, but they are also good for your health. Its effect on skin problems is particularly well known. But did you also know that diabetics can benefit from the effects of cucumber? You can find everything about the properties and nutritional value of cucumbers here.
Cucumber – surprising origin
The cucumber originally comes from India, where the wild form (Cucumis hystrix) was cultivated thousands of years ago. From here, the plant of the gourd family first spread to all warm regions of the Old World.
But even in northern Europe, it was able to gain a foothold compared to other pumpkin plants because it is relatively cold-tolerant and its fruits are ready to be harvested very quickly. According to sources, the cucumber conquered the Mediterranean around 200 BC. Chr.
The ancient Romans quickly fell in love with the healthy vegetable and grew it particularly diligently. The Roman Emperor Tiberius is said to have been so fond of cucumbers that he ate them every day. The specimens intended for him were grown all year round and protected behind glass walls in bad weather so that he did not have to do without his favorite vegetables even in winter.
Cucumber nutritional values
Fresh cucumber has high water content, it consists of 97 percent water and is, therefore, the most water-rich vegetable of all. It therefore only provides 12 kcal per 100 grams of vegetables. Per 100 g the fresh/raw cucumber contains the following nutrients:
- 1.0.2 grams of fat
- 2.1 g protein
- 3.2 grams of carbohydrates
- 4.1 g fiber
Vitamins and minerals in cucumber
There is a whole smorgasbord of vitamins and minerals in the cucumber. Our nutritional value table, which you can find in the following PDF, shows you what these are and how to fulfill the recommended daily dose: Nutritional values, vitamins, and minerals in cucumbers.
The cucumber as a remedy
According to an Indian study at Jadavpur University, cucumber has been used as a remedy for thousands of years. Its medicinal properties have been described since ancient times. Not only the fruits were used, but also all other parts of the plant such as the seeds and leaves.
In the traditional folk medicine of many countries, the cucumber is still very important today. In India, for example, it is considered an important medicinal plant to counteract aging processes and cure skin ailments such as sunburn. In traditional Chinese medicine, the leaves, stems, and even roots are used to treat diarrhea and gonorrhea and to detoxify the body.
With regard to the medicinal effects of cucumbers, research is still lagging behind. But it has already been proven that cucumber has antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antidiabetic properties and also helps to regulate blood fats (triglycerides and cholesterol).
In addition, some studies have shown that cucumbers counteract the formation of wrinkles and can be very helpful in skin diseases.
The cucumber eliminates dehydration
Water is an elixir of life. If you drink too little, you risk getting sick. How much should be drunk, however, is still controversial. According to the German Society for Nutrition, the average daily fluid requirement for adults is 2 l.
A lot of people are wondering: How on earth can I drink so much on a daily basis? The fact is, however, that up to 1 liter of liquid can be ingested through food. Since the cucumber is almost 100 percent water, it can of course do a lot to prevent dehydration.
In 2013, researchers in a 10-year study at Bonn University involving 442 subjects between the ages of 4 and 10 were able to prove for the first time that the amount of water available in the body actually increases when a lot of fruit and vegetables are eaten.
With cucumbers against water retention
The “water bottle from the vegetable garden” is not only a wonderful thirst quencher, it also has a draining effect and thus helps with water retention in the body, such as heavy legs. This is i.a. This is due to the fact that the cucumber also brings electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium into the body, which are essential for the water balance.
The vitamins and minerals dissolved in the cucumber liquid can be absorbed quickly and easily by our body because it only stays in the stomach for a very short time and is quickly passed on to the intestines. This in turn promotes the absorption of the bioactive substances.
In the course of this, the vegetable can contribute to detoxification, alleviate kidney and bladder problems, fight constipation, work against rheumatism and gout pain, and strengthen the immune system via the intestinal mucosa.
This is how cucumber water is made
Whether traditional folk medicine or a modern detox cure: cucumber water is very trendy. Because it is wonderfully refreshing and tastes delicious. However, since the cucumber only “draws” in the water, only a few active ingredients get into the water, so the detoxifying effect of the cucumber water is probably simply due to the water itself or the ginger it contains. Still, studies have shown that cucumber water can rival any athlete’s drink.
- 1 liter of water
- ½ cucumber
- ½ organic lemon
- ½ tbsp freshly grated ginger
After you have washed the cucumber and lemon well, cut them into thin slices and pluck off the mint leaves.
Pour the water into a pitcher, add the cucumber and lemon slices, mint leaves, and ginger and let the cucumber water steep in the fridge overnight. At least some of the water-soluble ingredients (e.g. vitamin C and B vitamins) are transferred to the cucumber water.
You can also use cucumbers to create delicious smoothies. Compared to cucumber water, these have the great advantage that the whole vegetable is eaten and you can also benefit from the digestive fiber.
This makes cucumbers more tolerable
If cucumbers cause bloating, then it can be beneficial to blanch the vegetables for a few minutes and then rinse them in cold water, or to prepare delicious braised cucumbers instead of cucumber salad.
Digestive problems are often due to the fiber or lectins they contain. Since these are primarily hidden in the skin, but also in the seeds, peeling and pitting the vegetables can make them more digestible. Another way to improve digestibility is to season with cumin or dill and chew carefully.
This is what happens when you peel and core cucumbers
In almost every cooking show, TV chefs recommend removing the skin and seeds from the cucumber. Apparently, the vegetables then taste finer and better. Even those who always warn against lectins recommend this approach. However, it is practically never mentioned that many valuable ingredients are also eliminated in the process.
Researchers from the University of Allahabad have analyzed the cucumber skin in detail and found that it is particularly rich in minerals. It has also been shown that there is a lot of silicon in the shell and especially in the fine spines, which studies have shown to promote healthy hair, skin, nails, and bones.
On the other hand, a study conducted in 2018 at the University of Maryland found that an extract derived from cucumber seeds has anti-free radical and positive effects on the intestinal flora.
The ripe cucumber seeds contain a particularly valuable oil that is obtained by cold pressing. The cucumber seed oil, which is rare here, is used especially in Asia both in the kitchen and in medicine – e.g. B. for skin care and support against skin diseases such as neurodermatitis and psoriasis – used. However, since our cucumbers are harvested unripe, their seeds contain hardly any oil.
The cucumber is basic
Whether blanched, in the form of raw vegetables or cucumber water: Another advantage of cucumbers is that they are one of the most alkaline types of vegetables. It, therefore, helps to break down an excess of acids that can be caused by stimulants such as coffee and alcohol, but also meat and stress.
Cucumbers for fructose intolerance
It is not uncommon for fructose intolerance to prevent people from eating a diet rich in vitamins. There are many types of vegetables that are wonderfully tolerated. The cucumber usually does not cause any problems because it contains little sugar and also has a balanced fructose-glucose ratio. If this is less than or equal to 1 – as in the case of cucumbers – foods with fructose intolerance tend to be more tolerable.
Should cucumbers nevertheless lead to flatulence in the case of existing fructose intolerance, this may be due to the dietary fibers and/or lectins they contain, as these can put additional strain on an already irritated digestive tract and worsen symptoms. In this case, try peeled and seeded cucumbers.
The glycemic index of cucumbers
The glycemic load (GL) is more meaningful compared to the glycemic index (GI) because it takes into account not only the type of carbohydrates ingested but also their density. For 100 g of cucumber, the GL is only 0.3 and is therefore extremely low.
The same applies to pickles, whose GL is the same as that of cucumbers and sautéed cucumbers. When buying, make sure that there is no added sugar. The sugar content can be up to 20 g per 100 g of pickles!
Cucumbers for diabetics
Since cucumbers have a low GL and therefore do not lead to high blood sugar levels or a long-lasting increase in blood sugar, insulin release is not negatively affected. Therefore, cucumber is a recommended food for diabetics (type 2) and overweight people.
In addition, there are already some studies that have shown that cucumbers have an anti-diabetic effect. Iranian researchers from Zajan University of Medical Sciences found in 2016 that cucumbers have a protective effect on complications like oxidative stress associated with diabetes mellitus.
Gherkins are also a welcome snack for diabetics, especially since vinegar per se has a blood-sugar-lowering effect. According to a study at Arizona State University, as little as 2 teaspoons of vinegar taken with a meal rich in complex carbohydrates is enough to effectively lower post-meal blood sugar levels.
However, make sure that pickles do not also contain a lot of sugar, which unfortunately is often the case. This could negate or at least reduce the positive effects of cucumbers and vinegar.
Antioxidants in Cucumbers
Cucumber contains various antioxidants. These include vitamins such as vitamin C and minerals such as copper on the one hand and secondary plant substances such as beta-carotene on the other. Green vegetables like cucumber are often not associated with the yellowish to reddish carotenoids, and yet they are present.
100 g of vegetables is enough to meet the recommended daily dose of beta-carotene by almost 20 percent. On the one hand, the coloring agent beta-carotene is important because it is converted into vitamin A in the body, on the other hand, it acts as a radical scavenger and can consequently protect against cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
The green color of the cucumber is due to the fact that the carotenoids it contains are overlaid by chlorophyll. The so-called leafy green has blood-forming and wound-healing properties that help with acne and counteracts body odor and aging processes.
In addition, cucumber contains numerous polyphenols such as lignans and flavonoids (e.g. apigenin, luteolin, quercetin, and kaempferol), all of which have antioxidant, antiallergic, antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects.
However, since most of these substances are in the skin, the cucumber tends to be low in antioxidants if you eat it peeled.
A study at China’s Tianjin Institute of Health and Environmental Medicine found that subjects (over 60 years old) who received cucumber powder for 30 days increased their body’s antioxidant levels. At the same time, the participants’ uric acid levels (high values indicate, for example, gout and kidney failure) fell significantly.
Dangerous bitter substances in cucumbers
Bitter substances are considered healthy because many of them have healing properties. Depending on the substance in question and the dose absorbed, they can also be very toxic. This also applies to the cucurbitacins, which are mainly found in the pumpkin family.
According to research, cucurbitacins have medicinal value as they fight inflammation, cancer, atherosclerosis, and diabetes. But even the smallest amounts are enough to cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and even death.
Normally, however, the content of cucurbitacins in cultivated plants is so low that not even a bitter taste is perceived. In this case, cucumbers and co. pose no danger!
This is why cucumbers can taste bitter
However, as studies have shown, in rare cases cucumbers with a certain genetic predisposition can reverse mutation if they are exposed to extreme conditions such as cold stress, severe drought, severely fluctuating water supplies, or insufficient nutrient supplies. The plant produces more bitter substances to protect itself.
However, in cucumbers, as a rule, bitterness is much less pronounced than in pumpkins or zucchini, so symptoms of poisoning almost never occur. If a cucumber only tastes a little tart, it can be eaten. If only the end is slightly bitter, it can be cut off generously and the rest of the cucumber can be eaten without hesitation.
However, should it ever happen to you that a cucumber tastes very bitter, according to the Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Office in Stuttgart, you must proceed as follows: spit out the piece of cucumber and dispose of the rest!
Since vegetables with a dangerously high cucurbitacin content really taste extremely bitter, most people react instinctively anyway. As a rule, only people who suffer from taste disorders are at risk. It is also worth knowing that bitter substances are heat-resistant and hardly soluble in water and are therefore not eliminated during cooking.
Cucumbers for skin problems
Whether impure skin, reddened skin, pimples, or wrinkles: cucumbers have been used since time immemorial to counteract skin aging and to cure skin disorders. It is therefore not without reason an important component of numerous skin care products.
To do something good for the skin, both the fresh fruit and extracts made from it are used, which are contained in numerous creams, gels, and lotions. It can therefore be used internally and externally.
According to a study at Jadavpur University in India, fresh cucumber juice helps to nourish the skin. Cucumbers also have a cooling effect on skin irritations and reduce swelling. Cucumber also has the power to soothe skin and reduce pain when it comes to sunburn.
Cucumber promotes skin health as it has cooling, tonic, styptic, antimicrobial, hydrating, and anti-inflammatory properties and also protects the skin from UV rays to some degree. The numerous antioxidant active ingredients such as flavonoids, but also the bitter substances are responsible for this.
How to use the cucumber for skin problems
Numerous proven recipes are used in traditional folk medicine. You don’t even have to resort to expensive cosmetics, you can easily make them yourself.
Do you have oily and large-pored skin? It is often enough to put a few slices of cucumber on your face for about 10 minutes to achieve a visible effect. A slice of cucumber on each closed eyelid helps with swollen and tired eyes.
Do you suffer from impure skin? Chop or mash half a cucumber and strain out the juice. Now mix the cucumber juice with 2 to 4 tablespoons of natural yogurt or quark, apply the mask to the skin, and leave it on for 15 minutes. Then wash your face with lukewarm water.
Are you longing for a radiant complexion and want to reduce wrinkles? Then a superficial peeling can be helpful, as this gently removes the top layer of skin.
Soak 5 almonds in water for around 8 hours and place e.g. B. in a small mortar ago a coarse mass. Add 1 tsp honey and enough cucumber juice to form an even paste.
Gently massage the peeling mass into damp facial skin, avoiding the eye area. The face is then rinsed off with lukewarm water.