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10 Health Benefits of Cucumbers

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Health Benefits of Cucumbers

In the vegetable world, cucumber is like everyone’s boring cousin: It’s not offensive, but it’s not exactly thrilling, either. It’s probably not the first to make it onto your party invite list, in other words. Maybe it should be, though, because cucumber is actually a powerhouse veggie. It’s loaded with fiber and water but incredibly low in calories and sugar. Plus, the health benefits of cucumbers are far-reaching. Eat or drink it for digestive health and wellness, whip up a cucumber mask and hydrate your skin, or leave cucumber rounds on your eyes to reduce puffiness (yep, that’s a real thing!).

However you slice it—pun intended—cucumber is one of the best and easiest vegetables to work into your diet.

10 cucumber benefits

Cukes are more than just a garnish in your side salad. Here are 10 reasons to add more cucumber to your diet every day.

1. They’re hydrating.

If you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated—and it’s time to replenish, according to Kathryn Boling, MD, a family medicine specialist with Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. But if the thought of drinking yet another glass of water turns you off, it’s important to know cucumbers are an excellent substitute to increase your water intake.

“A cucumber has a water content of 95%, meaning you are taking in a lot of water with each one,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, an inclusive plant-based dietitian in Stamford, Connecticut, and owner of Plant Based with Amy. “This helps with hydration—which is important for so many body processes and can also help prevent headaches.”

2. They fill you up.

The key to being truly satisfied after a snack or meal? Eating foods with a combination of fiber and protein, both of which cucumber has in spades. Per Gorin, a half cup of cucumber gives you two grams of protein and two grams of fiber to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Dr. Boling agrees, adding that cucumber’s satiating power can even help you with weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight. These low-calorie veggies help you fill up because they are packed with fluid and fiber (but not a bunch of other stuff, like fat, sodium, carbs, and sugar).

3. They are anti-inflammatory.

Cucumbers are chock full of antioxidants, like lignans, and minerals, such as potassium and magnesium, that Dr. Boling says can have anti-inflammatory effects on your body when you eat enough of them. Think beta carotene and flavonoids, both of which are powerful phytonutrients, i.e., good-for-you plant compounds.

In fact, cucumber’s anti-inflammatory processes may be so strong, some experts are exploring the role of cucurbitacins (chemical compounds found in the cucumber family) in reducing your risk of cancer cells, per a 2013 article in the International Journal of Health Sciences.

4. They can depuff your eyes.

In addition to providing anti-inflammatory effects inside your body when you eat them, Dr. Boling says you can soak up those effects on the outside, too. All those times you’ve seen someone put cucumber slices on their eyes at a spa on television weren’t just for visual effect: “Cucumber on the eyes actually does work,” Dr. Boling says. They can help with redness, puffiness, and irritability.”

5. They might increase your libido.

According to the Produce for Better Health Foundation, cucumbers are an aphrodisiac; the vitamin C and manganese in these green veggies are known for increasing both your energy and your sex drive. Not only that, vitamin C can increase your circulation and blood flow, which can help men with erectile dysfunction.

Cucumbers contain a compound called L-citrulline, which has been linked (in a small 2011 study) to an improvement in erectile dysfunction symptoms in some men. They are also rich in vitamin A, which is important for your immune system as well as for the production of testosterone.

6. They can make your skin glow.

Similar to the benefits of putting cucumber on your eyes, Dr. Boling suggests making a DIY skin mask out of cucumber to rehydrate your skin with antioxidants and leave it looking younger and fresher. Some research suggests that cucumbers have cleansing properties that could be especially beneficial for the skin, and that it’s also a soothing, cooling antidote to summer sunburn.

7. They can regulate your digestion.

Yes, we’re talking a lot about hydration here, but that’s because few fruits and veggies have such a high water content as cucumbers—and every single part of our body relies on water, including our digestive system.

“Staying hydrated helps with the regularity of your bowel because more water means you won’t have to worry about constipation,” says Dr. Boling. “You need more fluids coming in when fluids are going out.”

Plus, all that fiber content in cucumbers also works wonders on your gut, adding bulk to your bowel movements and keeping them regular.

8. They are good for your blood sugar.

Cucumbers are super low in sugar and carbohydrates, meaning they have a low glycemic index and are safe for people with diabetes to eat without worrying about spikes in blood sugar. And while there haven’t really been any studies on humans regarding a connection between cucumbers and diabetes, several animal studies—like this one from 2011 and this one from 2014—suggest cucumbers may be able to lower blood sugar levels and possibly play a role in managing diabetes.

9. They can improve bone health.

It doesn’t seem like the simple cucumber would be able to strengthen much of anything except your gin and tonic game, but it’s actually packed with vitamin K—a nutrient responsible for proper bone formation and calcium absorption. In fact, vitamin K supplementation has also been linked to reducing fractures in women with low bone mineral density, so if you’re postmenopausal, it certainly can’t hurt to find some way to increase your cucumber intake.

10. They might prevent hair loss.

On top of all the other good stuff found in cucumbers, you’ll also discover silica: a natural element that promotes the growth of collagen and connective tissue in your skin, making it stronger and more elastic.

What does this have to do with hair? Well, a 2016 article in the Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia suggests that, in addition to skin benefits, silica can reduce hair loss and thinning, as well as make hair appear brighter. You may need silica supplementation to correct severe hair loss, but eating your fair share of cucumbers might be able to ward off some hair-related signs of aging.

Cucumber side effects

Now that you know how wonderful cucumbers are, you should probably know that you can’t just eat cucumbers all day, every day.

“If you eat only cucumbers, you won’t get the wide variety of nutrients that you need,” Dr. Boling says. In other words, add cucumbers into your diet on a regular basis but don’t go on an actual cucumber diet. Balance is key.

Digestive or nutritional issues

If you increase your cucumber intake only to find you’re experiencing some digestive distress, that’s a sign to slow down a little. Remember, cucumbers are good for your digestion, but not everyone can tolerate their benefits at high amounts. “Everybody has their own sensitivities to food, and it’s possible that people may be sensitive to the fiber and water content in cucumber, [causing] looser stools than normal,” Dr. Boling adds.

Drug interactions

As far as cucumber’s overall safety, it has a pretty harmless profile. You can eat cucumber at virtually any time of the day or night, and it’s not known to have any interactions with common foods, supplements, or medications.

Vitamin K in general can reduce the effectiveness of some blood thinning medications used to prevent blood clots, like Warfarin, but cucumber doesn’t make it onto the list of foods high enough in vitamin K to avoid while taking these medications. Still, you should always ask your doctor if you have any concerns about drug interactions.

Toxicity

Finally, some people on the internet have warned about cucumber’s potential toxicity, in a phenomenon known as “toxic squash syndrome.” The cucurbitacins in cucumbers—and other members of the cucumber family, like pumpkin and squash—can sometimes become dangerously elevated in these vegetables, causing not only an extremely bitter taste but also a bad case of food poisoning.

Toxic squash syndrome is not extremely common. So far, according to a handful of studies, it hasn’t resulted in any deaths. That said, if you ever bite into a cucumber from the grocery store or your own garden and it tastes very bitter, toss the whole thing out rather than eating it, just to be on the safe side.

How to maximize the benefits of cucumbers

There are a number of easy ways to add more cucumber into your diet, but some of them are more beneficial than others.

Leave the peel on

The peel of a cucumber is actually where many of its nutrients are found, so if you’re eating cucumber to boost your vitamin and mineral intake, you should leave the peel on rather than removing it.

Keep in mind, though, that if you’re planning to reap the health benefits of unpeeled cucumbers, you might want to either buy organic or plan to clean your cucumbers well: “If you’re going to eat the peel of the cucumber and you have the extra grocery dollars, it’s worth considering buying organic,” says Gorin, “[but either way], make sure to wash the peel well before you eat the veggie.”

Blend, don’t juice

While cucumber juice sounds like a delicious way to cool down on a hot day, stick to tossing cucumbers in the blender rather than juicing them.

“I’d suggest blending cucumber into a smoothie so that you get the benefits of the whole vegetable—including the fiber,” says Gorin. “When you juice, oftentimes the fiber is discarded.”

Eat raw, not pickled

There are two types of people in this world: pickle lovers and pickle haters. While enjoying pickle slices on a burger is totally fine (and delicious), try not to rely on pickles for your cucumber intake. Gorin says pickled cucumbers have way more sodium than raw cucumbers, so if you’re watching your sodium intake or have high blood pressure, she suggests choosing fresh cucumbers over those soaked in brine.

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