Foods for the skin Fruits

Cucumber – Nutritional value and medicinal uses

Cucumber or Cucumis sativus is a low-calorie fruit consumed worldwide for its many health benefits ranging from aiding weight loss, relieving constipation, preventing cancer, improving heart heart, and more commonly, improving skin health.

Most people often classify cucumber as a vegetable, but in literal sense it’s actually a fruit, since it contains seeds and grow from the ovaries of a flowering plant. Nevertheless, how this fruit is used makes it a vegetable. Cucumber belongs to the same family with squash, watermelon, zucchini, and pumpkins.

The “Cucumis sativus”, a herbaceous vine of the botanical family Cucurbitaceae bears the fruit Cucumber. Cucumbers contain a very large amount of water, about 96% of its content. Thus, it is said that “eating a cucumber is like drinking a glass of water”.

 

Scientific nameCucumis sativus
FamilyGourd / Cucurbitaceae
RelativesSquash, Pumpkin, Zucchini, Watermelon
OriginSouth Asia
VarietiesPickling, Slicing, Seedless

 

Properties / Nutritional value of cucumber

Cucumber is a nutrient-rich food. It is full of phytochemicals such as flavonoids and terpenes that have great benefits to the human body. Over 95% of cucumber’s content is water, this is an amount higher than that of watermelons which contains about 91% water. According to USDA food composition database, a 100 g of cucumber provides just 16 kcal of energy, only 3.63 g of carbohydrates including dietary fiber, a low fat content of just 0.11 g, and proteins of 0.65 g.

In terms of vitamins, the same 100 g provides about 0.259 mg of vitamin B5, 2.8 mg of vitamin C, 16.4 µg of vitamin K, and 7 µg of folate. As for minerals, 100 g of cucumber provides a whooping 147 mg of potassium, 16 mg of calcium, 13 mg of magnesium, just 2 mg of sodium, and 24 mg of phosphorus.

From the above properties, we can see that cucumbers contain virtually no fat, and  a little content of carbohydrates and proteins. It contains minerals such as potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and iron in significant amounts. It also contains some trace elements such as sulfur and zinc.

 

cucumber-medicinal-uses

 

Cucumbers have the following medicinal properties:

  • Depurant. Cucumber helps in the elimination of waste substances from the blood stream. This is achieved either through elimination by the urine or skin.
  • Laxative. Due to the high water content of cucumbers and very soluble fiber, they make easier the movement of feces through the intestine.
  • Alkalizer. Cucumbers also helps in neutralizing excess acidic waste produced in the body which mainly arises from the intake of animal-based foods.
  • Diuretic. This wonderful fruit also acts as a diuretic i.e helps in increasing urine production.

Here is a quick list of some of the outstanding medicinal uses of cucumber:

  • Skin conditions
  • Weight loss
  • Constipation
  • Hypertension
  • Heart health
  • Bone health
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney stones
  • Gout

Cucumber has a lot of health benefits. It’s medicinal properties such as being a diuretic, depurant, and a laxative, as well as its rich profile of nutritive and non-nutritive components account for most of its medicinal applications. Below are some of its health importance:

  • SKIN CONDITIONS

Cucumbers provide the sulphur needed for healthy skin cells, hair and nails, and also helps in hydrating the skin. Moreover, they cleanse the bloodstream of toxic wastes. Cucumbers are therefore highly recommended for patients suffering from dermatosis, eczema and psoriasis. They are applied locally by rubbing directly on the skin or on the affected areas. Applying cucumbers on the skin regularly helps make it soft, smooth and fresh. It also reduces swelling, inflammation, and irritation.

Another important content of cucumber that’s good for the skin is silica, which is essential for developing strong and healthy connective tissues in body. It makes the skin look brighter and healthier. Apart from the nutrient-attributed properties of cucumber for the skin, its water content plays an important role. With more than 95% water content, cucumber helps hydrate the skin, and of course you should know that moisture is essential in attaining a healthy skin.

Stylecraze made mention of its numerous benefits on the skin which includes:

  1. Reversing skin tanning
  2. Soothing sunburn
  3. Treating open pores
  4. Reducing dark circles
  5. Reducing eye wrinkles and under eye bags
  6. Treating blemishes
  7. Rejuvenating the skin
  8. Fighting cellulite

Due to their low carbohydrate content, and the supply of certain amount of minerals and vitamins, cucumber is highly recommended for the diabetics. Moreover, it contains hormones that are needed by the cells of the pancreas for an increased insulin production.

It is also quite important to note that cucumbers have a very low glycemic index (GI) of just 15. Glycemic index is a relative ranking of the carbohydrates present in foods based on how they affect blood glucose levels. According to GlycemicIndex, foods with a low GI of 55 or less are more slowly digested and absorbed into the blood stream. This leads to a slower rise in blood glucose levels and of course, makes insulin more available. Thus, the consumption of cucumber is ideal for the diabetics, as it helps keep blood glucose level under control.

  • WEIGHT LOSS / OBESITY

Cucumbers contain very few calories and produce a feeling of satiety when consumed, thus, recommended for the obese and those willing to lose off some weight. This feeling of satiety is mainly due to its soluble fiber content that slows down digestion process. A particular study showed how water consumption increased weight loss during a low-calorie diet. Interestingly enough, cucumbers contain a lot of water, and it won’t be a bad idea to include them in your weight loss plans.

Constipation due to intestinal atony can be controlled by the intake of cucumbers. This is due to their laxative nature which arises from its richness in fiber. In a nutshell, cucumbers aid digestion process as a whole since it contains the two most essential elements needed for a healthy digestion: fiber and water of course.

Cucumber contains potassium in rich amounts, about 147 mg per 100 g. Potassium is a heart-friendly element that is necessary for the proper functioning of the heart. It helps reduce blood pressure and heart rate by countering the effects of excess sodium. When sodium is excess in the bloodstream, it pulls up water into the blood vessels, thereby increasing the volume of blood flowing through your body. As blood increases, blood pressure increases in its vessel.

A research carried out in 2017 revealed the effect of cucumber juice in lowering blood pressure. The research made mention of why health professionals need to come up with a simpler and traditional method of treating hypertension, with cucumber in contention; since it posses virtually no side effects as opposed to modern medical treatments.

  • BONE HEALTH

It’s not always about calcium! Although it is an essential nutrient in developing healthy and strong bones, there are other nutrients that are needed, and some of them are vitamin k and silica. With cucumbers having up to 17 µg of vitamin K per 100 g, it helps improve bone strength.

Cucumber contains silica in quite significant amounts. Accumulated evidence over the last 3 decades have shown the importance of dietary silicon to bone and connective tissue health.

According to Saveourbones, silica aids bone health in two major ways, namely:  Aiding collagen formation, and facilitating assimilation of calcium. As a connective tissue, collagen helps hold bones and muscles together. Without it, our body’s won’t be able to stand firm and would definitely fall apart. Silica on the other hand, is also necessary for the absorption of calcium – the ultimate bone building element.

With low bone density silently sweeping the world, including cucumbers in your diet can be a possible way to evade its arrest.

When you ask me to name foods that scientist have researched upon, then I will definitely call up the name cucumber. Two important phytonutrients with anticancer benefits were found in this wonderful fruit, namely: lignans and cucurbitacins. Lignans mainly pinoresinol, lariciresinol, and secoisolariciresinol may lower the risk of ovarian, uterine, breast, and prostrate cancers. It is quite interesting to note that pharmaceutical companies have been paying close attention to cucurbitacins, and are looking for possible ways to include them in new cancer drugs.

To further prove the effect of cucurbitacins, a research published showed how cucurbitacins not only inhibit the JAK-STAT pathway, but also affect other signaling pathways, such as the MAPK pathway, which are also known to be important for cancer cell proliferation and survival.

Moreover, cucumbers are rich in antioxidants such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, and manganese. This antioxidants help fight the formation of free radicals that are capable of causing cancerous growths and other diseases.

  • KIDNEY HEALTH AND GOUT

Cucumber as a whole is good for the kidney. Its juice is a wonderful diuretic that eliminates toxic waste from the body. This awesome fruit can form part of a diet to eliminate uric acid crystals that build up in the joints to form gout, mainly due to its low purine content and high amount of water.

 

About the author

abbati

Abbati is a student from the department of Biological sciences, Ahmadu Bello Univeristy, Zaria. He loves learning about the medicinal properties of foods, and the need to explore them!