There are many foods that one ate just because mama included them as part of the household diet. Whether that was as a result of some health benefits, taste or tradition is beside the point… Eat ‘cos Mama says so! Here in Nigeria, cucumber, I believe falls into that category. It’s basically a component of salad or more recently as snacks; in other words, cucumber is not a stable vegetable for Nigerian dishes. It is something that one buys just occasionally when feeling in need of some greens.
Thankfully, that perception is gradually changing, at least among Millennials and some health-conscious Nigerians, notably, among fans of ketogenic diets. But even among these, I doubt very much that many of them eat cucumber for the taste (at least, not the people that I have spoken to about this). It contains, after all, 95% water! The good news is that its remaining 5% is packed with goodness.
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The scientific name for cucumber is Cucumis sativus. It belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family, the same plant family that contains melon, squash and pumpkins. It is said to be the fourth most cultivated vegetable in the world (technically though, cucumber is a fruit as the seeds in the middle shows, both terms are however used interchangeably in this article.
The nutritional profile of cucumber looks like this. Click on each tab to review values.
Cucumber has a lot of health benefits and has been used in therapeutic applications including nourishing and soothing the skin against irritations, swelling and sunburns. The fruit is also refrigerant, haemostatic, tonic and useful in hyperdipsia (thirst) and thermoplegia (sunstroke). The seeds also have a cooling effect on the body and they are used to prevent constipation.
If those benefits are not enough, here are ten more amazing reasons to include cucumber as a part of a stable healthy diet.
1. Good for weight watchers
The very high-water content of cucumber means that this vegetable is very low in calories, making it ideal for those looking to lose or maintain their body weight.
2. Potentially antidiabetic
It has low sugar low sugar content, about 1.7g per 100g. (2.1g total carbohydrate), which makes it ideal for a diabetic diet.
3. Fights aging
Cucumber is a rich source of mineral silica, colloquially referred to as “Beauty mineral”. It improves skin elasticity and promotes hair and nail growth. Think elastic, think youthful looking, fewer body aches and pains and improved body flexibility.
4. Promotes bone health
See point three above. Mineral Silica is essential for healthy connective tissue, that is muscles, ligaments, cartilage and bone. However, it is mostly to containing Vitamin K that cucumber proves from important in maintaining bone health. Vitamin K intake is necessary to reduce fracture rates. It also works with vitamin D to increase bone density and positively affect calcium balance.
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5. Has antioxidant properties
That is to say that fresh extracts from cucumber have been known to scavenge free radicals (improving antioxidant status). Cucumber owes its antioxidant to the following compounds found within its fresh extracts: vitamin C, beta-carotene and manganese.
Free radicals are highly reactive atoms, ions or molecules that take or donate electrons from molecules in the body (e.g. fat, protein, cells, DNA), and in the process, damage those molecules through oxidation reactions. Over time, oxidative damage accumulates and contributes to ageing and a variety of degenerative diseases. Antioxidants such as those found in cucumber stop free radical damage to molecules. They do this by accepting or donating an electron to the free radical to make it stable. Antioxidants are unique in that they remain stable when they donate an electron.
6. And even anti-inflammatory properties
Fresh cucumber extracts have been shown to inhibit the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes like cyclo-oxygenase 2 (COX-2) as well as to prevent the overproduction of nitric oxide. The anti-inflammatory property of cucumber extracts is thanks to flavonoids, triterpenes and lignans found contained with its extracts.
Find out more about inflammation
7. It also has anti-cancer benefits
Two compounds, lignans and cucurbitacins, found in cucumber extracts are associated with anti-cancer benefits. Cucurbitacins can inhibit the growth of pancreatic cancer cells, while lignans can potentially reduce oestrogen-related cancers, such as ovarian, breast, endometrial and prostate cancers.
More on this can be found here
8. Promotes heart health
Cucumber contains potassium which is essential for maintaining heart health as well as in blood clotting process.
Eating cucumber has also been implicated in lowering blood pressure because it promotes vasodilation, that is the widening of the blood vessel.
9. Manages stress
Thanks to the multiple B vitamins: including vitamin B1, vitamin B5, and vitamin B7 (biotin), which are can help ease feelings of anxiety and buffer some of the damaging effects of stress.
10. Supports digestive health
Think of all that water and fibre from the skin. Water is good for acid reflux, and insoluble fibre as found on cucumber peels add bulk to the stool, aiding bowel movement.
Cucumber is really amazing and easily available as well. More so, it is reasonably priced as well. We got nothing to loose to for making it part of the stable family diet, but a bountiful of goodness. A healthy nation starts with a healthy family.
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