The common cucumber… turns out to not be so common when it comes to health benefits. From soothing the skin, to providing cardiovascular and antioxidant boosts, even reducing risk for certain cancers – this versatile vegetable has quite the résumé!
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of cucumbers for diabetics is the way in which they contribute to lower blood sugar. This is due to the high fiber contained in the skin of the cucumber. Fiber has a powerful effect on reducing blood sugar, due to encouraging certain varieties of gut bacteria that cause the byproducts butyrate and acetate to multiply.
Researchers believe that acetate and butyrate raise the acidity levels in the gut. By creating a more acidic gut environment, not only does the amount of “bad” bacteria go down, insulin production is ramped up. This is the process which researchers credit with better blood sugar control.
Cardiovascular disease is also a major concern for individuals suffering from high blood sugar. That’s why the antioxidants in cucumbers, (flavonoids to be exact), are so important. They help to protect against the development of heart disease by decreasing ‘bad’ cholesterol, increasing ‘good’ cholesterol, and decreasing triglyceride levels. Cucumbers also promote the widening of the body’s blood vessels, helping to stabilize blood pressure and reduce the risk of hypertension.
A third nutritional gold star can be awarded to cucumbers for their astronomical water content. Cucumber contains the highest water content of any solid food – 96.7% in fact! One medium cucumber contains nearly one cup of water!
This helps not only to keep the body hydrated, but in combination with a high fiber content, makes cucumber lovers quite ‘regular’ – if you get the drift. There’s no better solution for healthy digestion than plenty of water plus lots of fiber!
Individuals who eat sufficient amounts of fiber consistently tend to weigh less than those who do not. This leads into another benefit of the cucumber – it is extremely low in calories. An entire medium-sized cucumber contains the same amount of calories as ¼ of a medium-sized apple! This makes cucumbers a fantastic low-calorie (and low-carb) substitute to chips when enjoying your favorite dip.
Cucumbers have also been touted as potential cancer-fighters. The lignans contained in cucumbers are converted by bacteria in the digestive tract into compounds that bind onto cellular estrogen receptors. Research has shown that this may help reduce risk of estrogen-related cancers like breast, prostate, ovarian, and uterine cancers.
Believe it or not, cucumbers have been credited with the ability to reduce pain and inflammation in the body. This is due to the presence of flavonoids and tannins, both of which have been shown to fight the release of free radicals, reduce inflammation, and assist in pain management.
Now that those cucumbers have helped reduce your pain levels, it’s time to relax! Those same anti-inflammatory properties work on the skin, as well as, in the body. Imagine a day at the spa… do you envision yourself with cucumber slices on your eyes as you are pampered? There’s actually some science behind that seemingly silly practice.
Contained in the cucumber’s skin are vitamin C and caffeic acid. Along with the high water content, this combination cools and soothes skin while reducing swelling and inflammation. In fact, cucumbers have long been used as a topical home remedy for skin irritations like acne and sunburn!
Ready to fill your grocery cart with a few pounds of cucumber? Now you’ll just need delicious ways in which to utilize them! While the old cucumber sticks dipped in ranch may be an easy segue for the veggie non-lovers out there, don’t be afraid of more complex cucumber culinary creations!
Shrimp and Cucumber Rounds, Sugar-free Fresh Cucumber Pickles, and Crisp Cucumber Salsa all deserve a shot at showcasing the health benefits (and refreshing taste) of the cucumber. Whether your chosen preparation is simple or grand, one thing is for sure – this veggie is one cool cuke!