5 Ways Cucumbers Boost Your Overall Health (free recipe)

Fruits and vegetables are probably the most important components of our diet, and yet also the least of which many of us consume on a regular basis. Perhaps the easiest way to get your recommended daily take is by putting them on sandwiches, but even then many people go for the more fatty-content sandwiches and not with the healthy vegetarian options. If you must indulge in the fattier foods on a regular basis, there is one vegetable you must consider adding to your burger or fried chicken sandwich that can help support your digestive and overall health:

Cucumbers!

According to Dr. Joseph Mercola,

Cucumbers belong to the same plant family as squash, pumpkin, and watermelon (the Cucurbitaceae family). Like watermelon, cucumbers are made up of mostly (95%) water, which means eating them on a hot summer day can help you stay hydrated. However, there are plenty of reasons why you should eat cucumbers all year long. With vitamin K, B vitamins, copper, potassium, vitamin C, and manganese, cucumbers can help you to avoid nutrient deficiencies that are widespread among those eating a typical American diet. Plus, cucumbers contain unique polyphenols and other compounds that may help reduce your risk of chronic diseases and much, much more.

Here are 5 ways cucumbers can help support your overall health and why you should be eating more of them!

1. Cucumbers support your brain and neural activity.

Cucumbers contain an anti-inflammatory flavonol called fisetin that appears to play an important role in brain health. In addition to improving your memory and protecting your nerve cells from age-related decline, fisetin has been found to prevent progressive memory and learning impairments in mice with Alzheimer's disease.

2. They can reduce your risk of cancer.

Cucumbers contain polyphenols called lignans (pinoresinol, lariciresinol, and secoisolariciresinol), which may help to lower your risk of breast, uterine, ovarian, and prostate cancers. They also contain phytonutrients called cucurbitacins, which are believed to help prevent the development of cancerous cells.

3. Relive inflammation.

Cucumbers may help to "cool" the inflammatory response in your body, and animal studies suggest that cucumber extract helps reduce unwanted inflammation, in part by inhibiting the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes, including cyclo-oxygenase 2, or COX-2.

4. They contain fiber that supports your digestive health.

Cucumbers are rich in two of the most basic elements needed for healthy digestion: water and fiber. If you struggle with acid reflux, you should know that drinking water can help suppress acute symptoms of acid reflux by temporarily raising your stomach’s pH level; the same effect, however, can be achieved by eating cucumbers due to their high water concentration. Cucumber skins also contain insoluble fiber, which helps add bulk to your stool. This allows digested materials to move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination.

5. Supports overall health.

Cucumbers are also rich in potassium, which is associated with lower blood pressure. A proper balance of potassium both inside and outside your cells is crucial for your body to function properly. As an electrolyte, potassium is a positive charged ion that must maintain a certain concentration (about 30 times higher inside than outside your cells) in order to carry out its functions, which includes interacting with sodium to help control nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and heart function.
While cucumbers may sound like the perfect vegetable, they can have a negative side effect. If you bite into a cucumber and it tastes bitter, do not eat it. Health Guide Info explains, "Cucumber contains small patches that taste bitter. These portions contain the extremely toxic tetracyclic triterpenoids or cucurbitacins compound, which in excess can cause such extremes as death. Cucumber juice remains increasingly susceptible to this bitter tasting toxic compound, and for this reason, it is best to avoid bitter tasting cucumber juice."

All in all, cucumbers are a great addition to your diet that can help you stay hydrated and support your vital bodily functions. Try adding them to a sandwich, salad, or even recommend to your boss that they add cucumber slices to the water dispenser in the office. There are plenty of ways for you to increase your healthy eating habits, but for those just taking a first step, cucumbers are a good place to start!

Here is a simple recipe for a cucumber salad that will make your start to healthier eating even simpler.

Enjoy!

Cucumber Salad with Olives, Oregano, and Almonds

Serves 8 as a side

  • 3 tbsp sliced almonds
  • 4 cucumbers
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsps olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsps sugar (feel free to substitute a pinch to 1/16 teaspoon of powdered stevia or 2-4 drops of liquid stevia)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • A few grinds black pepper
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp minced fresh oregano
  1. Put almonds in a small saute pan over very low heat. Stir frequently until the nuts are golden brown and your kitchen smells divine. Set aside until ready to use.
  2. Peel cucumbers. Slice each cucumber in half the long way. With a teaspoon, scrape out the seeds. Slice each cucumber half into very thin slices.
  3. Cover a cookie sheet in paper towels. Spread the cucumber slices over the paper towels and refrigerate until ready to dress.
  4. Put the vinegar into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook until it is reduced to about 2 tablespoons, 6-10 minutes. Pour the vinegar into a bowl and let it cool.
  5. When the vinegar is cool, whisk it together with the lemon juice, olive oil, sugar, salt, and pepper.
  6. When you're ready to serve the salad (or half an hour before if you like cold cucumbers), put the cucumbers into a serving bowl and add the dressing, shallots, olives, and herbs. Toss to coat the vegetables in the dressing. Let it sit for five minutes and toss again.
  7. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve. If you chill it for a few minutes, toss again before bringing the salad to the table.

From Cook's Illustrated, July/August 2011

Steven Zahn
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
Pre and Post Partum Certified
Dragondoor Publications: HKC Russian Kettlebell Certified