History of Cucumber
Cucumber first made its appearance in Ancient India around the 2nd-3rd millennia B.C., so it’s been around for at least 3,000 years! From India, it spread to Greece and Italy, and China. It eventually spread to other parts of Europe, introduced by the Romans and Greeks. The Romans, especially, were quite fond of cucumber – it was popular amongst both nobility and lower castes. A popular example of cucumber love in Ancient Rome was of Emperor Tiberius (who ruled during 14-16 A.D.) who had to have cucumber on his table every single day. Because cucumbers grew naturally only in the summer, special gardens were arranged to grow his cucumbers during winter as well.
Apart from eating, cucumbers were are also used in a variety of different ways: treating poor eyesight, scaring mice, healing insect bites, and in women’s beauty regimens, to name a few. In fact, cucumbers were used for creating over 40 different remedies for different uses.
Cucumbers were first grown in France around the 9th century, followed by England and then North America, during the 14th and 16th centuries respectively. Different varieties were produced in Italy, Africa and Moesia. Today, China produces most of the world’s global cucumber output – a whopping 76%. Turkey, Iran, Russia and Ukraine closely follow.
Fun Facts of Cucumber
- Cucumbers belong to the “cucurbitaceae” plant family, which includes melons and pumpkins.
- They come in different sizes, shapes, textures (wrinkly, smooth), and colors (like white, yellow, orange, green).
- Cucumbers are over 95% water.
- Half a cup of cukes is only 8 calories, but surprisingly has over 10% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin K.
- The largest cucumber, grown in China, was 67 inches long and weighed an amazing 70kg (or 154lb).
- Rubbing a cucumber slice on your bathroom mirror prevents it from fogging up after a shower.
- The cucumber’s waxy outer layer can be used to remove ink.
- A cucumber can be up to 20 degrees cooler than its outside temperature. I suppose this is why they say “cool as a cucumber”!
- Cucumbers have been used to smuggle drugs – in 2014, German authorities discovered drugs worth $56 million hidden in pickled cucumber jars.
- In 2010, 57.5 million tons of cucumbers were produced globally, with 40.7 tons produced in China alone.
Cucumber Nutritional Information
- Cucumber is very low in calories with just 16 calories in a cup of cucumber.
- They do not contain any saturated fats or cholesterol.
- It is a good source of dietary fiber.
- Cucumbers are low in sodium.
- Sugars make up most of the calories in cucumbers.
- Cucumbers are rich in vitamin K – there is about 17ug of Vitamin K per every 100g of cucumber.
- Cucumbers have a majority of the vitamins you need in a day. A single cucumber contains the B Vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6), Folic Acid, Vitamins C and K, Zinc, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Potassium.
- For a cup of cucumber, below are the percentages of a person’s daily recommended intake:
|Vitamin / Nutrient||Percentage of recommended daily allowance|
15 Important Health Benefits of Cucumber
Hydrates the Body
Cucumbers are 95 percent water, and are therefore great thirst-quenchers during the summer, according to Eating Well magazine.
Cucumbers possess anti-inflammatory properties that aid in waste removal from the body. It also helps with skin irritation and activates anti-wrinkling and anti-aging elements in the skin.
Prevents Cancer Growth
Scientists have discovered that members of the plant family cucurbitacins can help deter the signaling trails that are essential for the spreading and survival of cancer cells. It was also found that they hinder the growth of cancer cells in the pancreas as well as increase apoptosis activity (death by suicide) in pancreatic cancer cells.
Benefits the Skin
Placing cucumber slices over the eyes isn’t just a meaningless beauty ritual. There is a science behind this trend. Cucumbers, being a cool vegetable, has a soothing effect on the eyes and skin that reduces swelling and inflammation. It decreases morning puffiness as well as treats sunburn.
Promotes Bone Health
Cucumbers are rich in Vitamin K (1 cucumber has 19% of your recommended daily VitK intake), which is essential for good bone health. The body utilizes its vitamin K preserves to repair damaged bones and build new ones. In addition, it helps lessen fracture rates (especially in women), as well as increase the density of human bones.
Contains Antioxidant Properties
Cucumbers possess antioxidants that strengthen the immune system by reducing free radicals that can cause a variety of diseases. Some of these antioxidants are vitamin C, beta-carotene and manganese, as well as flavonoids and lignans.
Promotes Cardiovascular Health
The potassium content in cucumbers helps curb heart diseases, diabetes, strokes, obesity, and lowers blood pressure, contributing to overall heart health. Potassium is essential to heart health, and cucumbers are an ideal source due to its low-calorie count, in comparison to other high-potassium fruits such as bananas which are high in calories.
Provides Energy Boost
Choose a cucumber over high-calorie, caffeinated drinks for a quick pick-me-up in the middle of the day when you’re feeling low on energy. The vitamins and carbohydrates in cucumbers give your mind a boost and keeps you feeling refreshed for hours.
Encourages Weight Loss
Cucumbers make for good low-calorie snacks, and is an excellent refreshing food to incorporate into your daily diet. Snacking on such a nutritious food keeps you from binging on other high-calorie junk foods to help you stay in shape!
Cucumbers’ fiber and water content helps digestion by helping food move easier through the intestinal tract.
Promotes Hair and Nail Health
A substance in cucumber called Silica strengthens and gives a shine to your hair and nails, and maintains their health for longer.
The B vitamins in cucumbers help ease stress and anxiety. There are several vitamin Bs in cucumbers: Vitamins B1, B3, B5, B6 and B7.
Protects the Brain
Cucumbers help protect the brain from a chemical it contains called “fisetin”, which helps fight neurological diseases which are age-related and otherwise, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Got a headache? Have a cucumber instead of a painkiller to ward it off. Research shows that cucumbers have anti-inflammatory chemicals called flavonoids and tannins which help reduce body pains and aches.
Improves Oral Health
Eating cucumber keeps your mouth smelling and feeling fresh, thanks to its fiber content which washes away bad breath-causing bacteria in the mouth with increased saliva production.
How to Eat More Cucumber
Want to have more of this nutritious vegetable but not sure how?Most people have cucumbers as a side dish with meals. Below are a list of ways you can incorporate more cucumber into your diet and enjoy its health benefits:
- In salads, shredded, or cut into bite-size pieces mixed with other vegetables or on its own, with dressing
- Blended with other vegetables to be incorporated in a soup
- Diced cucumber in chicken or tuna sandwiches and other rolls
- As smoothies, or part of a green juice
- Dip cucumber pieces into hummus as a snack or side dish
- Add mint leaves and cucumber to water for a refreshing water drink
Side Effects of Eating Cucumbers
As beneficial as cucumbers are, too much of it can have some seriously harmful side effects, including:
- Decreased fluid retention
- Harmful for renal system
- Milk allergies
- Cardiovascular problems
- Side effects of too much vitamin C
- Intestinal problems
- Dental and skin allergies
- Increased possibility of developing Sinusitis
- Harmful during pregnancy
Tips to Avoid Cucumber side effects
- Wash cucumbers thoroughly
- Remove peels before consuming
- Only buy fresh cucumbers that are still firm to the touch (avoid soft cucumbers) and has smooth round edges (more cucumber selection and storage information near the end of the article)
Top Three Popular Cucumber Recipes
We checked AllRecipes.com for the most popular cucumber recipes and were surprised to find plenty! We picked the top three yummy cucumber recipes (based on reviews and our own taste buds) and listed them for you below:
- 4 cucumbers, thinly sliced at an angle
- 1 small onion – sliced
- 1 cup white vinegar
- Half cup water
- Three-fourths of a cup white sugar
- 1tbsp dried dill
- In a bowl, mix in the chopped cucumbers and onions well.
- Blend together the vinegar, water and sugar in a sauce-pan over a medium-high flame. Turn off the flame once it comes to a boil, and add it to the cucumber and onion combination.
- Toss in the dill, and cool in refrigerator.
Tip: If you choose to have this dish at room temperature, ensure that the cucumbers have been marinated at least an hour beforehand.
- 1.5 cups uncooked orzo pasta
- 2 cans marinated artichoke hearts
- 1 chopped tomato
- 1 chopped cucumber
- 1 chopped red onion, chopped
- 1 cup feta cheese
- 1 can black olives, drained from fluid
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander
- 1tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
- Pour water in a large pot, add some salt and bring to a boil.
- Stir in pasta and let cook for around 10 minutes, and then drain.
- Drain the artichoke hearts, keeping its water aside.
- Take a separate bowl and put the following together: cooked pasta, artichoke hearts, tomato, cucumber, onion, feta, olives, coriander, lemon juice, oregano and lemon pepper.
- Mix and cool in a refrigerator for an hour.
- Prior to serving, pour some of the reserved artichoke liquid over the dish.
- Just before serving, drizzle reserved artichoke marinade over salad.
- 1 packet cream cheese
- 1package dry Italian-style salad dressing mix
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 French baguette, sliced into half-inch thick circles
- 1sliced cucumber
- 2 tsp dried dill
- In a bowl, toss together the cream cheese, mayo and dressing mix.
- Spread some cream cheese on a bread slice, and add a cucumber slice on top of it.
- Sprinkle dill.
- Repeat step 2 with each bread slice.
Selecting and Storing Cucumbers
- Cucumbers are easily affected by heat, so it is a good option to select and buy refrigerated cucumbers from stores
- Fresh, unspoiled cucumbers are firm to the touch, curved at the edges and are towards the darker green side
- Don’t pick yellow and puffy cucumbers and those that have wrinkled edges or are soggy.
- Cucumbers that are thin-skinned have fewer seeds than its thick-skinned counterparts
- Store cucumbers in the refrigerator to retain its freshness for longer, and to hinder the loss of nutrients and vitamins.
- If you do not consume an entire cucumber at a time, you can store the rest by wrapping it tightly in cling film.
- Do not keep cucumbers out at room temperature for long periods of time, especially during the summer.
- Consume within 2-3 days.
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