Ever wonder how to beat the scorching summer heat? Remember humble crunchy cucumber! This wonderful, low calorie vegetable indeed has more nutrients to offer than just water and electrolytes.
The vegetable is one of the oldest cultivated crops and believed to be originating in the northern plains of India. The plant is a creeper (vine) just like other same cucurbita family members, for example gourds, squashes, melons, zucchini etc. Botanically, it belongs to the cucurbitaceous family; and is known scientifically as Cucumis sativus.
Cucumber is easy to grow. Different varieties, varying in size, shape, and color, are cultivated all around the world. In general, the fruit features dark green skin, crispy moisture rich flesh, and small edible seeds concentrated at its center. Like other squash members, cucumbers are best-harvested young, tender and just short of reaching maturity, at a stage when they taste sweet and have unique flavor. If left alone, the fruit continues to grow in size, its skin become tough and turns yellow, and seeds become hard and inedible. Fresh cucumbers are available throughout the season and can be eaten raw as is or in vegetable salads or in the form of juice.
Cucumis melo var. flexuosusArmenian cucumbers (Cucumis melo var. flexuosus) are long, crispy, and thin-ribbed, curved, and have light green color. Although they are grouped botanically in melons family they look and taste like cucumbers.
Small size varieties such as gherkins, American dills and French-cornichons are very small in size and usually preferred in pickling.
Health benefits of Cucumber
- It is one of the very low calories vegetable; provides just 15 calories per 100 g. It contains no saturated fats or cholesterol. Cucumber peel is a good source of dietary fiber that helps reduce constipation, and offers some protection against colon cancers by eliminating toxic compounds from the gut.
- It is a very good source of potassium, an important intracellular electrolyte. Potassium is a heart friendly electrolyte; helps reduce blood pressure and heart rates by countering effects of sodium.
- It contains unique anti-oxidants in good ratios such as ß-carotene and α-carotene, vitamin-C, vitamin-A, zea-xanthin and lutein. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes.
- Cucumbers have mild diuretic property probably due to their high water and potassium content, which helps in checking weight gain and high blood pressure.
- They are surprisingly have high amount of vitamin K, provides about 17 µg of this vitamin per 100 g. Vitamin-K has been found to have potential role in bone strength by promoting osteotrophic (bone mass building) activity. It also has established role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in their brain.