A popular summertime snack, cucumbers are believed to originate from India. They spread over to Greece and Italy and made their way over to America around the 1600s. Cucumbers are in the same family as squash, pumpkins and watermelon. While cucumbers are generally considered vegetables, they contain seeds, which technically qualifies these cooling treats as a fruit instead. The same is true of both tomatoes and avocados.
Cucumbers commonly come in three varieties; English, Persian or Pickling. Sometimes they are called, novelty or gourmet, salad or slicing and pickling varieties as well. The English cucumbers are often longer and skinnier with dark green skins. The salad cucumbers are the ones commonly grown at home or sold in supermarkets with edible seeds and are surrounded with a waxy coating. The pickling varieties are the smallest and squattest of the bunch.
All varieties of cucumbers are low in calories. A half cup of raw, sliced cucumbers with skin is only 10 calories. This vegetable also contains no cholesterol or sodium and is naturally fat free. The cucumber tends to be a mildly sweet flavored snack and delivers 2 g of carbohydrates and 1 g of sugars with each serving. Commonly cucumbers are eaten raw or slightly cooked since their texture helps to make the meal. It is a common item on vegetable trays. Adding a vegetable dip to the cucumber when eating can dramatically increase the calories, so if these veggies are chosen as a low-calorie option, it is good to monitor how much dip is being eaten with them.
Most of the nutrients are packed within the skin of the cucumber, so it is helpful to buy organic or wash the peel well to remove the waxy coating. The cucumber is made up of mostly water, so it becomes a cool and hydrating snack. The inner temperature of the cucumber can be 20 degrees cooler than the outside. Eating the peel delivers a small amount of Vitamin A and Vitamin C at 2 percent of the daily value for a ½ cup serving.
Cucumbers are commonly used as a beauty trick to help reduce puffiness around the eyes. Due to the hydrating nature of the cucumbers, this is true. The slices do have to be placed directly on the puffy parts of the eye to be effective. The cucumber can be blended with other items such as milk, cream and honey and smoothed all over the skin as a cleansing and rejuvenating mask.