Fruits and vegetables, including cucumbers, aren't just good for your overall health, they're a welcome addition to weight loss diets. Cucumbers provide generous amounts of essential nutrients, including vitamins C and K, and they have some nutritional properties that make them helpful for weight loss.
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You don't have to stick to cucumber slices served plain, though — you can include cucumber in a range of delicious weight loss-friendly dishes.
Cucumber for Weight Loss
When you're trying to lose weight, including low-calorie foods like cucumbers in your diet helps you lower your calorie intake to shed pounds. Cucumbers are very low in calories — a cup of sliced cucumber has just 14 calories, which is less than 1 percent of the daily calorie "budget" on a weight loss-friendly 1,500-calorie diet.
Even eating a large portion size won't make you pack on the pounds. A medium peeled cucumber has just 24 calories, and a large unpeeled cuke still has just 45 calories. Because cucumber is low in calories even with a large portion size, it's a very low-energy-density food. Filling your diet with such foods is beneficial for weight loss, because they'll fill you up when you're following a calorie-controlled diet.
Other Nutritional Benefits
You'll get other nutritional benefits from cucumbers, helping keep you healthy on your weight loss journey. Eating half an unpeeled cucumber provides you with roughly one-third of the daily value for vitamin K, an essential nutrient that helps your blood clot.
You'll also get 7 percent of the daily value for vitamin C, an antioxidant that also supports collagen production, which keeps your bones, skin and hair strong. Cucumber also contains several phytonutrients — beneficial plant compounds — according to a review published in Fitoterapia in January 2013.
These compounds provide antioxidant benefits and might offer antidiabetic benefits, notes the review, and cucumber seeds help fight constipation. These benefits may also indirectly help with your weight loss — by nourishing your body with nutritious foods, like cucumber, you're more likely to feel energized to lead an active, healthy lifestyle.
Serve Cucumbers in Salads
Use cucumbers as a base for salads to help you lose weight. Eating a low-calorie cucumber salad before meals helps fill you up, and gives your brain time to process "full" signals so you don't overeat your main course.
Try a mixture of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh basil and lemon juice for a low-fat salad, or sliced cucumbers, red grapefruit, fennel and white wine vinaigrette for a sweet-and-sour option. Alternatively, mix cucumber chunks with spinach and red peppers for a filing green salad, and add a handful of mint leaves for refreshing flavor.
Read more: 23 Healthy Salads Nutrition Experts Eat
Make Low-Cal Cucumber Beverages
When you're dieting, it's best to limit your liquid calorie intake, because liquid calories don't trigger feelings of fullness like solid foods. And those calories can really add up — about half of Americans drink sugary drinks daily, and 25 percent of people take in at least 200 calories from sugary drinks.
Use cucumbers to make beverages as a compromise between sugary drinks and plain water. You'll still get refreshing flavor, but your beverage will be relatively low in calories. Steep your water with cucumber and lemon slices for refreshing flavored water, and try adding muddled basil or mint leaves for an herbal twist.
Add fresh or frozen cucumber to your fruit smoothies — cucumber pairs especially well with unsweetened coconut water, lime juice, a few chunks of frozen pineapple, and a handful of cilantro or parsley. Or go for a greens-filled smoothie made with unsweetened iced green tea, romaine, kale, parsley, cucumber, celery and just a squeeze of lemon juice.
Try Low-Cal Cucumber "Noodles"
Use a spiral cutter to make cucumber "noodles" to eat in place of pasta to cut calories. While cucumber won't have the texture of real pasta, it offers a bright and crisp flavor and texture that works well in pasta-based dishes.
For example, top cucumber noodles with raw tomato sauce — made from pureed sun-dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, olive oil and garlic — or top them with bean sprouts, cooked chicken and pad Thai sauce for raw pad Thai.
Subbing out pasta for cucumber will save you lots of calories, even if you spiral-cut an entire cucumber and eat a few cups of "noodles." For example, eating a spiral-cut medium cucumber instead of a cup of cooked rice noodles saves you 166 calories — enough to lose 7 pounds of fat if you make this switch three times a week for a year, not counting any weight loss from other dietary changes.
Using cucumber "noodles" instead of spaghetti saves you even more calories — 197 calories per serving, or the equivalent of almost 9 pounds of fat if you made this switch three times a week for a year.
- MyFoodData: "Cucumber"
- Penn State University: "Low-Energy-Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Sugary Drinks"
- Fitoterapia: "Phytochemical and Therapeutic Potential of Cucumber"
- MyFoodData: "Cooked Pasta (Unenriched), Cooked Rice Noodles"