Crunchy and hydrating, cucumbers are one of the most versatile fruits (yes, it's a fruit) to add to your salads, soups and sandwiches. Cucumbers, with their peels, are loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
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Yes, you can eat cucumber skin — and it's actually very good for you. In fact, forgoing the peels means you're not getting the maximum benefits of cucumber skin nutrition, as the edible peel does contain some nutrients.
"Cucumbers are relatively low in calories, so there is no significant difference in macronutrient composition (carbohydrates, protein, fat) when the skin is removed. But the skin does contain slightly more fiber and vitamin K," says LaChell Miller, RD, certified culinarian and representative of the New Jersey Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. "And with fewer than 1 in 10 American adults getting enough dietary fiber, every little bit counts."
Here's a breakdown of cucumber nutrition and benefits, plus creative ways to enjoy your cukes.
Cucumber Nutrition Facts
One large cucumber with its peel (8 1/4 inches long) contains:
- Calories: 45
- Total fat: 0.3 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 6 mg
- Total carbs: 10.9 g
- Dietary fiber: 1.5 g
- Sugar: 5 g
- Added sugar: 0 g
- Protein: 2 g
- Total fat: One large cucumber with its peel contains 0.3 grams of total fat, including 0.1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0.015 gram of monounsaturated fat, and 0.096 gram of polyunsaturated fat.
- Carbohydrates: One large cucumber with its peel contains 10.9 grams of carbs, including 1.5 grams of fiber and 5.03 grams of naturally occurring sugar.
- Protein: One large cucumber with its peel contains 2 grams of protein.
Peeling your cucumber lowers the calories to 28 and decreases some of the carbohydrates and protein but, most importantly, you lose out on much of the vitamin, mineral and polyphenol content.
Vitamins, Minerals and Other Micronutrients
Cucumbers are a good source of many vitamins, a large portion of those nutrients residing just under the peel:
- Vitamin K: 41% of your Daily Value (DV)
- Panthothenic Acid (B5): 16% DV
- Copper: 14% DV
- Vitamin A: 11% DV
- Manganese: 10% DV
- Vitamin C: 9% DV
- Potassium: 9% DV
- Magnesium: 9% DV
- Riboflavin (B2): 8% DV
- Vitamin B6: 7% DV
- Thiamin (B1): 7% DV
- Phosphorous: 6% DV
- Zinc: 5% DV
- Folate (B9): 5% DV
- Iron: 5% DV
- Calcium: 4% DV
If you peel the cucumber, you lose a portion of some vitamins and minerals. A peeled cucumber contains:
- 29.2 mg less vitamin K, down to 17% DV
- 61.7 mg less potassium, down to 8% DV
- 5.5 mg less magnesium, down to 8% DV
- 13.4 mg less phosphorus, down to 5% DV
- 9 mg less calcium, down to 3% DV
Cucumber Peel Benefits
1. It Provides Fiber
Fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet because it keeps you regular (aka helps you poop), helps lower bad cholesterol and balances your blood sugar levels to keep cravings at bay, among other things.
"Eating cucumbers with the peel contributes to increased daily fiber intake, which ultimately helps improve digestion. Your body can't digest fiber, so soluble fiber helps slow down the emptying of the stomach," Miller says.
"This can help you stay feeling fuller longer. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool to help keep foods moving through the digestive tract. The good news: Cucumbers with the skin contain both."
2. It's a Great Source of Vitamin K
If you eat a large cucumber with the peel on, you'll meet 41 percent of your daily vitamin K needs whereas you'll get only 17 percent DV if you peel the skin off.
"Since cucumbers are an excellent source of vitamin K, they can be beneficial to helping your blood clot. This is critical in helping stop wounds from continuously bleeding" Miller says. "While many can benefit from this nutrient, there are some medications that may counteract with too much vitamin K in the diet."
For example, if you're taking a blood thinner, such as warfarin, you want to make sure you're consuming the same amount of vitamin K daily from food and supplements. Getting too much vitamin K can cause blood clots while taking in less can lead to bleeding, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
3. Cucumbers Keep You Hydrated
Eating more cucumbers can help you stay hydrated. That's because cukes are made up of 95 percent water, as with other fruits and vegetables in the melon family, Miller says.
All the cells, organs and tissues in your body need water to help regulate temperature and carry out bodily functions. Eating cucumbers can help you replace the fluid lost through breathing, sweating and digestion.
Try adding some cucumber slices to your water bottle or glass to infuse a mild, refreshing flavor and double your hydration benefits. Or snack on a sliced cucumber with the peel after your workout to help replenish your body with the electrolytes it needs to prevent dehydration.
4. It Helps Control Your Weight
Cucumbers are low in calories, carbs and fat.
The carbs in cucumbers are complex carbs that provide energy for your body. You should aim to eat 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories from carbs or between 225 and 325 grams on a 2,000-calorie diet, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Foods that are highest in water and fiber, such as cucumbers, are considered low-calorie. An April 2016 study in Nutrients, which included 13 trials and 3,628 people, found that eating low-cal foods is the most effective measure to manage weight when the goal is weight loss.
5. Cucumbers Help Keep Your Bones Strong
Cucumbers are an excellent source of vitamin K, which helps calcium bind to bone matrix to help prevent bone fractures, according to a February 2015 study in Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal. At the same time, vitamin K can help fend off the calcification of arteries from excess calcium.
Cucumber with its fruit peel provides 41 percent DV, but if you discard the peel, you lose 29.3 micrograms of vitamin K, which decreases its DV to 17 percent.
A deficiency in calcium may result in low bone mass and the risk of osteoporosis and bone fracture, according to the NIH. Eating the cucumber with the peel will provide 9 milligrams more calcium than if you peeled off the skin.
How to Eat Cucumber
Cucumber's crisp texture and mild flavor make it a great addition to a variety of dishes. Just make sure not to peel your cucumbers to reap the most health benefits.
Miller likes adding cucumbers to Mediterranean dishes for a crisp contrast to other veggies. You can also incorporate them into a fruit salad with watermelon and sprinkle some chopped fresh mint for an ultra-hydrating dessert.
Miller also suggests adding cucumbers to your water or cocktail to enhance the flavor and boost the hydration benefits.
You can also pickle smaller varieties of cucumbers, such as Kirby. "Pickling in vinegar, sugar, salt, coriander, mustard seeds and peppercorns can really add a tang to cucumbers. You can even spice up your pickling liquids with jalapenos," she says.
"Some cucumbers have a thin wax to help stay shelf-stable longer in the grocery store. This is not harmful for consumption, but I always recommend washing them well before enjoying," Miller says.
If you're looking for more delicious ways to enjoy cucumbers with their peels, check out these flavorful recipes. They'll inspire you to make more use of cucumbers in your dishes and experiment with different ingredients.
- My Food Data: "Cucumber With Peel Raw"
- My Food Data: "Cucumber With Peel Raw - 1/2 Cup Slices"
- National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin K"
- Mayo Clinic: "Carbohydrates: How Carbs Fit Into a Healthy Diet"
- Nutrients: "Link Between Food Energy Density and Body Weight Changes in Obese Adults"
- Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal: "Proper Calcium Use: Vitamin K2 as a Promoter of Bone and Cardiovascular Health"
- National Institutes of Health: "Calcium"
- Science Direct: "Cucurbitaceae"
- Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture: "Seasonality Chart: Vegetables"