You're used to seeing cucumbers on a salad or as a topping for your favorite sub sandwich, but did you know that this unassuming fruit offers a lot of health benefits? Cucumber benefits include improved hydration and weight loss, just to name a few.
It's really hard to overdose on cucumbers, and cucumber side effects are minimal. You don't have to worry about pesticides or waxed skin.
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Cucumbers contain some valuable vitamins and minerals. Most important is that they have a low energy density and high water content to help with weight loss and hydration.
Cucumber Nutrition Facts
- 8 calories
- Almost 2 grams of carbohydrates and
0.3 grams of fiber
- 8 milligrams of calcium
- 7 milligrams of magnesium
- 76 milligrams of potassium
- 1.5 milligrams of vitamin C
The amounts of these nutrients is not especially remarkable, but do contribute to your overall intake so you move toward taking in the daily recommended amount. Cucumbers have no notable protein or fat and are low in natural sugars.
Low Energy Density in Cucumbers
Cucumber benefits are mainly in their extremely low calorie content. With just 8 calories per half cup (or 16 calories per cup), you can eat a lot of cucumbers without going over your healthy calorie intake for the day.
A reduced calorie intake helps you lose weight. Eating too many calories and moving too little causes obesity, and obesity leads to a host of health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep apnea and diabetes.
Cucumbers help you keep your calorie intake low. A calorie calculator like the one at the American Cancer Society gives you an idea of how many units of this energy you need to maintain or lose weight. For example, the average 35-year-old woman who is 5 feet, 5 inches and weighs 150 pounds needs 2,200 calories to maintain her weight. Cutting 250 to 500 calories from that amount leads to steady weight loss of about 1/2 to 1 pound per week.
Read more: Recommended Caloric Intake for Weight Loss
One way to cut calories is to eat foods that are low in calories but still filling. The high water content in cucumbers helps you feel satisfied with minimal calories. A meta-analysis published in an April 2016 issue of Nutrients showed that there is a significant association between foods with low energy density and weight loss. Foods with low energy density are those that have very few calories for large servings — just like cucumbers.
The researchers conclude that adding food with low energy density in place of foods with higher energy density can prompt weight loss. It's the total amount of food consumed that makes you feel full, not the calorie content. It takes cupfuls of cucumber to take in any notable about of calories.
Ways cucumbers can help you save calories include:
- Using cucumbers instead of tortilla or pita chips to dip into hummus
- Adding cucumbers to a sandwich to make it heftier and more filling
- Making a cucumber salsa to add flavor to tacos instead of cheese
Cucumbers and Hydration
A 52-gram serving of cucumber contains 50 grams of water. That makes cucumbers about 96-percent water and an excellent promoter of your hydration, helping you meet your daily fluid needs.
Staying hydrated is critical to good health. Fluids maintain your heart, brain and muscle function. Being hydrated means you can carry nutrients to your cells, flush bacteria out of your bladder and keep your digestive system regular, explains Harvard Health. In general, you should aim for 30 to 50 ounces of water or fluids per day.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published research in October 2013 noting that regular intake of fruits and vegetables improves hydration status in children, but really anyone can benefit. Add cucumbers to salads or snack on sticks. Cucumbers also make a fabulous addition to a large salad that accompanies breakfast and lunch. The more fruits and vegetables you consume, the better when it comes to getting your overall fluid for the day.
Cucumbers Improve Antioxidant Function
Cucumber has powers to improve antioxidant abilities in older adults. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging in August 2015 observed that cucumber enhanced antioxidant function in older adults, including glutathione and vitamin E production and oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health explains that antioxidants are substances that can delay cell damage. Vegetables and fruits in general are good sources of antioxidants.
When you boost antioxidant function with a diet high in fruits and vegetables, you markedly decrease your risk of many major diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.
Cucumber Side Effects
One of the concerns with produce, especially conventionally grown produce, is the use of pesticides and potential contamination of your diet.
Concerns may surround certain pesticides commonly used on cucumber crops, including ethion and imidacloprid, writes a study published in the Iranian Journal of Public Health in November 2016. In high doses, ethion can induce nausea, vomiting, anxiety and even an inability to breathe. Imidacloprid can also have adverse effects on human health, such as causing liver and thyroid gland toxicity.
The study showed, however, that storing, washing and peeling decreases pesticide residue on cucumbers, at least those grown in a greenhouse, effectively reducing and removing pesticides from the produce.
The watchdog association, the Environmental Working Group, dedicated to protecting human health and the environment, lists no concerns about cucumbers.
You might also worry about the side effects of consuming cucumbers coated in wax. A wax coating sounds unappealing, but cucumbers, along with other fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruit, bell peppers and eggplant have a natural wax that's removed when harvested and cleaned before packaging and shipping.
Produce handlers apply a thin coating of new wax to replace what's lost to help the produce retain moisture, stay fresh, remain bruise- and mold-free and stay resistant to other physical damage, explains a February 2014 article published by Ohio State University. All wax applied to cucumbers and other produce is FDA-approved to be safe to consume.
Read more: Top 10 Healthiest Fruits and Vegetables
The paper goes on to explain you don't really have to worry about removing the wax prior to eating the fruits and vegetables, either. Of course, thoroughly wash cucumbers using a mild scrub brush to remove any contaminants.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: "Cucumber, With Peel, Raw"
- Ohio State University: "Wax Off, Wax On? Waxed Produce OK"
- Iranian Journal of Public Health: "Determination of Pesticides Residues in Cucumbers Grown in Greenhouse and the Effect of Some Procedures on Their Residues"
- Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging: "In Vivo Antioxidant Properties of Lotus Root and Cucumber: A Pilot Comparative Study in Aged Subjects"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Contribution of Fruit and Vegetable Intake to Hydration Status in Schoolchildren"
- Nutrients: "Link Between Food Energy Density and Body Weight Changes in Obese Adults"
- Environmental Working Group: "Cucumber"
- StatPearls: "Calories"
- American Cancer Society: "Calorie Counter"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The Importance of Staying Hydrated"
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Antioxidants: In Depth"