Benefits and Side Effects of Cucumbers

Cucumbers were first introduced to North America by Christopher Columbus, and today they make up a staple in many Americans' diets. Their high-water and low-calorie content -- cucumbers are more than 95 percent water by weight and contain just 16 calories per cup -- make cucumbers a smart addition to a calorie-controlled diet, and they offer health benefits because of their nutrient content. Cucumbers, however, also come with a risk of oral allergy syndrome, so they can cause side effects in some people.

A wooden crate is filled with fresh cucumbers. (Image: Ingram Publishing/Ingram Publishing/Getty Images)

Vitamin K

Cucumbers offer health benefits by significantly boosting your vitamin K intake. Your body uses vitamin K to activate coagulation factors, a family of proteins that proves essential for blood clot formation. The ability to help you form blood clots benefits your health because it prevents excessive bleeding after you suffer tissue damage, and getting enough vitamin K prevents spontaneous bleeding, including nosebleeds or bleeding gums. Getting enough vitamin K in your diet also activates proteins essential for bone health, which keeps your skeleton strong. A 1-cup serving of sliced cucumber, with the peel on, offers approximately 17 micrograms of vitamin K. This makes up 14 percent and 19 percent of the recommended daily intakes for men and women, respectively.

Other Benefits

Cucumber also offers a number of other health benefits. A review, published in "Fitoterapia" in 2013, notes that cucumber contains antioxidants -- chemicals that your body uses to prevent cellular damage -- and also has a cooling effect on your body, making cucumber a great addition to your diet during the summer months. Cucumber seeds might fight constipation, notes the study. Cucumber also serves as a source of several phytonutrients -- including cucumerins and cucurbitacins -- but the health benefits associated with these chemicals requires further investigation.

Cucumber and Oral Allergy Syndrome

Eating cucumber can induce unpleasant effects, causing oral allergy syndrome in some individuals. Oral allergy syndrome occurs when your system mistakes a food you eat with an allergen and triggers an allergic response, which can include a swelling of your lips and tongue, as well irritation of your eyes or gum tissue. Cucumber can trigger allergy symptoms if you suffer from ragweed allergies, explains the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The hospital explains that cooking often reduces the chance of side effects because the cooking process changes the cucumbers' proteins enough to prevent an allergic reaction.

Consume More Cucumber

Whether you enjoy them cooked or raw, cucumbers add nutritional value to your diet. Combine slices of raw cucumber with chopped tomato, fresh basil and a balsamic vinaigrette for an easy-to-prepare and nutrient-packed salad, or dip raw cucumber slices in homemade guacamole for a healthful and filling snack. If you respond poorly to raw cucumber, add baked cucumber "fries" to your diet. Simply cut raw cucumber into sticks, bread each stick with whole-grain breadcrumbs and then bake until golden brown. Alternatively, lightly coat chopped cucumber in a mixture of olive oil and your favorite herbs, and then bake until tender.

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