Nutritional and Health Benefits of Cucumber: Overview | Types | Origin | Nutritional Value | Health Benefits

Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is a common creeping vine plant in the Cucurbitaceae gourd family that produces cucumiform fruits that are eaten as vegetables. Cucumbers are a spreading vine that roots in the earth and climbs up trellises or other supports, winding small, spiraling tendrils around them. In the absence of a supportive system, the plant may also root in a soilless medium and sprawl over the field. Wide leaves create a canopy over the fruits on the vine.

Cucumber fruit is approximately cylindrical, but elongated with tapered ends, and can grow up to 62 centimeters (24 in) in length and 10 centimeters (4 in) in diameter. Water makes up 95 percent of cucumber fruits. The cucumber is known as a pepo in botanical terminology, which is a kind of botanical berry with a rough outer rind and no internal divisions. It is, however, often perceived, cooked, and consumed as a vegetable, similar to tomatoes and squashes.

A few cucumber cultivars are parthenocarpic, meaning their blossoms produce seedless fruit without pollination, decreasing their eating quality. The majority of cucumber cultivars, on the other hand, are planted and necessitate pollination. Thousands of honey beehives are transported to cucumber fields each year just before bloom for this reason. Bumblebees and a variety of other bee species may pollinate cucumbers. Since most cucumbers that need pollination are self-incompatible, they must depend on pollen from another plant to produce seeds and fruit. There are several cultivars that are similar to the ‘Lemon’ cultivar that are self-compatible. Fruit abortion and misshapen fruit are signs of incomplete pollination. Fruit from partially pollinated flowers can be green near the stem end and mature normally, but light yellow and withered near the blossom end.

Male blossoms appear first, followed by female blossoms in roughly equal numbers in traditional cultivars. Almost all female blossoms are produced by newer gynoecious hybrid cultivars. They can be interplanted with a pollenizer cultivar, and the number of beehives per unit area is increased, but temperature variations cause male flowers to bloom on these plants as well, which may be necessary for pollination.

Types (Species) of Cucumber

Cucumbers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they can be classified into three categories: slicing cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, and specialty cucumbers.

Slicing Cucumbers

Cucumber slices come in a variety of sizes and colors. These cucumbers have a crisp bite and a fresh flavor that makes them perfect for salads or snacking. Because they have a softer flesh that turns mushy when pickled, they don’t work well in pickling. The following are examples of slicing cucumbers:

  • English Cucumbers
  • Green Fingers Persian Cucumbers
  • Muncher Cucumbers
  • Ashley Cucumbers
  • Diva Cucumbers
  • Sweet Success Cucumbers
  • Straight Eight Cucumbers

a. English Cucumbers

Cucumbers of this variety are long and slender, with narrower ends. They usually range in size from 10 to 15 inches in length. The cucumber’s dark green skin is smooth or moderately ridged, and the skin is so thin that it does not need to be peeled before eating. In most European countries, these cucumbers are called the “common” cucumber, but they are less common in North America. They have a much sweeter flavour than regular garden cucumbers, and the flesh is a very pale green, almost white, and juicy.

Cucumbers grown in England are seedless and are often referred to as “seedless cucumbers.” Cucumbers are normally sold wrapped in plastic to prolong their shelf life. They’re most often used raw in salads and burgers, but they’re also delicious in a drink like a martini.

b. Green Fingers Persian Cucumbers

This kind of Persian cucumber is perfect for snacking because it matures to a small size of between 3 and 5 inches, which explains why it’s called “green fingers.” This cucumbers are easy to grow from seed, taking about 7 days to germinate and 60 days to harvest. These plants can be planted in early April and harvested by late June in milder winter; they will continue to grow cucumbers during the summer, giving you a long harvest season to enjoy these crunchy fruits. The plants may be cultivated outdoors in May in colder winter, with the earliest potential harvest date being late July. This plant has a fast-growing habit, producing vines up to 5 feet tall with shallow roots.

c. Muncher Cucumbers

When fully grown, these cucumbers are 8 to 10 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide, making them ideal for slicing. They will, however, be used as pickling cucumbers when young and much smaller. This cucumber plants will germinate in three to ten days and will be able to harvest in 58 to 65 days. They’re seedless and burpless, which means they have very little to no cucurbitacin, the gas-producing compound found in cucumbers. The cucumbers’ skin is very thin and easily eaten, and the fruit is crunchy and bitter-free.

d. Ashley Cucumbers

In 1956, in Charleston, South Carolina, these heirloom cucumbers were developed. They are particularly popular for growing in hot, humid climates because they are resistant to downy mildew, which affects many other cucumber varieties in these conditions. Ashley cucumbers take about 65 days to mature and range about 6 and 8 inches long when ready to harvest. They are dark green in colour and taper at the end where they reach the plant’s stem. They have a rugged feel on them, with some lumps on the surface. This cucumber plants are known for their high yields and are a common alternative for home gardeners and farmers’ markets in the southern United States. They thrive in full light, but can tolerate any afternoon shade as well.

e. Diva Cucumbers

When mature, these cucumber plants grow snack-sized cucumbers that are about 5 inches long. They’re great in kids’ lunchboxes, on picnics, or as a snack right off the garden. They have a crisp texture and a light taste that makes them ideal for serving as crudites on a hot summer day. This plant is noted for providing a high yield of cucumbers and can be grown both outside and in a glasshouse. This cucumbers have seedless flesh and a creamy, shiny medium to deep green skin. Because of the tasty and beautiful cucumbers it grows, this is a very common cucumber to plant. It’s a multi-award-winning cultivar.

f. Sweet Success Cucumbers

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This type of cucumber is ready to harvest in 54 days. It yields big cucumbers with a length of at least 14 inches. These cucumbers are seedless and burpless, and they have a sweet, non-bitter taste. Their skin is dark and smooth, and it is thin enough that the fruit can be eaten without peeling. They’re perfect for salads and other savoury cold dishes. This cucumber plant has won several awards for its outstanding results. Many diseases that usually damage cucumber plants, such as leaf spot, scab, and cucumber mosaic virus do normally attack it.

g. Straight Eight Cucumbers

This cucumber plant grows straight cucumbers that are eight inches long, just as its name implies. The fruits have a rounded appearance at each end and a smooth, dark green skin. This is an heirloom cucumber variety that has been popular with home gardeners for decades due to its consistent quality and consistently tasty cucumbers. It’s a simple plant to grow, and it’s often selected as the cucumber variety to grow for kids to pique their interest in gardening. Unlike other cucumbers, which are either pickling or slicing cucumbers, this one is a multi-purpose cucumber that can be eaten raw in salads or pickled, though it is most widely used for slicing. This plant has a trailing habit, with vines that can reach a length of 6 to 8 feet. When grown on a trellis, it produces the best results.

Pickling Cucumbers

Pickling cucumbers are smaller than slicing cucumbers and have a firmer flesh than slicing cucumbers, making them ideal for pickling. Many pickling cucumbers may be used as slicing and snacking cucumbers as well. Below are types of cucumbers referred to as prickling cucumbers:

  • Alibi Cucumbers
  • Double Yield Cucumbers
  • Liberty Cucumbers
  • Wautoma Cucumbers
  • Eureka Cucumbers

a. Alibi Cucumbers

Although the fruits are flexible and can be eaten fresh, this is considered one of the best varieties of pickling cucumbers you can produce. These cucumbers will be about 4 inches long and half an inch tall when fully mature. They have medium green skin that is smooth. This cucumber plants are known for growing high fruit yields on a consistent basis. The vines are disease-resistant, and the fruits are similar in size and appearance. Between days 45 and 55, cucumbers will be ready to harvest. These are small vines that will work well for anybody who wants to grow cucumbers in a small space.

b. Double Yield Cucumbers

Because of the unusually high yield of fruits it produces, this type of cucumber plant has been common since the 1920s. With a name like “double yield,” you’d expect this plant to grow an enormous amount of cucumbers. The fruits are about 4 to 6 inches long and have rounded ends. The skin is a light green to yellow-green colour with black spines on occasion. After 52 days of sowing, these cucumbers are ready to harvest. They’re decent for pickling, but they’re still delicious eaten right off the vine.

c. Liberty Cucumbers

This cucumber plant received the All American Selection award in 1978, but it has fallen out of favour in recent years, making it tough to come by. This plant produces cucumbers with dark green skins and crisp flesh.

d. Wautoma Cucumbers

This cucumber plant was originally developed at the University of Wisconsin. When the fruits are small, they are commonly used as pickling cucumbers, but if you keep them on the vine for longer, they can mature into full-sized cucumbers that are perfect for slicing into salads. This plant’s cucumbers are dark green with pale creamy-green stripes. There may be white spines, but they are quickly scraped down. These are self-pollinating, easy-to-grow plants that can be learned to trail their vines along a trellis or other support, or left to sprawl over the grass. These plants are widely grown because they are resistant to a wide range of pathogens and seem to be more able to survive harsh weather and growing conditions. Around 60 days after sowing, the fruits will be ready to harvest.

e. Eureka Cucumbers

Cucumbers are flexible enough to be used for pickling or slicing. On day 57 after sowing, they are ready to harvest and can grow to be 2 to 5 inches long, depending on when you cut them from the plant. The fruits have white spines and are dark green in colour. The best feature of this cucumber plant is its disease resistance; in reality, it is believed that this is the most disease-resistant cucumber plant currently available. Downy mildew, angular leaf spot, zucchini yellow virus, scab, papaya ringspot, powdery mildew, watermelon mosaic virus, cucumber mosaic virus, and Anthracnose races 1 and 2 normally cannot attack to this variety. It grows better when assisted by a trellis, and produces straighter fruits as a result. When trained, this plant is supposed to grow to be between 4 and 6 feet tall.

Specialty Cucumbers

These cucumbers are visually unusual and are often grown as a novelty. They are rarely seen in supermarkets but may be found at farmers’ markets. Below are the popular types of specialty cucumbers:

  • Lemon Cucumbers
  • Armenian Cucumbers
  • Boothby Blondes Cucumbers

a. Lemon Cucumbers

Lemon cucumbers are common as a novelty crop. Cucumbers the size of a tennis ball, measuring 3 to 4 inches long, are produced by these plants. The round cucumbers are just lemon in colour and do not have any citrus flavour. These cucumbers have a similar flavour to regular cucumbers, but with a milder flavour. Their skin is thin and easy to chew, and it is pale yellow with some darker yellow marks. These cucumbers are the right portion size for one or two individuals, which is useful if you don’t like having half a cucumber leftover when you’ve made a salad. At 65 days, these cucumbers are ready to harvest.

b. Armenian Cucumbers

The Armenian cucumber is widely mistaken for a cucumber, but it is really a variety of muskmelon known scientifically as Cucumis melo, which is closely similar to the cucumber. With a long and slender body and pale, juicy flesh that tastes like cucumber, it has more in common with a cucumber. The ridged exterior of this fruit comes in a variety of colours, ranging from medium green to pale green-yellow. Because of their ability to grow so long, these fruits are often referred to as “yard-long cucumbers.” They can grow to be 36 inches tall, but the best time to select them is when they are about 14 inches long, as this is when they are the most flavorful.

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c. Boothby Blondes Cucumbers

The appearance of these heirloom cucumbers is rare. They have an oval appearance, pale yellow-white hairs, and black spines on their bumps. These cucumbers are great for pickling because they don’t need to be peeled. They’re ready to harvest between 55 and 60 days, and the best time to collect them is when they’re around 3 inches long.

Historical Background (Origin) of Cucumber

Cucumbers have been cultivated in India for at least 3,000 years, and there are several varieties, as well as its nearest living relative, Cucumis hystrix. The Greeks or Romans most likely brought it to other regions of Europe. Cucumber farming dates back to the 9th century in France, the 14th century in England, and the mid-16th century in North America. The Emperor Tiberius, according to Pliny the Elder, had cucumber on his table every day during the summer and winter. The Romans allegedly used artificial methods of raising it in order to make it ready for his table every day of the year (similar to the greenhouse system).

They were also reportedly grown in specularia, oiled-cloth-glazed cucumber houses. The Italian fruit, according to Pliny, is very thin, resembling a gherkin. He also explains how to make elaterium, a type of medicine. Some scholars suggest he was referring to Ecballium elaterium, also known as Cucumis silvestris or Cucumis asininus (‘wild cucumber’ or ‘donkey cucumber’ in pre-Linnean times), a cucumber species not to be confused with the popular cucumber. Pliny also mentions many other cucumber kinds, including the cultivated cucumber, as well as other cucumber remedies (9 from the cultivated; 5 from the “anguine;” and 26 from the “wild”). Cucumbers were used by the Romans as remedy to scorpion bites, poor eyesight, and to scare mice away. They were worn around the waists of wives who wished to have children. They were often borne by midwives and discarded after the birth of the child.

Cucumbers were cultivated in Charlemagne’s gardens in the 8th and 9th centuries. They were first introduced to England in the early 14th century, but disappeared for 250 years before being reintroduced. Cucumbers were introduced to Haiti by the Spaniards in 1494 (via the Italian Christopher Columbus). A French adventurer named Jacques Cartier discovered “very great cucumbers” growing on the site of what is now Montreal in 1535.

European trappers, traders, bison hunters, and adventurers bartered for the products of American Indian agriculture in the 16th century. The Spanish taught the peoples of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains how to cultivate European crops. The Mandan and Abenaki were among the Great Plains farmers. Cucumbers and watermelons were harvested from the Spanish and added to the crops they were already producing, which included a variety of corn and bean varieties, pumpkins, squash, and gourd plants. When the first Europeans arrived, the Iroquois were already raising them.

Nutritional (Composition) Value of Cucumber

Cucumber is a superfood with several desirable nutritional value. One 142-g cup of unpared, raw, chopped cucumber contains water (137 g), calories (17), protein (0.8 g), fat (0.2 g), carbohydrate (3.1 g, including 2.0 g of sugar), fiber (1.0 g), calcium (19.9 g), iron (0.3 mg), magnesium (17 mg), phosphorus (29.8 mg), potassium (193 mg), sodium (2.8 mg), vitamin C (4.5 mg), folate (19.9 mcg), beta carotene (44 mcg), lutein + zeaxanthin (22.7 mcg) and vitamin K (10.2 mcg). Cucumber also contains a range of B vitamins, vitamin A, and antioxidants, including a type known as lignans.

Cucumber contains antioxidants that aid in the removal of free radicals from the body. Some free radicals are generated by normal bodily activities, while others are produced by external forces such as pollution. If there are so many in the body, they can cause cell damage and a variety of diseases. Cucumber and other foods high in lignans can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Cucumbers are high in phytonutrients (plant chemicals with disease-preventive or defensive properties), such as flavonoids, lignans, and triterpenes, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties. The cucumber’s peel and seeds are the most nutrient-dense components. Fiber and beta-carotene are used in them. Beta carotene is an antioxidant that aids in immunity, skin, eye health, and cancer prevention. Cucumber seeds is high in calcium and a decent supply of minerals. Cucumbers have a low calorie, carbohydrate, sodium, fat, and cholesterol content through nature. You’ll get about 4% of your daily potassium, 3% of your daily fibre, and 4% of your daily vitamin C from this treat. They also include small quantities of vitamin K, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and vitamin A

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, which oversees food labelling under the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act, the following are the nutrition details for cucumbers:

Nutrition Facts: Cucumber, with peel, raw Serving size: 1/2 cup, sliced (52 g) Calories 8   Calories from Fat 0 *Percent Daily Values (%DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Amt per Serving %DV* Amt per Serving %DV*
Total Fat 0g 0% Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0% Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Sodium 1mg 2% Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
Vitamin A 1% Calcium 1%
Vitamin C 2% Iron 1%

Health Benefits of Cucumber

Cucumber has been found to be associated with several health benefits which include but not limited to the following:

  • Enhances Hydration of the Body
  • Prevents Cancer
  • Enhances Healthier Skin
  • Enhances Bone Health
  • Provides Helpful Antioxidants
  • Enhances Heart Health
  • Enhance Digestion
  • Helps in Weight Management
  • Enhances Brain Health and Memory
  • Prevents Inflammation
  • Prevents Diabetes

Enhances Hydration of the Body

Cucumbers contain 95% water. Cucumbers are an excellent way to stay hydrated, particularly in the summer. “Nearly as thirst-quenching as a glass of water,” is a cup of cucumber slices. We should meet 20-30% of our fluid requirements solely by diet, and foods like these definitely help. Not only are they high in water, but they also contain essential nutrients including magnesium and potassium that aid in hydration.

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Cucumbers are mainly water, but they also have essential electrolytes in them. In hot weather or during a workout, they can help avoid dehydration. Cucumber and mint can be added to water to make it more appealing to those who don’t want it. Staying hydrated is essential for a safe intestine, avoiding constipation, and avoiding kidney stones, among other things.

Water is important to your body’s function, since it does a variety of functions. It is active in processes such as temperature control and waste and nutrient transportation. In reality, proper hydration has a wide range of effects, including physical activity and metabolism.

Prevents Cancer

Lignans and cucurbitacins, two phytonutrient compounds found in cucumbers, have been linked to anti-cancer properties. Cucurbitacin B, which is found in cucumbers, has been shown to slow the development of pancreatic cancer cells. Lignans interact with the bacteria in the digestive tract to guard against cancer. The bacteria break down the lignans into compounds like enterodiol and enterolactone, which bind to oestrogen receptors and can lower the risk of estrogen-related cancers like ovarian, breast, endometrial, and prostate cancer.

Enhances Healthier Skin

When cucumbers are applied topically, they have a calming and relaxing effect that reduces swelling, itching, and inflammation. Cucumber slices applied directly to the skin may help to calm, soothe, and minimise swelling and inflammation. It will help you recover from sunburn. They can help reduce morning puffiness when applied to the skin. When cucumber slices are put on the infected areas, they will reduce morning puffiness or mitigate and cure sunburn. Vegetable consumption is linked to a healthier skin in general.

Enhances Bone Health

Cucumber is high in vitamin K, which is good for bone health. Vitamin K is important for bone health, and one cup of cucumber contains around 19% of the daily vitamin K requirement. Vitamin K can help to reduce fracture rates, increase bone density, and improve calcium balance when combined with vitamin D. In middle-aged women, low vitamin K levels were linked to low bone density and an increased risk of hip fractures.

Vitamin K aids in blood clotting and can be beneficial to bone health. A 142-gram (g) cup of chopped, unpeeled, raw cucumber provides 10.2 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans prescribe a daily intake of 90 mcg for females aged 19 and up and 120 mcg for males aged 19 and up (for males of the same age). Cucumber has a calcium content of 19.9 milligrammes (mg). Adults require 1,000–1,200 milligrammes of calcium a day, based on their gender and age. Calcium absorption is aided by vitamin K. These nutrients, when taken together, will help to maintain healthy bone health.

Provides Helpful Antioxidants 

Antioxidants are compounds that prevent oxidation, which produces highly reactive atoms with unpaired electrons known as free radicals. The accumulation of these toxic free radicals will result in a variety of chronic illnesses. Free radical-induced oxidative stress has been linked to cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and autoimmune disease. Cucumbers, like other fruits and vegetables, are high in antioxidants, which can help to reduce the incidence of these diseases.

Antioxidant-rich foods help the body to work at its best. Antioxidants aid in the prevention of cancer and injury. Cucumbers are high in antioxidants such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese, as well as anti-inflammatory flavonoids, triterpenes, and lignans. Vitamin C is well-known for its immune-boosting properties, and beta-carotene has been shown to help with vision.

Enhances Heart Health

High fiber present in cucumber can help manage cholesterol and prevent related cardiovascular problems. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables of all kinds is associated with a reduced risk for many health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and obesity.

Enhance Digestion

Cucumbers can aid in the maintenance of daily bowel movements. Constipation can be exacerbated by dehydration, which disrupts the water supply and makes bowel passage challenging. Cucumbers have a lot of water and help you stay hydrated. Staying hydrated will help you preserve regularity by improving stool quality, preventing constipation, and preventing constipation. Cucumbers also provide fibre, which aids in the regulation of bowel movements. Pectin, a soluble fibre found in cucumbers, can help improve bowel movement frequency in particular. Pectin improves digestive function by speeding up the passage of intestinal muscles while still feeding beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Helps in Weight Management

Cucumbers have the ability to aid weight loss in a variety of ways. They are, first and foremost, low in calories. A one-cup (104-gram) serving of cucumber has just 16 calories, while a full 11-ounce (300-gram) cucumber has just 45 calories. This means you can eat a lot of cucumbers without gaining weight because they are low in calories. Cucumbers can be used to add taste and freshness to salads, sandwiches, and side dishes, as well as to supplement higher-calorie substitutes. Cucumbers can also help with weight loss due to their high water content.

Enhances Brain Health and Memory

Cucumbers are high in fisetin, an antioxidant that protects brain cells, improves memory, and lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Fisetin is a substance that has been found to have the ability to suppress cancer.

Prevents Inflammation

Cucumbers can help to reduce inflammation. The immune system is responsible for inflammation. Inflammation may play a role in the development of a variety of illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, depression, and cancer.

Prevents Diabetes

Cucumbers can play a role in controlling and preventing diabetes. It includes substances that can help lower blood sugar or stop blood glucose from increasing too fast. One hypothesis is that the cucurbitacins in cucumber help control insulin release and the synthesis of hepatic glycogen, a central hormone in the production of blood sugar. Cucumber peel assists in treating the effects of diabetes. This may be due to its antioxidant quality. Fiber, too, can help prevent and treat type 2 diabetes. Cucumbers has low score on the glycemic index (GI) (GI). This ensures they provide vital nutrients without adding sugars that will increase blood glucose.

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