You might be familiar with the concept of using cool cucumber slices over your eyes to reduce puffiness and swelling. You may have enjoyed a crisp, refreshing glass of cucumber-flavored water before, too. But the health benefits of eating cucumbers may surprise you.
Did you know that this fruit, which is often mislabeled as a vegetable, isn’t always long-shaped and dark green in color? Cucumbers come in yellow, white, and orange varieties. They also vary in size and shape. They can be short, oval, or round with thick, rough skin. But no matter what it looks like, the cucumber is a nutritional powerhouse that benefits the body inside and out.
From smoother hair and stronger nails, to better digestion and a reduced risk of certain types of cancer, there are plenty of reasons to add cucumbers to your weekly meal plan.
Nutritional benefits of eating cucumbers
While the humble cucumber may not be considered glamorous or trendy, it’s readily available. You can find cucumbers in supermarkets around the United States. It’s a member of the plant family that also includes squash, pumpkins, and melons.
You’ll enjoy a unique mix of phytochemicals and antioxidants when you eat cucumbers. Here are some of the benefits.
- Phytochemicals: These naturally occurring plant chemicals are what give a plant its flavor, color, and scent. When you eat them, phytochemicals can have a positive effect on chemical processes inside your body. In the cucumber, it’s the cucurbitacins, lignans, and flavonoids that are so beneficial. They are anti-inflammatory, are antioxidants, and may help prevent cancer. Research on the cancer-preventing possibilities of cucumbers is still limited at this time, but results from lab and animal studies are positive.
- Antioxidants. From beta carotene to manganese, cucumbers are a great source of conventional antioxidants. They help your body reduce free radicals.
- Vitamins and minerals: Cucumbers are high in vitamins A, B, and C. A daily dose of these essential vitamins can boost your immune system, give you more energy, and keep your skin glowing. Magnesium, potassium, and silicon, also found in the cucumber, are good for your skin, too. These minerals can also regulate blood pressure.
- Fiber: The average cucumber is 95 percent water and has a good amount of dietary fiber. This makes them a good option for maintaining a healthy weight. All of that water may contribute to the natural cooling effect of cucumbers. Sliced cucumber is soothing on irritated or sunburned skin. It also works well on internal issues like heartburn.
While you can enjoy cucumbers raw, also try them with a splash of lime juice and salt. Try these recipes to make the most of the cucumber’s fresh, simple flavor.
Pineapple cucumber lime salad
This refreshing summer salad from Mom on Timeout is easy to assemble.
- 1 pineapple, chopped
- 1 cucumber, chopped
- 2 limes, zested and juiced
- 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
- salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients, tossing lightly to evenly distribute zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve immediately, or chill until ready to serve.
Watermelon cucumber slushy
Hybrid Rasta Mama shares this recipe for a cool summer staple. It’s a make-ahead recipe, so plan accordingly.
- 3 cups seedless watermelon, fresh or frozen
- 1 cup cucumber, peeled
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
- 3-4 tbsp. honey
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- 3 cups ice cubes
Prep watermelon, discarding rind and chopping into 1-inch chunks. Freeze watermelon chunks overnight. Prep cucumber, removing skin and seeds. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until combined and slushy. If it doesn’t blend easily, add a bit of water or coconut water.
Tzatziki pasta salad
Tangy and bursting with flavor, this pasta salad from Spicy Southern Kitchen would be perfect for a summer picnic.
- 7-oz. container low-fat plain Greek yogurt
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 3/4 cup feta cheese
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 12 oz. penne pasta, cooked to al dente
- 6-oz. jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained
- 2/3 cup kalamata olives
- 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, slivered
- 1 small cucumber, diced
- 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp. fresh dill, chopped
Combine yogurt, mayonnaise, 1/4 cup feta, garlic, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and olive oil. In another bowl, combine pasta, artichoke, olives, sundried tomatoes, cucumber, and onion. Pour dressing over pasta mixture, tossing to coat. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of feta and fresh dill. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Lemony cucumber cream cheese sandwiches
These are delightful for parties, but you can enjoy cucumber sandwiches any time. This easy recipe from Chew Out Loud makes 12 finger sandwiches. They can be made ahead of time.
- 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
- 1/2 a lemon (you’ll need the zest and juice)
- salted butter, softened
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 slices white or whole-grain bread
- 1/2 large cucumber, seeded and sliced, dried on paper towels
Combine cream cheese, dill, zest, and juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Butter the bread, then evenly distribute the cream cheese mixture onto the buttered side of each slice. Arrange towel-dried cucumbers on top of first 3 slices. Top with remaining bread. Slice off crusts. Serve immediately, after slicing into 4 triangles per sandwich, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 24 hours.
This recipe from Maya Kitchenette is a delicious, nutritious beverage that hydrates and replenishes your body.
- 1 medium cucumber
- juice of four lemons
- 3 cups cold water
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar or honey
Blend cucumber with 1 cup of water. Use a fine-mesh strainer to remove the pulp. Combine the juice with lemon juice, sugar, and water in a pitcher. Stir well and place in the refrigerator to chill. Check for flavor and add more water or sugar if needed. Serve over ice.
With their many health benefits for both the inside and outside of the body, cucumbers are a great addition to your diet. If you aren’t eating them yet, it’s time to start! If you have an aversion to the thick, synthetic wax on conventional cucumbers, peel them. You can also look for organic or baby gourmet cucumbers. From beverages to salads, you can incorporate this fruit into your weekly nutrition plan in lots of easy, delicious ways. Your body will thank you.