While we all know all about its cooling properties, not much is known about the nutritional value of cucumbers. To understand more about this widely cultivated vegetable, let us first get a general idea about cucumbers.
All About Cucumbers
Cucumbers, scientifically termed as Cucumis sativus, are vegetables belonging to the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae. This is the same botanical family that consists of melons and squashes. The cucumbers grow on a creeping vine which climbs up on trellises or other supporting frames. The large leaves of the plant form a canopy over the fruit.
Cucumbers are roughly cylindrical, elongated, with tapered ends, and may be as large as 60 cm long and 10 cm in diameter. Since they have enclosed seeds and develop from a flower, cucumbers are classified as fruits. However, like tomatoes the sour flavor of cucumbers contributes to them being eaten, and prepared as vegetables. In addition to being eaten raw and cooked, cucumbers are also pickled for a longer shelf life and flavor.
They can either be eaten fresh as slicers or be pickled. This is why they are classified as slicing cucumbers and pickled cucumbers. Slicing cucumbers used in salads and sandwiches are large, smooth variants while the cucumbers used for pickling tend to be shorter, thicker, and have bumpy skin with tiny, white or black, dotted spines.
Gherkin is a popular miniature variant of cucumbers used for pickling. Unlike the bitter ripe yellow form, the unripe green cucumbers are suitable for eating.
Cucumbers are low in saturated fats, have no cholesterol, and contain very low amounts of sodium. They have around 95% of water content which is why eating cucumbers is a great way of increasing the fiber and water intake. There is a high content of vitamins A, B6 and C present in the flesh of the cucumber.
In addition, this vegetable is known to have high concentrations of minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, pantothenic acid, phosphorus and silica. It is a rich source of vitamins like Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and Vitamin A. The nutrients in pickled cucumbers are almost similar except for a drastic increase in sodium levels which is due to the salt used in pickling. Following is a chart representing the nutritional value of 1 cup of sliced, raw cucumbers without peel, and 1 cup of sour, pickled cucumbers.
Nutritional Value of Fresh Cucumbers
|Total Carbohydrates||2.6 gm|
|Dietary Fiber||0.5 gm|
|Total Fats||0.11 gm|
|Saturated Fat||0 gm|
|Monounsaturated Fat||0 gm|
|Vitamin A||85.7 IU|
|Thiamin (Vitamin B1)||0.027 mg|
|Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)||0.033 mg|
|Niacin (Vitamin B3)||0.098 mg|
|Vitamin B5||0.259 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.040 mg|
|Folate (Vitamin B9)||7 μg|
|Vitamin C||3.8 mg|
|Vitamin K||8.6 μg|
|Total Calories||14.3 kcal|
|From Fats||1.7 gm|
|From Carbohydrates||10.3 gm|
|From Proteins||2.8 gm|
|Proteins and Amino Acids||0.65 gm|
Nutritional Value of Pickled Cucumbers
|Total Fat||0.3 gm|
|Total Carbohydrates||3.5 gm|
|Vitamin A||201.5 IU|
|Vitamin C||1.6 mg|
Although the health benefits of cucumbers are not widely propagated, this vegetable is a rich source of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. These nutrients provide cucumbers important anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
Other than the health benefits, cucumbers are also great for the skin as it helps in reducing the swelling and skin irritation. It reduces under eye puffiness, heals sunburns and relaxes the skin. It can be consumed fresh, added to salads or made into juices. In India, Dosakai which is a variant of cucumber, is widely used in curries and stews. When choosing fresh cucumbers, select firm ones that are rounded at their edges, and have a medium to dark green color. Yellow, puffy, or wrinkled cucumbers should ideally be avoided.