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Ever heard of the term as 'cool as cucumber'? Containing over ninety percent water which gives this vegetable amazing cooling properties, cucumbers are widely used in salads, sandwiches and pickles. It is also a potent ingredient in face masks and other beauty products.

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.
Nutritional Value of Cucumbers

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
NutrientsValue
Carbohydrates
Total Carbohydrates2.6 gm
Sugars1.67 gm
Dietary Fiber0.5 gm
Starch0.1 gm
Fats
Total Fats0.11 gm
Saturated Fat0 gm
Monounsaturated Fat0 gm
Vitamins
Vitamin A85.7 IU
Thiamin (Vitamin B1)0.027 mg
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)0.033 mg
Niacin (Vitamin B3)0.098 mg
Vitamin B50.259 mg
Vitamin B60.040 mg
Folate (Vitamin B9)7 μg
Vitamin C3.8 mg
Vitamin K8.6 μg
Minerals
Calcium16.7 mg
Iron0.28 mg
Magnesium13 mg
Phosphorus25 mg
Potassium161.8 mg
Zinc0.20 mg
Sodium2.4 mg
Fluoride1.5 μg
Calories
Total Calories14.3 kcal
From Fats1.7 gm
From Carbohydrates10.3 gm
From Proteins2.8 gm
Others
Proteins and Amino Acids0.65 gm
Water115.1 gm

Nutritional Value of Pickled Cucumbers
NutrientsValue
Calories17.1 kcal
Total Fat0.3 gm
Total Carbohydrates3.5 gm
Vitamin A201.5 IU
Vitamin C1.6 mg
Proteins0.5 gm
Sodium1,872.4 mg
Calcium0
Cholesterol0
Water145.8 gm
Health Benefits of Cucumbers

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.

Along with Vitamin C and beta-carotene, cucumbers contain antioxidant-rich flavonoids like luteolin, quercetin and kaempferol. The antioxidants help in neutralizing the damage done by oxygen-derived free radicals that are responsible for aging and a number of diseases.

The high nutritional value of cucumbers, along with the low calorie content, no saturated fats and cholesterol, make it an ideal dietary option for weight loss.

The fiber in the cucumber peels help in digestion and cleaning of the bowels.

Due to the presence of Vitamin K, cucumbers increase bone strength by boosting bone mass building activity.

Cucumbers are a good source of potassium and low in sodium. The potassium helps in reduction of blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium in the diet. It is important to note that unlike fresh, raw cucumbers, pickled cucumbers contain high levels of sodium, approximately 1,800 mg,which can be counterproductive for blood pressure patients.

Cucumber is a natural diuretic that flushes out the waste and toxins from the body, thus keeping it healthy.

Silica present in cucumbers strengthens the connective tissues in the body.

Inclusion of cucumbers in the diet helps in dealing with rheumatic conditions caused by the buildup of excess uric acid in the joints.

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.