Marvel over the humble cucumber with these 18 health benefits, which range from keeping your body cool and hydrated to helping prevent diseases such as diabetes.
Eat them raw and you get a juicy crunch. Cucumbers, however, do more than just serve as a refreshing feature of salads, sandwiches, slaws, pickles, noodles, cocktails and more. This popular produce pick, a member of the Cucurbitaceae family along with melon, squash and pumpkins, has been used in traditional medicine since ancient times for its unnumbered health benefits.
Cucumber is rich in polyphenols and cucurbitacins, plant compounds that are known to be antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, anti-hyperglycemic, diuretic, antimicrobial and analgesic, to name a few.[i] Here are 18 of its valued medicinal wonders.
18 Health Benefits of Cucumber
1. Keeps you hydrated. Cucumber is approximately 96% water, so it can be particularly effective at promoting hydration and helps you meet your daily fluid intake needs.[ii]
2. Useful for weight loss. Each half-cup serving of cucumber offers just 7.8 calories.[iii] In an analysis, consuming high-water, low-calorie foods was linked to a significant reduction in body weight.[iv]
3. Eases osteoarthritis pain. In a study, using 10 milligrams (mg) of an aqueous extract of cucumber twice daily proved effective in reducing pain related to moderate knee osteoarthritis and can be used to address knee pain, stiffness and physical functions related to the condition.[v]
Osteoarthritis, caused by wear and tear on the joints, presently has no known cure and is conventionally managed through high doses of painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs that often come with side effects.
4. Helps treat liver damage. Heat-treated cucumber juice showed a significant protective benefit on alcohol detoxification among animal subjects, suggesting a potential use in treating liver injury due to excess alcohol consumption.[vi]
5. May lower blood sugar. A number of animal studies show that cucumber may effectively reduce and control blood sugar levels.[vii] Another study induced diabetes in animal subjects, provided them with cucumber peel extract and found that the peel reversed most of the changes associated with diabetes, causing a reduction in blood sugar.[viii]
6. Acts as a skin whitener. An active component in cucumber leaves may have an inhibitory effect on melanin production and is a potentially useful skin whitening agent.[ix]
7. Anticancer effects. The aqueous extract of cucumber contains bioactive compounds that exert anticancer activity.[x] “Our conclusion supports additional in-depth study of this pharmacologic activity as a malignant tumor agent,” wrote the researchers.
8. Promotes regular bowel movement. Cucumbers are water-rich and help prevent dehydration, a major risk factor for constipation. Staying properly hydrated can improve stool consistency as well as regularity.[xi] The seeds, while having a cooling effect on the body, are used to prevent constipation.[xii]
9. Soothes skin. Cucumber is known for its soothing effect on skin irritations and its ability to reduce swelling.[xiii] It also has the power to alleviate pain from sunburn.
11. Potent anti-inflammatory. An iminosugar amino acid in cucumber, called idoBR1, may function as an anti-inflammatory agent and its importance in the diet therefore warrants further investigation, according to a 2020 study.[xv]
12. Supports bone health. A half-cup serving provides 8.53 µg of vitamin K.[xvi] Based on a review of the current literature, supplementing with vitamin K1 (the type found in cucumbers) and K2 can reduce the incidence of fractures among postmenopausal women.[xvii]
13. Serves as a natural eye mask. Research suggests that applying cucumber to your eyes can impart a cooling effect on skin, hydrate the eyes and surrounding areas and help reduce dark circles due to its vitamin K levels.[xviii]
15. Slashes mortality risk. Beta-carotene, found abundantly in cucumber, is an important pro-vitamin A carotenoid. A meta-analysis showed that dietary or circulating beta-carotene was inversely associated with risk of all-cause mortality, citing the possibility of extending human lifespan.[xx]
16. Helps combat prostate cancer. Cucurbitacin B, a naturally occurring compound in cucumber and other vegetables, significantly and specifically inhibited prostate cancer cell growth.[xxi]
17. Protects against diabetes complications. In a study, cucumber was able to prevent oxidative stress and carbonyl stress, considered a safe and suitable way to protect against the complications typically observed in diabetes.[xxii]
18. Supports brain function. Fresh cucumbers were ground and turned into a paste of varying concentrations.[xxiii] The conclusion: They helped increase cognition in animal models.