There is nothing like a fresh, juicy slice of green cucumber any time of year. The very smell of it is stimulating.
Small wonder that this wonder veggie is used for beauty treatments as well as cooking. Have you ever seen someone resting with cucumber slices on their eyes? Okay, it does look a bit goofy, but it feels so good – and it is good for you!
Let’s explore the undiscovered benefits of the mighty cuke.
First, we need to set the record straight: cucumbers are fruits. Yes, really. You don’t have to believe me. Here’s this from LiveScience via the Huffington Post:
“Botanically speaking, a fruit is a seed-bearing structure that develops from the ovary of a flowering plant, whereas vegetables are all other plant parts, such as roots, leaves and stems.”
Trivia-winning answers aside, cucumbers are juicy and cooling because they are made up of almost nothing but water – 95%, in fact – making them great low-calorie, high-fiber food.
Good health depends on staying hydrated, and fiber aids digestion. Most people who have diets high in natural fiber sources (mainly fruits and vegetables) never need to take a powered or packaged fiber supplement.
Add cucumber slices to salads, sandwiches, juice them, or eat them whole as a snack. Don’t worry, the seeds are edible. Ayurvedic medicine believes that eating cucumber slices cleanse the palate after a meal and fights bad breath.
Eating the skin is not harmful, but in American grocery stores, an edible wax is often applied to the skin to hold moisture. You can tell by the unnatural glossy green sheen, as compared to one plucked from the garden. Leaf has directions on how to remove the wax. Or you can cut away some or all of the skin before slicing.
Cucumbers contain fisetin, a flavonol (secondary metabolite) that reduces inflammation. Tests on laboratory mice with Alzheimer’s disease suggest that fisetin may improve memory and the brain’s nerve cells from age-related decline. It has been found to prevent progressive memory and learning impairments.
The cooling effect of cucumbers, whether eaten or placed directly on the skin (usually sliced), comes from a number of antioxidants, including vitamin C and beta-carotene. Mercola points out an additional benefit:
“They also contain antioxidant flavonoids, such as quercetin, apigenin, luteolin, and kaempferol,6 which provide additional benefits. Quercetin is an antioxidant that many believe prevents histamine release—making quercetin-rich foods ‘natural antihistamines.’ Kaempferol may help fight cancer and lower your risk of chronic diseases including heart disease.”
Cucumbers also contain chemical polyphenols called lignans, which may help to lower the risk of breast, uterine, ovarian, and prostate cancers. Other nutrients, including magnesium and potassium, are essential for good health.
As for the role cucumbers play in a beauty regime, they relieve eye puffiness dramatically, soothe the skin, and have anti-aging properties.
Again, don’t take my word for it: simply take two thin cucumber slices (1/4 to 1/2 inch) and place one over each eye. Lie back for 20 minutes. Do you see less swelling around your eyes? How about those dark circles – any better? For additional cooling, refrigerate the slices for 15 minutes or freeze them for 5 minutes before using them as cold compresses.
The vitamins A, B1, and C, biotin, potassium, sulfate, and caffeic acid found in cucumbers all contribute to calm red, irritated skin. The peel contains silica, which tightens sagging skin. Even people with very sensitive skin can usually tolerate a cucumber treatment.
You can make your own anti-aging facial mask from cucumbers and yogurt. Did you know that yogurt is an exfoliator that removes dirt and dead skin cells? Lightly puré half a cucumber and two tablespoons of plain yogurt. Whip these until they thicken, then apply the paste to your skin. Wait 15 minutes before rinsing with warm water to remove the paste.
Cucumbers have been cultivated since antiquity and are thought to come from the Indian subcontinent. Its Latin name is Cucumis sativus and it is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, related to melons and squash.
To wrap it up (so to speak), here we have the common cucumber: a fruit masquerading as a vegetable, steeped in Oriental tradition, with miraculous restorative powers: isn’t that cool?