Cucumber is generally known to us as a long, dark green smooth-skinned vegetable, although there are many types of cucumbers of different colors, shapes and textures. They vary in color from white to yellow and orange, and in shape from oblong and oval to round. Cucumbers can be divided into two basic categories: cucumbers for salad (fresh) and pickles for pickling. Fresh cucumbers are larger, have thicker skin and are easier to cut, and pickling varieties are smaller and have thinner skin.
Cucumber thrives in temperate and tropical climates, so it is found all over the world, and is believed to originate from India and the Middle East. It is first mentioned around 2500 BC. It was brought to Europe in the 11th and to America in the 16th century. Today, the world’s largest cucumber grower is China, followed by Iran, Mexico and Spain. Animal studies have shown that cucumber extracts provide specific antioxidant protection by neutralizing free radicals and increasing antioxidant capacity.
Cucumber has not been studied in detail like other vegetables, but this does not diminish its nutritional value. It is rich in phytonutrients that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and lignans (pinoresinol) and flavonoids (quercetin, kaempferol) stand out, which is further contributed by the share of known nutrients, such as vitamin C, beta-carotene and manganese.
Animal studies have shown that cucumber extracts provide specific antioxidant protection by neutralizing free radicals and increasing antioxidant capacity. The same research proved the inhibition of inflammatory enzymes, which gives the cucumber anti-inflammatory properties. Cucumber contains another phytonutrient – cucurbitacin, which gives it a bitter taste (especially when it is old). The latest research, so far in the initial phase and conducted only in the laboratory, is focused on these compounds and their potential anticancer effects.
For energy, beauty and health
Of the standard nutrients, in addition to the already mentioned antioxidant vitamin C and beta-carotene, it is necessary to look at biotin and vitamin B1, which are essential for energy production, skin health and the nervous system. In addition to manganese, cucumbers contain antioxidant copper, potassium, which is important for maintaining blood pressure and kidney health, phosphorus – the main element for building bones, and magnesium, which is needed for the proper functioning of muscles and the nervous system.
Fresh cucumber is a food with pronounced antioxidant properties and low caloric value. Most nutrients are contained in the bark and seeds, but the bark is usually removed before consumption. They are an excellent addition to mixed salads, tuna or chicken salads, and they are very tasty as a stand-alone salad, seasoned with oil, vinegar and a little salt. It has a refreshing taste, and that makes it a great food for hot summer days.