Do you know where pickles come from? Those briny salty snacks may be delicious on a burger, but nutritionally speaking, they don’t even begin to compare to their cucumber origins. Popular in a number of dishes, in soups, salads, and sandwiches, cucumbers offer a number of health benefits. This might be part of why cucumbers, even though they originated all the way in Asia, have become such a hit in fine dining at American restaurants. If you’re curious about what makes the common cucumber so great for your health, read on for a few good reasons to skip the pickle.
One thing about pickles is that they are very salty. Salt contains sodium, which in high levels can cause health problems in the body. It dehydrates the body, which leads to water retention and bloating in an attempt to stay hydrated. Unlike the pickles they may become, cucumbers are very low in salt. This also separates them from a large number of other salty foods in the American diet. Minimizing salt intake is quite beneficial for the heart, among other organs; too much salt can make the circulatory system less effective, putting strain on the heart and the blood vessels.
95% of a cucumber’s content is actually water; that ratio is even higher than a human’s 75%. As you might guess from the previous point, the body is very reliant on water. Without water, numerous organs cannot do their jobs as efficiently. These include the kidneys, which need water to filter the blood, the liver, the digestive tract, which uses water to help flush the intestines and ease bowel movements, and even the skin, which needs water to stay smooth and flexible. Cucumbers, with their significant water content, are a great way to get water from food, similar to watermelon.
4. Heart Health
As mentioned earlier, high levels of sodium can cause problems for the heart and the circulatory system. This is because when salt ties up water in the body, the water is less able to dilute fluids(including blood) and lubricate organs and vessels. The blood becomes thicker, which makes it harder for the heart to pump it through the body. Furthermore, salt also weakens the blood vessels directly, by making them more brittle and inflexible. This also increases the strain on the heart. Cucumber’s salt-free nature doesn’t contribute to this; it contains a small level of potassium, which counters sodium.
3. Weight Loss
By now, you know that cucumbers are low in salt and high in water. Salt can cause bloating and water retention, and it can contribute to weight gain. Water, on the other hand, can promote a feeling of fullness, which turns off the signals that tell the body to eat. This means that if you are looking to cut down on weight, adding cucumbers to your diet can help you eat less by causing you to achieve satiety faster. Cucumbers also provide a modest level of energy to help get you through the day, and they are low in fat.
2. Nutritional Goodness
While the cucumber is mostly water, it does have a number of vitamins and minerals in it that contribute to health. Potassium, as mentioned earlier, counters sodium, in effect lowering blood pressure by making blood vessels more flexible. Cucumbers also include Vitamin A, which contributes to eye, hair, and skin health. Various B Vitamins in cucumbers help regulate the body’s systems create and grow new cells, and turn food into energy. Vitamin C contributes to a strong immune system, protecting the body from infection. Cucumbers also provide a significant amount of Vitamin K, which is crucial for proper blood clotting.
Water is not the only substance that contributes to easier digestion and more efficient bowel movements. Fiber, both the soluble and insoluble kind, also plays a significant role too. Cucumbers, particularly with the skin intact, contain some level of fiber, which helps the body pass bowel movements. Specifically, it is fiber which holds the stool together and gives it bulk so that it can be quickly and smoothly transferred through the digestive system. Too little fiber can eventually lead to constipation, making it difficult for the body to have successful bowel movements because the stool will become tough and fragmented.
If you’re looking for a way to include more cucumber in your diet, consider this recipe: Asian Cucumber Salad. You can find this recipe and others like it on All Recipes. Asian Cucumber Salad is said to be delicious, and perhaps more importantly, it is easy to prepare, eat, and digest. To make it, you will need two cucumbers (cut them in half lengthwise), two teaspoons of salt, half a cup of rice vinegar, one-fourth of a cup of white sugar, two tablespoons of sesame oil, one tablespoon of minced garlic, one tablespoon of minced fresh ginger root, one tablespoon of sesame seeds, and four fresh red chile peppers, which also must be sliced.
To prepare, place the cucumber slices into a colander, sprinkle them (lightly) with salt, and set them aside to drain for an hour. Next, whisk the vinegar and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved. Afterwards, mix the sesame oil, sesame seeds, garlic, and ginger. After that, be sure to rinse off the salt from the cucumber slices. Make sure to do so with cold running water; then, place the cucumber slices into a large bowl with the sliced red chile peppers. Finally, drizzle your dressing over the vegetables and toss them to coat.
The next time you reach for the pickles, consider choosing a cucumber instead. There’s a reason why they are so popular. They are a versatile and delicious food that can help protect your health in numerous ways. Unlike many other foods, they are low in both salt and fat, two ingredients that can cause a number of illnesses. On the other hand, cucumbers help to prevent those illnesses with their vitamin and water content. The energy they provide and the ease they add to digestion makes them a perfect addition to the diet, especially for those trying to lose weight.