Pete Evans

Cucumber

Cucumber

Known as a curcurbit plant, cucumbers are a wonderfully refreshing summer fruit that come from the same Curcurbitaceae family as melon, courgette, squash and pumpkin. And while there’s no doubt that today we know them as vegetables, technically they are a fruit because they come from the ovaries of the flowering plants.

Known as a curcurbit plant, cucumbers are a wonderfully refreshing summer fruit that come from the same Curcurbitaceae family as melon, courgette, squash and pumpkin. And while there’s no doubt […]

I love their freshness, crunch and the way they refreshingly you cool down on a hot summer’s day, which incidentally is the same properties which mean cucumbers are also helps in reducing inflammation in the body.

Yet scientific research is discovering that there is a lot more to the humble cucumber and that’s why it’s an important inclusion in our diets in the path to achieving optimal health.

You see, cucumbers contain a huge variety of phyto-nutrients that are necessary for keeping our bodies healthy from modern-day diseases, such as cardiovascular problems and certain types of cancers.

They are also excellent sources of vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin B1 and manganese, as well as providing the body with essential trace minerals such as copper, potassium and phosphorus.

Eating cucumbers regularly each week can also assist in raising the body’s level of the mineral silica, which promotes healthy nails and helps prevent hair loss.

The rising star status of cucumber from being just a simple, salad accompaniment to a true nutritional superstar comes down to the fact that it has three key groups of phyto-nutrients that have superior antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

Interestingly, big pharma companies globally are studying cucumber’s unique anti-cancer properties intensely in the hopes of creating a synthetic version.

The most intriguing of all the powerful phyto-nutrients in cucumbers is lignans. It was thought up that until recently these unique polyphenols were contained only in cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage, and alliums, like onions and garlic.

However, new studies have found beneficial amounts of lignan content in other veges, especially cucumbers.

An intensely lignan-rich food, cucumbers contain three types of lignans that are key – pinoresinol, lariciresinol and secoisolariciresinol. Scientific research has found that these have a strong connection in reducing the risk of both cardiovascular disease and helping to protect against the development (and reduce the severity) of several types of cancer, especially breast, uterine, ovarian and prostate cancers.

And because cucumber is a curcubit – meaning it’s a member of the Cucurbitaceae family – it is also a rich source of another key set of phyto-nutrients called cucurbitacins.

Cutting-edge global research is currently being done into the anti-cancer nature of cucurbitacins with the initial stages of this research indicating that certain signalling pathways required by the body for cancer cell development and survival can be blocked by their activity. Now that’s exciting stuff for those of us who are determined to use food as our medicine!

Along with the more advanced nutritional science around cucumbers, there is also no doubt that no matter what shape or form they come in (and they do come in all different colours and sizes) they contain a huge amount of anti-oxidant nutrients that fight against free radicals in the body.

The highest concentration in cucumbers is vitamin C, beta-carotene and manganese, with studies showing that regular consumption of cucumbers can help to increase overall antioxidant activity as well as reduce unwanted inflammation and oxidative stress.

Cucumbers are easy to grow over the summer months but young tendrils can be susceptible to frosts so are best planted out after these have past. Keep them well-watered and fed and you’ll be rewarded with endless vegetables straight from the garden.

I encourage everyone to either grow their own or choose organic cucumbers wherever possible because these are one of the vegetables that regularly top the Dirty Dozen list – the 12 vegetables in the world that are known to carry the most pesticide residue.

Cucumbers first originated in western Asia, most specifically India, as well as being a staple part of the Middle East diet.

Originally mentioned in literature in 2,500BC by an Uruk King who lived in the countries we now know as Iraq and Kuwait, it wasn’t for another 3,300 years that cucumbers would make their way to Europe and then eventually to the Americas.

Today, cucumbers grown in Australia can be purchased during the summer months but beware of the imported varieties you see in supermarkets over winter.

While some come from Mexico, it is China that produces the largest amount of cucumbers worldwide and they are responsible for two-thirds of the world’s global supply.

The other big tip I’d like to share is that when considering eating cucumbers, it’s important to know that most of the nutrients are contained in both the skin and the seeds so, from a nutritional standpoint, it’s best to eat it all.

However, cucumbers are often waxed so that they don’t bruise in transit and while organically grown ones won’t contain unwanted chemical contaminants, if you can’t source organic, it’s probably best to peel them.

Here’s a few other facts that make cucumbers so cool:

  • Cucumbers contain high amounts of pantothenic acid (otherwise known as vitamin B5), which is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning they dissolve in water upon entering the body and can’t be stored in excess amounts for later use so it’s important that we pack lots of these into our diets.
  • Cucumbers are a key way to treat split and broken nails as well as reduce inflammation in the skin, meaning they are an effective in helping to control skin disorders such as psoriasis.
  • Pickling cucumbers can be fermented and fermented veg is a great way of promoting healthy digestion.
  • The lignans inherent in cucumbers have been found to assist in supporting women going through menopause.
  • Because of the high levels of vitamin B in cucumbers they are an excellent way to assist in managing stress.

Cook with love and laughter,

Pete

By Pete Evans

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