For most of North America, August ushers in the dog days of summer. Here in Maine they usher in the beginning of autumn — I am not kidding you. Our temps have already dipped and, just yesterday, I saw a maple tree whose leaves were already turning — come on, tree, seriously? It would make sense then that you never find a parked car with the windows cracked this time of year. Actually, it’s not the weather that keeps them shut. Around here, if you leave your windows cracked open, you’ll be met with a seat full of cucumbers, squash and zucchini! Every Mainer knows about twenty ways to use a zucchini and the rest leave a trail around the state. The good news is that these healthy harvests produce some great nutritious dividends as well. Today, we’ll focus on the cucumber.
My husband, Mark, reveals his decidedly English roots when he enjoys a cucumber sandwich for lunch. Beyond Great Britain’s upper crust, the cucumber actually has its roots in India over 3,000 years ago. British soldiers found cucumber to be a great way to beat the oppressive heat in foreign lands something native cultures have known for centuries.
The cucumber may not be the most exciting vegetable to consider given its mild flavor and water-rich content, however, it is chock full of nutritious and practical benefits. A half cup of sliced cucumber is only 8 calories, fat free, contains just 2 grams of carbs and yet it is loaded with essential Vitamins A, C, K, potassium, magnesium and manganese. Check out these top ten ways you can reap the health benefits from cucumbers according to Naturalnews.com:
- Refresh — the vitamins and electrolytes in cucumbers can be a great natural energy booster.
- Rehydrate — the water content in cucumbers is around 95% which helps to rehydrate the body.
- Soothe — the skin of the cucumber can be used to reduce skin irritations, soothe sunburns and, yes, help reduce puffy eyes. There are even hair growth benefits associated with topical use.
- Prevent — Cucumbers contain lignans like lariciresinol, pinoresinol, and secoisolariciresinol which may help reduce the risk of certain cancers like, breast, ovarian and prostate.
- De-fog — This is kind of a cool use for cucumber. If you rub a cucumber slice on your mirror before you shower, it won’t fog up!
- Freshen — the phytochemicals in cucumbers can help kill bacteria by pressing a slice in the roof of your mouth for 30 seconds. As an added bonus you don’t have to suck on a breath mint.
- Heal a Hangover — although I would prefer you don’t overindulge, if you do, eat some cucumber before bed. The electrolytes and natural sugar help rehydrate and prevent a morning headache.
- Digest — cucumber’s hydrating qualities and alkalinity aid in indigestion. They also provide a satisfying crunch which make them a great alternative to chips.
- Reduce — researchers have found that the sterols in cucumbers help support the pancreas, reduce cholesterol levels and regulate blood pressure.
- Support — the silica content in cucumbers helps strengthen connective tissue to support healthy joints. When combined with carrot juice, the combination of nutrients help reduce arthritis pain and inflammation. Cheers to a veggie cocktail!
In order to enjoy the best benefits from cucumber, growing your own or finding a local farmer’s market will ensure freshness and a likely more nutrient-dense vegetable than store bought. Avoid cucumbers with a wax coating as the skin contains the most nutrients so you’re going to want to eat that part rather than peeling it away. I also make sure I wash my cucumbers with a vegetable citrus spray before use.
From smoothies to sandwiches, no matter how you slice it (you knew I had to say it, didn’t you?), you can reap the refreshing health benefits of cucumbers all season long. And since your neighbors may be stalking your front porch for a vegetable drive-by drop off, stay tuned for Part II of my series to learn more about all the zip in zucchini.
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“My neighbor has a circular driveway…he can’t get out!” Steven Wright
Copyright © 2013 by Christine A.Toriello, all rights reserved.