Cucumber Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Cucumber, annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Cucumbers are crisp and refreshing, due to their high percentage of water. However, with 95% water content, you may be wondering whether cucumbers have much to offer by way of nutrition. Along with potassium, beta carotene, and vitamin K, cucumbers have several phytochemicals with promising health benefits.

Cucumber Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1/2 cup (52g) of sliced cucumber with the peel.

  • Calories: 8
  • Fat: 0.1g
  • Sodium: 1mg
  • Carbohydrates: 1.9g
  • Fiber: 0.3g
  • Sugars: 0.9g
  • Protein: 0.3g​

Carbs

A 1/2 cup of sliced cucumber has almost 2 grams of carbohydrates with 0.3 grams of fiber. There are also 0.9 grams of natural sugar in cucumber. Cucumber has a low glycemic index of 15.

Fats

There is almost no fat in cucumbers.

Protein

Cucumbers are not a good source of protein, providing less than 1/2 gram per serving.

Vitamins and Minerals

Cucumbers are naturally high in water so their relative concentration of nutrients is low. Nonetheless, cucumbers contain potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, folate, beta carotene, and vitamin K.

Health Benefits

In addition to their vitamin and mineral content, cucumbers contain unique substances that are being studied for their therapeutic effects. Here are some of the ways cucumber promotes health.

May Help Prevent Diverticulitis

Diverticular disease is a painful inflammation of the colon that sometimes requires hospitalization. Studies have shown mixed results on the benefits of fiber to prevent flare-ups (called diverticulitis).

Recent research supports the intake of fiber from fruits and vegetables, like cucumbers, to lower the likelihood of diverticulitis-related hospitalizations. Specifically, getting an additional 8.5 grams per day of fiber from fruits and vegetables was associated with a 30% risk reduction.

Reduces Cancer Risk

Cucurbitacins are a natural compound found in cucumbers and some other vegetables. There are multiple variations of cucurbitacins that work together to inhibit cancer growth, and breast cancer appears to be particularly sensitive to their effects.

In addition, cucumbers contain the flavonoid fisetin, which shows antioxidant and anti-cancer behavior. Although more human studies are needed to confirm the role of cucumber in cancer prevention, research thus far is promising.

Improves Blood Sugar Control

Cucumbers are a non-starchy vegetable, which is one of the best categories of food for managing diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends three to five servings of non-starchy vegetables per day, but that's just a minimum.

When hunger strikes, having more non-starchy vegetables can help satisfy appetite without raising blood sugar levels. The fiber and water content of fresh cucumbers makes them an ideal choice for glycemic control.

Promotes Hydration

Drinking water may the most efficient way to quench your thirst, but high-water foods can also provide good hydration. Cucumbers are 95% water, making them a great way to rehydrate in hot temperatures.

Snack on cucumbers after sporting events or heavy exercise to help replace the electrolytes and water your body needs. Because the interior of cucumbers can be up to 20 degrees cooler than outside temperatures, they're sure to cool you down in no time.

Supports Heart Health

Cucumbers are a good way to add more fiber and potassium to your meal. Fiber improves satiety and helps keep cholesterol levels down, while potassium reduces blood pressure levels. Cucumbers also provide folate, an essential B-vitamin that reduces stroke risk. It's no secret that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables every day is an effective way to prevent heart disease, and cucumbers are a refreshing option.

Allergies

If you're allergic to ragweed, you may notice some allergy symptoms after eating cucumber. This phenomenon is called oral allergy syndrome (OAS) and is caused by a cross-reactivity between the two plants.

It's also possible to have a true food allergy to cucumber, although this is rare. Food allergy symptoms typically include hives, dizziness, swelling of the tongue or throat, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing. If you suspect an allergy to cucumbers, see an allergist to discuss your concerns.

Adverse Effects

If you take Coumadin (warfarin) as a blood thinner, it's important to keep your intake of vitamin K consistent. Green vegetables, like cucumber, provide vitamin K which is essential for blood clotting. Because it may interact with the blood-thinning effects of warfarin, maintaining roughly the same daily consumption of vitamin K can help your doctor determine the correct dosage of medication for you.

Varieties

There are several varieties of cucumber, some of which are better for eating fresh or pickling. Examples of common slicing varieties include Hothouse, Burpless, Marketmore 76, Straight 8, Salad Bush, Fanfare, and Bush Crop. For pickling, Gherkins, Dill, Carolina, and Bush Pickle are popular.

When It's Best

Slicing cucumbers should be between 5 and 8 inches long, while pickling cucumbers should be smaller, around 2 to 3 inches long. Look for cucumbers that are firm and free of bruising, yellowing, or damage.

Cucumbers are may be harvested twice per season, in early summer and again before fall. Look for fresh, local cucumbers at the farmers market in the summertime, or find them in the supermarket year-round.

Storage and Food Safety

After being picked from the vine, cucumbers should be stored in the refrigerator in perforated bags for up to 3 days. Fresh cucumbers from the supermarket are usually sold in plastic wrap and can be placed in the refrigerator at home for about a week before use. Wash cucumbers well before slicing, peeling, or eating.

Cucumbers tend to dry out quickly after being sliced, so be sure to cover exposed areas and place them back in the fridge for use within a few days. Cucumbers can also be pickled in vinegar or frozen for long term storage of up to a year.

How to Prepare

Slice cucumbers for use in salads or as crudité to dip into spreads. Mix cucumbers with plain yogurt and dill or mint as a side dish, especially for spicy dishes. Experiment with traditional English cucumber sandwiches or make fun appetizers by topping cucumber rounds with tasty toppings.

Cucumbers can also be served or blended with fruits like melon to make a cool salad or gazpacho. Hydrate your body with a refreshing glass of cucumber-infused water. Enjoy cucumber in a variety of ways, any time of the year.

Recipes

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Article Sources
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