Looking for a cool, low-calorie summer snack? Why not munch on cucumber rounds? At just 16 calories per cup, cucumbers are a dieter’s dream food. Although fairly low in fiber (0.9 grams), they’re also low in carbohydrates (2.9 grams), fat (0.2 grams) and sugars (1.8 grams). Cucumbers are more than 60 percent water, by weight, and are a good source of electrolytes.
The inside of a cucumber can be as much as 20 degrees cooler than the outside air. No wonder they’re so refreshing! When you’re hot and tired, turn to cucumbers for a quick pick-me-up. Read on for more information on healthy, delicious cucumbers.
Cucumber Nutrition Information
Not only are cucumbers low in calories, they also contain several healthful compounds. Cucumbers contain lignans, which are powerful polyphenols known to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as certain types of cancer, including breast cancer, uterine cancer and prostate cancer.
Researchers have also discovered that cucumbers contain antioxidants known to scavenge free radicals and reduce inflammation. These compounds are believed to prevent several cancers, as well as some auto-immune diseases.
Cucumbers are an excellent source of vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting and bone formation and may even help prevent osteoporosis. They also contain smaller amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and folate.
Types of Cucumbers
At the grocery store, you’ll probably find just two types of cucumbers: traditional slicing cucumbers and English cucumbers. Use these cucumbers interchangeably. English cucumbers are longer and thinner-skinned. They usually have smaller seeds and may also taste sweeter. They’re sometimes called “burpless” cucumbers because they’re less likely to cause indigestion. They’re wrapped in plastic wrap to retain moisture since they’re not waxed.
Visit a farmer’s market, though, and you’ll find a much wider variety of cucumbers. Keep your eyes open for lemon cucumbers. These small, yellow cucumbers really do have a slightly citrus flavor and a crisp, juicy texture. Pickling cucumbers are smaller than regular cucumbers and may have a spiny, thick peel. They have a firm texture that stands up well to the pickling process.
When buying cucumbers, look for firm, bright green vegetables. Avoid cucumbers that are shriveled, wrinkled or soft. These cucumbers will taste bitter and may be decaying.
Most commercial cucumbers are dipped in wax to help preserve them during the transporting process. Although this wax is non-toxic, do you really want to eat it? Probably not. Buy organic cucumbers that are wax-free when possible. If your cucumbers are waxed, peel them or scrub them with a vegetable brush.
Once you get your cucumbers home, store them in a perforated plastic bag in the produce bin of your refrigerator. Don’t wash them until right before you use them. Properly stored, they’ll last around one week. When preparing cucumber, cut off only what you need and store the remaining cucumber, unpeeled, in an air-tight container in the fridge. Use within three days.
Cucumbers have a mild, pleasant flavor that makes them compatible with many other foods. Use them in salads, smoothies or soups for healthy low-fat meals. Below are a few more ideas for serving cucumbers:
- Eat cucumbers alone or dip them in low-fat ranch dressing or hummus.
- Make a cool dill vinaigrette and mix in cucumbers along with a bit of red onion.
- Add them to a robust Greek salad with feta cheese, tomatoes and kalamata olives.
- Cucumbers also pair well with fruit. Try them with peaches and barley for a delicious, slightly sweet salad.
- Combine cucumbers with honeydew melon, spinach and apple juice for a flavorful smoothie.
- Try Asian-inspired cucumber salads with peanut sauce, cilantro and tofu.
- Go southwestern by combining cucumbers with avocado, tomato and black beans.
- Add grilled chicken or fish to a cucumber pasta salad to make a one-dish meal.
No matter how you slice them, cucumbers are one of the best low-cal foods around. In cucumber salads, use creamy dressings, cheese and nuts in small amounts to keep calories low, and make salads ahead of time for best flavor.
Want to learn more about cucumbers?
Center for Disease Control: Vegetable of the Month: Cucumber
University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension: Kentucky Cucumbers
University of Illinois Extension: Cucumber Recipes