August 9, 2016
From adding a crunch to your summer salad, to fighting cancer and heart disease, the humble cucumber is a great ally in your quest for optimal health. This wonderful low-calorie fruit (yes you read that right, cucumber is not a vegetable but a fruit) has so much more to offer than electrolytes and water.
It is the fourth most cultivated vegetable in the world, and has been around for ages. Originally grown in northern India around 4,000 years ago, cucumbers are part of the squash, melon and gourd family.
Cucumbers as medicine
As reported by The Old Farmer’s Almanac, in ancient times cucumbers were used as a medicine, rather than as food, to treat nearly everything. Recently, cucumbers have come to the attention of many modern laboratories for their potential medicinal purposes.
While cucumbers do not house impressive amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals, they thank their superfood status to high levels of bioactive phytochemicals such as cucurbitacins, lignans and flavonoids.
Many of these compounds have anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-diabetic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, painkilling, wound-healing and laxative properties, making cucumbers an ideal cure-all.
Scientists found that cucurbitacins could block the signaling pathways that are essential for cancer cell growth and survival. According to a 2010 research review published in Scientific World Journal, these findings may lead to the possibility of cucurbitacin being used as a future anticancer drug.
Another study, published in the Journal of Cancer Research, found that cucurbitacin B inhibits the growth of pancreatic cancer cells by up to 81 percent.
According to the researchers, unpurified cucurbitacins have been used for centuries as folk medicine in Asian countries such as China and India. Pancreatic cancer is poorly treated by conventional therapies. Cucurbitacin B’s ability to inhibit tumor growth and induce cancer cell apoptosis may lead to new and efficient cancer treatments to fight pancreatic cancer.
Lignans are a unique type of polyphenols found and extensively studied in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage. Recent research, however, has found that other vegetables, including cucumbers, are a good source of different types of lignans too.
Cucumbers contain lariciresinol, pinoresinol and secoisolariciresino – three lignans associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease as well as several types of cancer. These include breast, uterine, ovarian and prostate cancers.
A 2010 study, published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, found that these three compounds could protect your heart by lowering vascular inflammation and endothelial dysfunction.
Furthermore, cucumbers consist of 96 percent water, which is more than any other fruit or vegetable on our planet, making it an excellent food to keep you hydrated all day long. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, an average-sized cucumber contains the equivalent of a 10-ounce glass of water, and only adds 16 calories per cup.
In addition, cucumbers are well known for their ability to soothe sunburns, reduce puffy eyes and freshen the breath.
What are you waiting for? Start growing fresh, organic cucumbers in your own backyard or on your balcony. It’s easy, fun, chemical-free and super cheap.
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