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HCA Midwest Health

Reap the health benefits of cucumbers by growing them this spring

Discover the benefits of cucumbers and why you might want to include them in your garden as the temperatures get warmer.

Emily Paulsen
May 06, 2024
If you don't normally include cucumbers in your garden, you might want to make room for them this year.

As temperatures get warmer, you may be thinking about planting a garden. This means gathering your gardening supplies and deciding what you'll want to grow (and eat) this season. If you don't normally include cucumbers in your garden, you might want to make room for them this year.

While most people treat and eat cucumbers like a vegetable, they're actually a fruit. But no matter how you classify this food, they're an excellent addition to any healthy diet. Here are some of the health benefits of cucumbers and how to include them in your garden this spring.

5 benefits of cucumbers

Cucumbers are a key part of the Mediterranean diet, a primarily plant-based style of eating recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA) for its ability to help prevent a range of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. A true superfood, cucumbers add flavor and crunch to salmon in this easy AHA recipe.

1. Nutrient-rich

Cucumbers are low in calories and high in fiber — a great combination for healthy eating (and healthy digestion). They also contain vitamins and minerals your body needs to function at its best — including magnesium, potassium and vitamins K, A and C — supporting everything from bone to immune health.

2. Hydrating

Your body is more than two-thirds water by weight. Proper hydration is necessary to digest food, regulate body temperature, and keep organs and joints healthy. Water also helps you feel full, which can be important to maintaining a healthy body weight.

While drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated, eating water-rich foods is essential, too. Cucumbers top the list of hydrating foods at nearly 96% water, followed by iceberg lettuce, celery, radishes and tomatoes. Add some parsley, a dash of olive oil and a pinch of salt, and you have a wonderful, nutritious summer salad right there.

If you need a little encouragement to drink more fluids, you can also infuse water with cucumber slices to give it a flavor and nutrient boost. Double win!

3. Full of antioxidants

Cucumbers contain several types of antioxidants, including beta-carotene, fisetin and cucurbitacins. Antioxidants protect your cells and help fight free radicals, which can lead to inflammation and chronic disease over time.

In addition to their general antioxidant properties, cucurbitacins have shown promise as a potential cancer therapy in several recent studies. And researchers are looking into how fisetin may help prevent and treat neurological disorders like Alzheimer's disease.

Despite their potential health benefits, cucurbitacins can taste bitter, and they cause gas in some people. "Burpless" cucumbers are bred to have less of these antioxidants for easier digestion. To get the most antioxidant power from your cucumbers, scrub off any coating, but leave some of the skin on.

4. Blood sugar-friendly

Cucumbers are low in calories and carbohydrates and high in fiber and water, which means they're unlikely to raise blood sugar levels if you have or are at risk for diabetes. Diabetes-friendly foods can be part of a healthy diet for anyone, but they're especially helpful if you're managing your blood sugar levels.

5. Versatile

One of the benefits of cucumbers is their versatility. You can add them to salads and sandwiches for a satisfying crunch, make a cold soup with them or pickle them. The easier it is to add a fruit or vegetable to your diet, the more likely you are to actually eat it. Plus, their versatility goes beyond eating — you can even use cucumber slices to cool or moisturize your skin.

How to grow cucumbers in your garden

While you can easily pick up cucumbers at your local grocery store or farm stand, you can also reap (literally!) the benefits of cucumbers by growing them yourself. All you need is a sunny patch of earth, some cucumber seeds and a little patience.

Cucumbers grow best when the temperature ranges between 75 and 85 degrees. You can start seeds indoors before it warms up or wait until the temperatures climb. Keep the soil moist by watering regularly; adding mulch can help. Then, watch the vines spread and the fruit grow.

Depending on the variety, it generally takes cucumbers about seven to 12 weeks from sowing to slicing. Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

May 06, 2024