Picture a glass of water filled with slices of cucumber…is there literally anything more refreshing? But when it comes to eating cukes—do cucumbers actually have any nutrition benefits? Or is chowing down on cucumbers basically the same as eating iceberg lettuce?
Good news, cuke lovers: “Like any vegetable, cucumbers have health benefits, and even if they may not be as well-known as say, kale, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there,” says Jessica Perez, RD.
Cucumbers may help keep your blood pressure in check.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, can leave you at risk for developing an aneurysm, stroke, or worse. Since cucumbers are high in the electrolyte potassium, they may reduce sodium-induced water retention and thus lower blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association.
But, of course, cucumbers on their own won’t mitigate the damage of an entire bag of chips a day, so if you do have high blood pressure, make sure you also work on reducing harmful habits (like smoking, maintaining a sedentary lifestyle, and eating excessive saturated fat- and cholesterol-laden foods), in addition to focusing on your cuke intake.
They can keep your digestion going strong.
Basically all the calories in cucumbers (and yes, there’s not that many) come from fiber. According to Perez, fiber helps improve gut health and bowel movement regularity, is beneficial in managing certain conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol, and will even fill you up to prevent you from overeating. Heck. Yes.
Cucumbers keep you mega-hydrated.
Staying hydrated is crucial for carrying nutrients to your cells, preventing constipation, and flushing out bacteria, to name just a few. Perez says eating cucumbers can help you reach your recommended daily fluid intake (eight cups of H2O, FYI).
The amount of water you actually ingest from cucumbers depends on your serving size, but since they’re made of 95 percent water, you can be sure a cup of cukes will contribute significantly to your water needs, according to Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and Read It Before You Eat It.
They keep your gut happy.
As mentioned, cucumbers boast a lot of fiber, which is great for supporting a healthy gut. But when you eat them in pickle form, they’re really superstars in this category. ICYMI: Pickles are made of cucumbers plus the right mix of pickling spices, salt and vinegar. “The fermentation process makes them perfect fuel for your gut,” says Taub-Dix. Increasing the “good bacteria” in your gut is associated with a host of benefits like better immunity and functional bowels.
They contain antioxidants and micronutrients.
Scientists have been hard at work debunking the idea that cucumbers are basically salad filler. According to the Journal of Aging Research and Clinical Practice, cucumbers contain a group of polyphenols called lignans, which may be helpful in treating estrogen-related cancers.
Perez says they also contain other types of antioxidants like beta carotene and flavonoids, which help fight inflammation and protect cells from chronic disease.
They may help promote a healthy weight.
There’s not a single food or exercise that’s singlehandedly responsible for weight loss or maintenance, but cucumbers are certainly a great addition to an otherwise healthy lifestyle that’s rich in produce, whole grains, healthy fat, and lean protein. “They can help with weight loss in the sense that if you fill up more on them, you’ll be less likely to eat junk foods since they can be a very filling food,” says Perez.
Cucumbers may help regulate diabetes.
Similar to how they can help you maintain a healthy weight, cucumbers are clutch at keeping diabetes in check. Perez, again, notes that because they’re rich in water, they expand in your stomach and thus reduce cravings for sugary snacks, which is a great way to regulate insulin levels.
They could help strengthen your bones.
Calcium isn’t the only nutrient that keeps your bones strong—think about opting for vitamin K-rich cucumbers more often as well. A study from the journal PLos Medicine found that postmenopausal women who took five milligrams of vitamin K every day for two years experienced 50 percent fewer fractures than the control group. Because vitamin K helps clot blood, however, talk to your doc before any sudden increase in cucumber intake if you’re taking any blood thinners.