The Cucumber: Unassuming Health-Packer with Lots of Uses!
As I walked through our local farmers' market yesterday I noticed piles and baskets of cucumbers everywhere, but not a lot of folks buying them. This probably stems from how unassuming the cucumber is. Folks generally relate it to pickles, salads, dips, and chilled soups. Most people don't realize how many other uses they have, and how health-packed the cucumber is.
Start with health: "Cool as a cucumber" is an appropriate description. The internal temperature of the typical cuke is about 8 to 10 degrees cooler than the outside ambient temperature. That's because the flesh of the cucumber is mostly water. The cucumber also contains ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and caffeic acid, both of which help soothe skin irritations and reduce swelling. These acids prevent water retention, which may explain why cucumbers applied topically are often helpful for swollen eyes, burns and dermatitis.
And cucumbers are a great treat for the skin. They have the same pH as the skin so they help restore the protective acid mantle. They also possess hydrating, nourishing and astringent properties. Cucumber juice is often recommended as a source of silica to improve the complexion and health of the skin
Because cucumber is so good for the skin, you'll find loads of recipes on the Internet for cucumber toner, facial masks, and so on. But one thing a cuke can do that's not so widely known is restore the luster to "swimming pool hair." To condition chlorine-damaged hair, mix together an egg with about a tablespoon of olive oil and about a quarter to a half of peeled and mashed cucumber. Spread this mixture evenly through your hair and leave it for 10 minutes, then thoroughly rinse.
The skin of a cucumber is rich in fiber and contains a variety of beneficial minerals. Besides silica, there's potassium and magnesium. The silica in cucumber is an essential component of healthy connective tissue, which includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bone. Because it's such a health-powerhouse, I include 1/2 an organic cucumber, skin and all, in my morning green smoothie.
Finally, when you want a healthy, filling, and soothing snack, go to the cucumber. It's got all the requirements for one of the best foods around. So the next time you're walking through your farmers' market, give the cucumber display a second look. There's more to this green guy than pickles or salads!
Weekly Newsletter Contributer since 2006