Cucumbers: more than just pickles

Produce like cucumbers are a delicious addition to your menu.

Cucumbers come from the same botanical family as melons and squash. They typically come in two types: “slicing” which are larger and have a thicker skin and “pickling” which are smaller and have a thinner skin.

Cucumbers contain health benefiting polyphenols called lignans which have been studied in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage and allium vegetables like onions and garlic. The presences of these lignans are showing a strong connection with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Cucumbers are also a rich source of the phytonutrients, cucurbitacins. According to whfoods.org, research is being conducted showing that the normal pathways of cancer cell growth can be blocked by cucurbitacins. Other phytonutrients found in cucumbers provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits to the body.

Cucumbers come in a variety of textures, shapes and colors including yellow, white and orange and may be short, oval in shape or round. Seedless cucumbers are not genetically altered. They grow when the plant is not pollinated. In the absence of pollen, the cucumber produces fruit without seeds. This is a preference for some but the seeds have been shown to contain nutrients such as calcium. Thin skinned cucumbers will contain fewer seeds than thicker skinned cucumbers.

Choose a firm product with rounded edges and store in the refrigerator as cucumbers are sensitive to the heat. Seal unused cucumber in a container to prevent it from drying out. Always wash your fruit before preparing and eating.

Cucumbers contain a plethora of nutrients that include vitamins C, B1, and K. They also contain important minerals such as potassium, magnesium and manganese. Cucumbers have some good dense nutrition to offer towards our healthy eating habits. Cucumbers are best eaten raw but can be fermented or pickled.

For more on delicious and healthy summer produce, visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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