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  • CucumbersPosted 3 years ago under Food, Health, Natural Health, Natural ingredients

    Description

    Even though long, dark green, smooth-skinned garden cucumbers are familiar vegetables in the produce section of most groceries, cucumbers actually come in a wide variety of colors, sizes, shapes and textures. You’ll find white, yellow, and even orange-colored cucumbers and they may be short, slightly oval, or even round in shape. Their skins can be smooth and thin, or thick and rough. In a technical sense, cucumbers are actually fruits, not vegetables. But we’ve become accustomed to thinking and referring to cucumbers as vegetables.

    All cucumbers belong to the botanical plant family called Curcubitaceae. This broad family of plants includes melons and squash. The cucumbers we’re most familiar with in the grocery store belong to the specific genus/species group, Cucumis sativus.

    While there are literally hundreds of different varieties of Cucumis sativus, virtually all can be divided into two basic types: slicing and pickling. Slicing cucumbers include all varieties that are cultivated for consumption in fresh form. In the United States, commonly planted varieties of slicing cucumber include Dasher, Conquistador, Slicemaster, Victory, Comet, Burpee Hybrid, and Sprint. These varieties tend to be fairly large in size and thick-skinned. Their size makes them easier for slicing, and their thick skin makes them easier to transport in whole food form without damage.

    Pickling cucumbers include all varieties that are cultivated not for consumption in fresh form, but for processing into pickles. In the United States, commonly planted varieties of pickling cucumber include Royal, Calypso, Pioneer, Bounty, Regal, Duke, and Blitz. Some of these pickling varieties are black-spine types (in reference to the texture of their outer skin) and some are white-spine. While pickling cucumbers can always be eaten fresh, their smaller size and generally thinner skins make them easier to ferment and preserve/jar.

    Pickling is a process that can be used for many different foods. It’s not limited to cucumbers and or even to the vegetable food group. In general, the word “pickling” refers to a method of preventing food spoilage that involves soaking in a liquid and/or fermenting.

    While the language used to describe pickles can be very confusing, there are only two basic types of pickles: fermented and non-fermented. Fermenting is a process in which fresh foods (in this case cucumbers) are allowed to soak in a solution for an extended period of time that allows microorganisms to make changes in the food. Among these changes is a build-up of lactic acid that serves to protect the pickles from spoilage. When fermented in an appropriate solution, fresh foods like cucumbers can be transformed in a way that greatly increases their shelf life.

    Cucumbers are typically fermented in brine (water that’s been highly saturated in salt). In fact, the word “pickle” actually comes from the Dutch “pekel” meaning brine. Alongside salt, pickling brines often contain other ingredients, including vinegar, dill seed, garlic, and lime (calcium hydroxide or calcium oxide). “Dill pickles” get their name from the addition of dill seed to the brine.

    “Kosher dills” are brined not only with dill but also with garlic. One important note in this regard: “kosher dills” are not necessarily pickled cucumbers that have been prepared according to kosher dietary laws. The word “kosher” in their name often refers to a general style of preparation in which a good bit of garlic has been used in the brining process. If you are seeking pickles that have been prepared according to kosher dietary laws, look for “certified kosher” on the label, not just “kosher” or “kosher-style.”

    Fermented pickles are often called “brined pickles,” but here’s where confusion can set it. These two terms aren’t truly interchangeable since some brined pickles are “quick brined” and haven’t been given time for fermentation. When pickles are “quick brined,” the brining solution usually contains a significant amount of vinegar, and it’s this added vinegar that prevents the pickles from spoiling, not build up of lactic acid through the microbial fermentation process.

    Non-fermented pickles of all kinds — often referred to as “quick pickled” — rely on the addition of vinegar or another highly acidic solution to prevent spoilage. “Quick pickling” with the use of vinegar can be accomplished in a matter of days. Pickling by fermentation usually takes a minimum of several weeks.

    While genetically engineered cucumbers do exist, genetic engineering is not responsible for the existence of seedless varieties of cucumbers. Through a natural process called parthenogenesis, cucumber plants can fruit without pollen. In the absence of pollen, seeds do not develop in the fruit. While some people have a personal preference for seedless cucumbers, it’s worth remembering that cucumber seeds are a rich source of cucumber nutrients that are sometimes absent in the pulp and skin.

    Sometimes you will hear the word “gherkin” being used to refer to cucumbers and pickles. This word can be used to describe a variety of cucumber that comes from the same plant species (Cucumis sativus) that is the source of most other cucumber varieties found in the grocery. But the term “gherkin” can also be used to describe a cucumber variety that comes from a different species of plant (Cucumis anguiria).

    History

    Cucumber plants naturally thrive in both temperate and tropical environments and generally require temperatures between 60-90°F/15-33°C. For this reason, they are native to many regions of the world. In evolutionary terms, the first cucumbers were likely to have originated in Western Asia (and perhaps more specifically in India) or parts of the Middle East. Cucumbers are mentioned in the legend of Gilgamesh — a Uruk king who lived around 2500 BC in what is now Iraq and Kuwait. It was approximately 3,300 years later when cucumber cultivation spread to parts of Europe, including France. And it was not until the time of the European colonists that cucumbers finally appeared in North America in the 1500’s.

    Today, the states of Florida and California are able to provide U.S. consumers with fresh cucumbers for most of the year (from March through November). Imported cucumbers from Mexico are commonly found in groceries during the winter months of December, January, and February. In California alone, about 6,600 acres are planted with slicing cucumber varieties and 4,400 with pickling cucumbers.

    Worldwide, China is by far the largest producer of cucumbers and provides about two-thirds of the global supply. Iran, Turkey, Russia, Egypt, Spain, Mexico, the Ukraine, Japan, Indonesia, and the U.S. all participate in the world cucumber market, with an especially high number of exports coming from Iran, Mexico, and Spain. Annual production of cucumbers worldwide is approximately 84 billion pounds.

    Health Benefits

    Cucumbers have not received as much press as other vegetables in terms of health benefits, but this widely cultivated food provides us with a unique combination of nutrients. At the top of the phytonutrient list for cucumbers are its cucurbitacins, lignans, and flavonoids. These three types of phytonutrients found in cucumbers provide us with valuable antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits.

    Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits

    Cucumbers are a valuable source of conventional antioxidant nutrients including vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese. In addition, cucumbers contain numerous flavonoid antioxidants, including quercetin, apigenin, luteolin, and kaempferol. In animal studies, fresh extracts from cucumber have been shown to provide specific antioxidant benefits, including increased scavenging of free radicals and increased overall antioxidant capacity.

    Fresh cucumber extracts have also been shown to reduce unwanted inflammation in animal studies. Cucumber accomplishes this task by inhibiting the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes like cyclo-oxygenase 2 (COX-2), and by preventing overproduction of nitric oxide in situations where it could increase the likelihood of excessive inflammation.

    Anti-cancer benefits

    Research on the anti-cancer benefits of cucumber is still in its preliminary stage and has been restricted thus far to lab and animal studies. Interestingly, however, many pharmaceutical companies are actively studying one group of compounds found in cucumber — called cucurbitacins — in the hope that their research may lead to the development of new anti-cancer drugs.

    As a member of the Cucurbitaceae family of plants, cucumbers are a rich source of triterpene phytonutrients called cucurbitacins. Cucurbitacins A, B, C, D, and E are all contained in fresh cucumbers. They have been the subject of active and ongoing research to determine the extent and nature of their anti-cancer properties. Scientists have already determined that several different signaling pathways (for example, the JAK-STAT and MAPK pathways) required for cancer cell development and survival can be blocked by the activity of cucurbitacins. Soon, we expect to see human studies that confirm the anti-cancer benefits of cucumbers when consumed in a normal, everyday diet.

    Another group of cucumber phytonutrients known to provide anti-cancer benefits is its lignans. The lignans pinoresinol, lariciresinol, and secoisolariciresinol have all been identified within cucumber. Interestingly, the role of these plant lignans in cancer protection involves the role of bacteria in our digestive tract. When we consume plant lignans like those found in cucumber, bacteria in our digestive tract take hold of these lignans and convert them into enterolignans like enterodiol and enterolactone. Enterolignans have the ability to bind to estrogen receptors and can have both pro-estrogenic and anti-estrogenic effects. Reduced risk of estrogen-related cancers, including cancers of the breast, ovary, uterus, and prostate has been associated with intake of dietary lignans from plant foods like cucumber.

    How to Select and Store

    Since cucumbers can be very sensitive to heat, you’ll be on safer grounds if you choose those that are displayed in refrigerated cases in the market. They should be firm, rounded at their edges, and their color should be a bright medium to dark green. Avoid cucumbers that are yellow, puffy, have sunken water-soaked areas or are wrinkled at their tips.

    Cucumbers should be stored in the refrigerator where they will keep for several days. If you do not use the entire cucumber during one meal, place it in a tightly sealed container so that it does not become dried out. For maximum quality, cucumber should be used within one or two days. Cucumbers should not be left out at room temperature for too long as this will cause them to wilt and become limp.

    Tips for Preparing and Cooking

    Two common questions about cucumbers involve consumption of their skin and their seeds. There are several facts you need to know before making your decision about consumption of cucumber skins and seeds. First, it is important to remember that the skins and seeds of cucumbers are both rich in nutrients. In fact, the nutrient richness of both plant parts is significantly higher than the flesh. For this reason, consumption of both skins and seeds is desirable from a nutritional standpoint.

    Both conventionally grown and organically grown cucumbers may have been waxed. However, the only waxes that can be used on organically grown cucumbers are non-synthetic waxes, and these waxes must be free of all chemical contaminants that are prohibited under organic regulations. Conventionally grown cucumbers may be waxed with synthetic waxes that contain unwanted chemical contaminants. In addition, other compounds, including ethyl alcohol, milk casein, and soaps may be added to synthetic waxes for consistency, “film” formation, and improved flow of wax onto the cucumber. For these reasons, we recommend leaving the skin of organically grown cucumbers intact regardless of whether the organically grown cucumber has been waxed.

    For conventionally grown cucumbers, we recommend removal of the waxed skin. For conventionally grown cucumbers that have not been waxed, we don’t have a good research basis for recommending either removal or non-removal of the skin. However, if you do decide to consume the skin of a non-waxed, conventionally grown cucumber, we recommend thorough washing of the whole cucumber under cool running water while gently scrubbing with a natural bristle brush.

    Some people have a personal preference for removal of cucumber seeds, and we respect this preference. The seeds can easily be removed from a cucumber if it’s cut lengthwise and the tip of a spoon is used to gently scoop out the seeds. Our general recommendation, however, is to keep and consume the seeds, since they are an unusually rich source of nutrients. Getting optimal nourishment from your cucumbers while minimizing your health risks will mean choosing organically grown cucumbers over conventionally grown varieties.

    How to Enjoy

    — Use half-inch thick cucumber slices as petite serving “dishes” for chopped vegetable salads.

    — Mix diced cucumbers with sugar snap peas and mint leaves and toss with rice wine vinaigrette.

    — For refreshing cold gazpacho soup that takes five minutes or less to make, simply purée cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers and onions, then add salt and pepper to taste.

    — Add diced cucumber to tuna fish or chicken salad recipes.

    Cucumbers and Pesticide Residues

    Virtually all municipal drinking water in the United States contains pesticide residues, and with the exception of organic foods, so do the majority of foods in the U.S. food supply. Even though pesticides are present in food at very small trace levels, their negative impact on health is well documented. The liver’s ability to process other toxins, the cells’ ability to produce energy, and the nerves’ ability to send messages can all be compromised by pesticide exposure.

    According to the Environmental Working Group’s 2014 report “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides,” conventionally grown cucumbers are among the top 12 fruits and vegetables on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found. Therefore, individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of cucumbers unless they are grown organically.

    Nutritional Profile

    Cucumbers provide us with a variety of health-supportive phytonutrients. Included among these phytonutrients are flavonoids (apigenin, luteolin, quercetin, and kaempferol), lignans (pinoresinol, lariciresinol, and secoisolariciresinol), and triterpenes (cucurbitacins A, B, C, and D).

    Cucumbers are an excellent source of vitamin K and molybdenum. They are also a very good source of the pantothenic acid. They are also a good source of copper, potassium, manganese, vitamin C, phosphorus, magnesium, biotin, and vitamin B1. They also contain the important nail health-promoting mineral silica.

    Here are 11 Benefits of cucumbers

    Quick pick-me-up

    Cucumbers are a good source of B vitamins. Put down your sodas and coffee and eat a cucumber slice.

    Rehydrates body and replenishes daily vitamins

    Cucumbers are 95 percent water, keeping the body hydrated while helping the body eliminate toxins. Cucumbers have most of the vitamins the body needs in a single day. Don’t forget to leave the skin on because the skin contains a good amount of vitamin C, about 10 percent of the daily-recommended allowance.

    Skin and hair care

    If you don’t like to eat the skin, it can be used for skin irritations and sunburns as aloe would be used. Place a slice over puffy eyes and its anti-inflammatory properties help reduce puffiness. The silicon and sulfur in cucumbers help to stimulate hair growth.

    Fight cancers

    Cucumbers are known to contain lariciresinol, pinoresinol, and secoisolariciresinol. These three lignans have a strong history of research in connection with reduced risk of several cancer types, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer and prostate cancer.

    Home care

    Eliminates a foggy mirror. Before taking a shower, rub a cucumber slice along a mirror and it will eliminate the mirror fogging up. Instead of WD40, take a cucumber slice and rub it along a squeaky hinge and your door will stop squeaking.

    Relieves bad breath

    Take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds, the phytochemicals will kill the bacteria in your mouth responsible for causing bad breath.

    Hangover cure

    To avoid a morning hangover or headache, eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed. Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish many essential nutrients, reducing the intensity of both hangover and headache.

    Aids in weight loss and digestion

    Due to its low calorie and high water content, cucumber is an ideal diet for people who are looking for weight loss. The high water content and dietary fiber in cucumbers are very effective in ridding the body of toxins from the digestive system, aiding digestion. Daily consumption of cucumbers can be regarded as a remedy for chronic constipation.

    Cures diabetes, reduces cholesterol and controls blood pressure

    Cucumber juice contains a hormone which is needed by the cells of the pancreas for producing insulin which has been found to be beneficial to diabetic patients. Researchers found that a compound called sterols in cucumbers may help reduce cholesterol levels. Cucumbers contain a lot of potassium, magnesium, and fiber. These work effectively for regulating blood pressure. This makes cucumbers good for treating both low blood pressure and high blood pressure.

    Promotes joint health, relieves gout and arthritis pain

    Cucumber is an excellent source of silica, which is known to help promotes joint health by strengthening the connective tissues. They are also rich in vitamin A, B1, B6, C & D, Folate, Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium. When mixed with carrot juice, they can relieve gout and arthritis pain by lowering the uric acid levels

    Cucumbers make for beautiful skin

    Cucumbers are often used topically to enhance skin function. The natural ascorbic acid and caffeic acid within the cucumber act to prevent water retention in the skin. This reduces swelling under the eyes and helps the skin heal from sunburn, inflammation, and eczema.

    Cucumbers are also very effective when eaten and applied topically for removing unwanted cellulite. Cucumbers act to draw out excess fluids and tighten collagen which has the effect of a natural cellulite reduction. Simply eat some cucumber, juice it, and/or place the cucumber on the regions of water retention.

    Cucumbers are typically highly sprayed with pesticides so it is necessary to get organic varieties. If conventional is the only option it is best to scrape off the green skin rather than washing. Many of the chemicals are waxy and do not come off easy with washing.

    Try dicing up cucumbers and adding some apple cider vinegar, oregano, and pink salt. This makes a quick, electrolyte and enzyme-rich snack to boost energy levels.

    References

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    • Ghebretinsae AG, Thulin M and Barber JC. Relationships of cucumbers and melons unraveled: molecular phylogenetics of Cucumis and related genera (Benincaseae, Cucurbitaceae). Am J Bot. 2007 Jul;94(7):1256-66. 2007.
    • Hong SH, Choi SA, Yoon H, et al. Screening of Cucumis sativus as a new arsenic-accumulating plant and its arsenic accumulation in hydroponic culture. Environ Geochem Health. 2011 Jan;33 Suppl 1:143-9. Epub 2010 Oct 31. 2011.
    • Kumar D, Kumar S, Singh J, et al. Free Radical Scavenging and Analgesic Activities of Cucumis sativus L. Fruit Extract. J Young Pharm. 2010 Oct;2(4):365-8. 2010.
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    • Martinez L, Thornsbury S, and Nagai T. National and international factors in pickle markets. Agricultural Economics Reports, No, 628, October 2006. Department of Agricultural Economics, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI. 2006.
    • Milder IEJ, Arts ICW, van de Putte B et al. Lignan contents of Dutch plant foods: a database including lariciresinol, pinoresinol, secoisolariciresinol and matairesinol. Br J Nutr 2005, 93:393-402. 2005.
    • Nema NK, Maity N, Sarkar B et al. Cucumis sativus fruit-potential antioxidant, anti-hyaluronidase, and anti-elastase agent. Arch Dermatol Res. 2011 May;303(4):247-52. Epub 2010 Dec 14. 2011.
    • Rios JL, Recio MC, Escandell JM, et al. Inhibition of transcription factors by plant-derived compounds and their implications in inflammation and cancer. Curr Pharm Des. 2009;15(11):1212-37. Review. 2009.
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    • Sebastian P, Schaefer H, Telford IR, et al. Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) and melon (C. melo) have numerous wild relatives in Asia and Australia, and the sister species of melon is from Australia. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Aug 10;107(32):14269-73. Epub 2010 Jul 23. 2010.
    • Tang J, Meng X, Liu H et al. Antimicrobial activity of sphingolipids isolated from the stems of cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.). Molecules. 2010 Dec 15;15(12):9288-97. 2010.
    • Thoennissen NH, Iwanski GB and Doan NB. Cucurbitacin B Induces Apoptosis by Inhibition of the JAK/STAT Pathway and Potentiates Antiproliferative Effects of Gemcitabine on Pancreatic Cancer Cells. Cancer Res 2009;69(14):5876—84. 2009.

    Additional Sources

    Science.NaturalNews.com

    HealingFoodReference.com

    HonestFoodGuide.org

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