Cucumbers Nutritional Profile
Energy value (calories per serving): Low
Saturated fat: Low
Major vitamin contribution: Vitamin C
Major mineral contribution: Iron, potassium
About the Nutrients in Cucumber
Cucumbers are mostly (96 percent) water. Their dietary fiber is unique
in that it can hold up to 30 times its weight in water compared to the
fiber in wheat bran, which holds only four to six times its weight in
water. But cucumbers have so much water that there is little room for
anything else. Two ounces of fresh cucumber slices has less than 1 g
dietary fiber—and no significant amounts of vitamins or minerals.
The Most Nutritious Way to Serve Cucumbers
Raw, fresh-sliced, with the un-waxed skin.
Diets That May Restrict or Exclude
Buying This Cucumbers
Look for: Firm cucumbers with a green, un-waxed skin. In the natural
state, the skin of the cucumber is neither shiny nor deep green,
characteristics it picks up when the cucumber is waxed to keep it from
losing moisture during shipping and storage. The wax is edible, but
some people prefer not to eat it, which means missing out on fiber. To
get your cucumbers without wax, ask for pickling cucumbers, and note
the difference in color and texture.
Choose cucumbers with a clean break at the stem end; a torn, uneven
stem end means that the cucumber was pulled off the vine before it was
ready. Technically, all the cucumbers we buy are immature; truly ripe
cucumbers have very large, hard seeds that make the vegetable
Avoid: Cucumbers with yellowing skin; the vegetable is so old that its
chlorophyll pigments have faded and the carotenes underneath are
showing through. Puffy, soft cucumbers are also past their prime.
Store cucumbers in the refrigerator and use them as soon as possible.
The cucumber has no starch to convert to sugar as it ages, so it won't
get sweeter off the vine, but it will get softer as the pectins in its
cell wall absorb water. You can make a soft cucumber crisp again by
slicing it and soaking the slices in salted water. By osmotic action,
the unsalted, lower-density water in the cucumber's cells will flow
out across the cell walls out into the higher-density salted water and
the cucumber will feel snappier.
Rinse the cucumber under cold, running water. Check to see if the
cucumber has been waxed by scraping the skin gently with the tip of
your fingernail and then looking for waxy residue under the nail. If
the skin is waxed, you can peel it off—but not until you are ready to
use it, since slicing the cucumber tears its cell walls, releasing an
enzyme that oxidizes and destroys vitamin C.
How Other Kinds of Processing Affect
Pickling. Cucumbers are not a good source of iron, but pickles may be.
If processed in iron vats, the pickles have picked up iron and will
give you about 1 mg per pickle. Pickles made in stainless steel vats
have no iron, nor do pickles made at home in glass or earthenware.
Adverse Effects Associated with Cucumbers
Intestinal gas. Some sensitive people find cucumbers "gassy."
Pickling, marinating, and heating, which inactivate enzymes in the
cucumber, may reduce this gasiness for certain people—although others
find pickles even more upsetting than fresh cucumbers.
Food/Drug Interactions in Cucumbers
False-positive test for occult blood in the stool. The active
ingredient in the guaiac slide test for hidden blood in feces is
alphaguaiaconic acid, a chemical that turns blue in the presence of
blood. Alphaguaiaconic acid also turns blue in the presence of
peroxidase, a chemical that occurs naturally in cucumbers. Eating
cucumbers in the 72 hours before taking the guaiac test may produce a
false-positive result in people who not actually have any blood in
Monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors. Monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors
are drugs used to treat depression. They inactivate naturally
occurring enzymes in your body that metabolize tyramine, a substance
found in many fermented or aged foods. Tyramine constricts blood
vessels and increases blood pressure. If you eat a food, such as
pickles, containing tyramine while you are taking an MAO inhibitor,
you cannot effectively eliminate the tyramine from your body. The
result may be a hypertensive crisis.