PNC
HYDROPONICS

 

Cucumber Health Benefits

 

Nutrition experts have long praised the unique polyphenols in plants called lignans. The health benefits of lignans have been studied extensively in cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli or cabbage) and allium vegetables (like onion or garlic). Recent studies, however, have begun to pay more attention to the lignan content of other vegetables, including cucumbers. Cucumbers are now known to contain lariciresinol, pinoresinol, and secoisolariciresinol, three lignans that have evidenced links to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease as well as several cancer types, including breast, uterine, ovarian, and prostate cancers.

 

Fresh extracts from cucumbers have recently been shown to have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. While research in this area must still be considered preliminary since it's only been conducted on animals in a lab setting the findings are clear and consistent. Substances in fresh cucumber extracts help scavenge free radicals, help improve antioxidant status, inhibit the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes like cyclo-oxygenase 2 (COX-2), and prevent overproduction of nitric oxide in situations where it could pose health risks. It's highly likely that cucumber phytonutrients play a key role in providing these antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, supporting health alongside of the conventional antioxidant nutrients including vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese of which cucumbers are an important source.

 

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 cucumber. They have been the subject of 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 activity of cucurbitacins. We expect to see human studies that confirm the anti-cancer benefits of cucumbers in the everyday diet.

 

Cucumbers provide us with a variety of healthy 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 anti-inflammatory vitamin K. They are also a very good source of the enzyme-cofactor molybdenum. They are also a good source of free radical-scavenging vitamin C; heart-healthy potassium and magnesium, bone-building manganese, and energy-producing vitamin B5. They also contain the important nail health-promoting mineral silica.

 

These three types of phytonutrients found in cucumbers provide us with valuable antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits. Specific phytonutrients provided by cucumbers include:

 

Flavonoids

apigenin

a luleolin

a quercetin

a kaempferol

Lignans

 

pinoresinol

lariciresinol

secoisolariciresinol

Triterpenes

 

cucurbitacin A

cucurbitacin B

cucurbitacin C

cucurbitacin D

 

Antioxidant & 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. Cucumber accomplishes this task by inhibiting 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 development of new anti-cancer drugs. Cucurbitacins belong to a large family of phytonutrients called triterpenes. Cucurbitacins A, B, C, D and E have all been identified within fresh cucumber. Researchers have determined that several different signaling pathways (for example, the JAK-STAT and MAPK pathways) required for cancer cell development and cancer cell survival can be blocked by activity of cucurbitacins. Eventually, we expect to see human studies that confirm the anti-cancer benefits of cucumbers when consumed in a normal, everyday meal plan.

 

A second group of cucumber phytonutrients known to provide anti-cancer benefits are 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 onto 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.