By Modou NS N’jie &
GTHI Research Team
The idea behind this column is to promote the culture of eating what we grow and growing what we eat. This column is proudly sponsored by FARM FRESH which is The Gambia’s first online Vegetables and Fruits Delivery service (www.farmfresh.gm) allowing anyone from within The Gambia or abroad to place orders online or via phone and have the items delivered to their doorsteps at home or at the office. All the vegetables are locally grown (organic).
It goes without saying that a healthy mind can only be found in a healthy body. There is also a saying which appears simple but is in fact deep in meaning, “YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT”.
“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.” -Ancient Earthian Ayurvedic Proverb. It is for these reasons FARM FRESH is happy to partner with Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute, in order to create awareness and acceptance of our locally grown vegetables and fruits. Understanding what we eat and how we eat plays a significant role in our overall health and well-being.
This week we will take a look at the health benefits of CUCUMBERS in our diets. We are also happy to share some easy to make cucumber recipes for your family and businesses and we hope you will find this article interesting. Thank you and welcome to the journey towards healthy eating. Remember the slogan ”You are what you eat”.
What is a cucumber?
Cucumbers are a botanical fruit mostly mistaken as a vegetable. It is packed with tonnes of Vitamin K and C with an amazing hydrating effect, cucumbers are long, lean and green fruits that are technically from the same family of pumpkins and watermelons, although people prefer to classify them as veggies. Cucumbers are a native of India. It has been cultivated for close to 3000 years in different parts of the world. Including Asia, Africa and in the Western world. Cucumbers have a melon-like taste which can sometimes be bitter due to a compound it contains Cucurbitacin, which acts as a natural defence against insects and other pests.
Nutritional benefits of cucumbers
It is quite amazing that the cucumber has a phenomenal amount of nutrients. A single cucumber can contain up to 96% of water, making it super hydrating! Another micro nutrient cucumber is abundant in is Vitamin K. It contains 57% of vitamin K which helps in blood clotting and strengthening of bones. Cucumbers can help you stay hydrated and also boost your fibre intake which helps you stay regular and avoid constipation. They contain traces of magnesium, potassium and manganese. The antioxidants found in cucumbers can help fights all unwanted radicals and unrepaired tissues which may prevent unwanted diseases in the body. You’d never have to worry about fats in cucumbers as contain absolutely nothing. Cucumbers are almost every kid favourite vegetable that could ensure your child grows healthy and refreshing too.
5 Impressive health facts of the cucumber!
1. Cucumbers are high in nutrients
Cucumbers are low in calories but high in many important vitamins and minerals. Although, the typical serving size is about one-third of a cucumber, eating a standard portion would provide about one-third of the nutrients above. Cucumbers also have a high water content like watermelon. It is made up of about 96% of water. To maximize their nutrient content, cucumbers should be eaten unpeeled. Peeling them reduces the amount of fibre, as well as certain vitamins and minerals.
2. Cucumbers contain antioxidants
Antioxidants are molecules that block oxidation, a chemical reaction that forms highly reactive atoms with unpaired electrons known as free radicals. The accumulation of these harmful free radicals can lead to several types of chronic illness. Cucumbers are rich in beneficial antioxidants that may reduce the risk of these conditions. It also contains flavonoids and tannins.
3. Cucumbers help in hydration
Water is crucial to our body’s function, playing numerous important roles. This involves processes like temperature regulation and transportation of waste products and nutrients. Cucumbers can serve as a good source of water in our diets.
4. It may aid in weight loss
Like other fruits and vegetables, cucumbers too can help in weight loss. Because they are low in calories, it is an ideal choice for a person that wants to lose weight. Cucumbers can add freshness to salads, sandwiches and side dishes and may also be used as a replacement for higher calorie alternatives.
5. Cucumbers can help ease pains
Putting slices cucumbers on the body can help ease pains of sunburns, swellings and skin damages. Cucumbers can help cool the body and blood temperature. In fact, this is how the phrase “Cool as a Cucumber” came about. Cucumbers contain some carbohydrates, which means it can be used as a mid-day energy booster. Go snack on a cucumber!
Types of cucumbers
Although there are many varieties of cucumbers, these are the two main types of cucumber that are widely known:
Slicing cucumbers are usually eaten fresh, mainly chopped in salads. They tend to grow up to 12 inches long or even beyond that. They have smoother skin than the pickling cucumber. A dark green skin. They often resemble a zucchini. They can also be called “seedless cucumbers” or “European cucumbers”
Pickling cucumbers are much smaller than the slicing cucumbers. They are shorter and bigger width wise. They are the cucumbers that are used to make “pickles”. They have rougher skin, mainly bumps and spines along the skin. These cucumbers tend to grow from 3-7 inches long. It is very much enjoyed when soaked in vinegar, mustard seeds and other seasonings. The cucumbers are left to soak in them for a period of time. This is the process called “Pickling”.
Risks of cucumbers
Though the cucumber contains loads of nutritional value, they also come with their risks. Most of these risks come from how they are handles once they are in the hands of the consumers. One of the main risk factors are pesticides. As plant that grows in leafy environment, farmers tend to use pesticides despite the natural one that is on the cucumber. Cucumbers also come with a natural wax. With washing the cucumber well, the wax comes off which makes eating safer.
When shopping for cucumbers, try to also observe the ones you choose out. It would be advisable to skip those that have started to discolour from green to yellow, or have gone puffy with some dents on the side. Those are more times than not, undergoing the process of decaying. It is advisable to look out for those that are dark green in colour, have a firm hold and bright, this are the best you could choose out for yourself!
Cucumber, tomato and avocado salad
Dressings: Olive oil, Vinegar, Garlic, Dried oregano, Dijon mustard, Salt and Black pepper
Salad: Diced Cucumber, Bell pepper, Tomatoes, Avocado, Red onion, some Lime juice, Black pepper
1. Make the dressing: in a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, mustard, salt, and several grinds of pepper.
2. On a large platter, arrange the cucumber, avocado, tomatoes, red onions, and olives. Drizzle with the dressing and very gently toss. Sprinkle with few generous pinches of oregano and top with the mint leaves. Season to taste and serve.
Cool cucumber juice
Ingredients: Cucumbers, Green apple, Water, Lime juice or lemon and fresh Spinach leaves
1. Wash the cucumber and limes
2. Cut the ends of the cucumber off and cut into 2-3 pieces.
3. Zest lime, then juice it.
4. Blend the cucumber and lime together with 1 cup of water.
5. Stain and enjoy!
The cucumber recipe is definitely one of the greens that would always keep you hydrated. Whether from throwing them into your green juices or by simply cutting them into stick and enjoying it with a bowl of fresh hummus, or adding them into your sandwiches, cucumbers are the absolute way to go! So, go ahead and shop up a fresh cucumber and load your body with amazing nutrients. You definitely will not regret it.