By Chelsea Fyrberg
Staying as “cool as a cucumber” this summer may not be as hard as you’d think. See, there’s a meaning behind this popular catch phrase – The inner temperature of a cucumber can be a whopping 20 degrees cooler than the outside air temperature. It’s no wonder cucumbers provide such a natural way to cool off during the summer months!
Botanically speaking, cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) are actually a fruit and belong to the same plant family as melons and squash. Over the years, however, they’ve been labeled a vegetable because of how we use them. But their roots travel far deeper than our gardens. Sources indicate they originated in India or parts of the Middle East over 3,000 years ago! Nowadays, you’ll find cukes on almost every continent since they rank as the fourth most cultivated vegetable in the world.
Packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, cucumbers are hydrating, cleansing and downright soothing. They can help everything from easing constipation and reducing acidity, to decreasing arthritis and diminishing acne. Thanks to their high water content (about 95 percent) along with their very good source of potassium, cucumbers offer a mild diuretic effect on the body and serve as an excellent digestive aid to help reduce bloat. Cucumbers contain compounds called sterols, which have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, but keep in mind the highest concentrations of sterols are found in the skin so be sure not to peel!
Speaking of skin, you’ve probably noticed the waxy coating on most cucumbers you find at the supermarket. Cucumbers transported from non-local areas are waxed to protect against bruising during shipping. Both conventionally grown and organically grown cucumbers may be waxed; the difference is the type of wax used. Organically grown cucumbers generally have non-synthetic waxes that are free of all chemical contaminants, while conventionally grown cucumbers are waxed with synthetic waxes that contain chemical contaminants. If you’re concerned about waxes of any kind, your best bet is to pay a visit to your local farmers market where shipping isn’t of worry and the cukes will be farm-fresh and wax-free.