Cucumbers are not what I would consider a glamorous vegetable. When I get them in my farm share, I turn to the old standbys — I add them to salads, make pickles, or blend them up in a gazpacho.
But I did some research, and the internet is full of amazing health claims about the lowly cucumber and its juice. What is cucumber juice good for? Online, you’ll read that it’s the best rejuvenation tonic in the world. It can cleanse and detox the entire body. It’s anti-inflammatory. It can bring down a fever. It burns belly fat, too!
Are any of these cucumber juice nutrition claims true? Sadly, no, according to dietitians who spoke with TODAY. “I do think they have some health properties. However, I think the benefits of juices are overstated,” said Samantha Cassetty, a nutrition and weight-loss expert with a virtual nutrition counseling practice based in New York City.
Julia Denison, clinical nutrition coordinator at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Magee-Womens Hospital, told TODAY that the main benefit of cucumbers is their high water content. “They’re a hydrating vegetable,” she said. “A lot of other vegetables — kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, carrots, green beans — have more nutrients.”
Cucumbers offer some health benefits
While other veggies might top the cucumber’s nutritional profile, cucumbers do have their strengths. They contain vitamins A, C and K, as well as antioxidants and a little bit of calcium and iron. They also provide a type of fiber called lignin, and experimental studies have suggested that lignin might help protect against estrogen-related cancers, Cassetty said.
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And juicing could give you more of some of these nutrients because you’re probably going to juice about two cucumbers to yield a glass of cucumber juice. But when you juice cucumbers, you’re removing the valuable fiber and the nutrients that are found in the skin.
It’s better to eat whole vegetables, Cassetty said. “That’s going to be more filling, and you get the fiber in addition to the water.”
Whole cucumbers — and whole veggies, in general — bring benefits that you lose when you juice them. Whole vegetables help you feel satiated. That’s for two reasons — chewing your food and taking longer to eat both help you feel full. “When you drink something, it tends to not produce the same amount of fullness,” Cassetty said.
Whole cucumber is better, but juice isn’t bad
There are some cucumber juice health benefits — cucumber juice, cucumber celery juice or any vegetable juice is better than nothing. Cassetty said juicing can come in handy for people who don’t like the taste of vegetables, don’t like to cook or have demanding work schedules without much time to sit down and eat.
Denison said to watch the ingredients in store-bought cucumber juice, since there could be added sugar: “It could be essentially the same as soda.”
It’s easy to figure out how to make cucumber juice at home — if you have a juicer, just run the cucumbers through it. You can also blend cucumbers into smoothies — that way you retain the fiber and the nutrients in the skin.
What about cucumber juice for weight loss?
Cucumbers are a low-calorie, low-carb, water-rich food, so they can be part of calorie-control or low-carb diets, and they can be helpful with weight maintenance. But cucumber juice won’t melt away body fat. “Everyone wants something that will magically help them lose weight. Cucumber juice is not that,” Denison said.
Cassetty suggested pairing cucumber with protein or fat — try cucumber sticks or slices with hummus, a boiled egg, tuna or olive tapenade to bring in other nutrients. “It raises the enjoyment factor — they taste good together,” she said.
If you like cucumber flavor, add slices to water
There are benefits of cucumber water. If it helps you drink more water, it can fight the fatigue that comes with suboptimal hydration. Denison suggested that people infuse water with cucumber to give it a different taste.
Cassetty agreed: “A lot of times people who don’t like water think it’s boring or bland. Adding cucumber can help build a healthy habit.”