Health Benefits of Eating Cucumbers

The next time you are in your grocery store or supermarket, pick up a handful of firm, dark green cucumbers and pop them into your shopping basket. Congratulations! You have just bought yourself a fruit (yes, the cool cuke is fruit, not a vegetable) full of good health!

Because cucumbers are mostly water, they are low in calories — even a large cucumber contains less than 100 calories — but they still come loaded with nutritional value. Eaten either fresh or as a pickle, cucumbers have numerous health benefits, even though they may not be full of flavor. Add them to salads or slice them in spears to eat alone or with a low-fat dip.

Cucumbers are the fourth most cultivated vegetable in the world and known to be one of the best foods for your body’s overall health, often referred to as a super food. Cucumbers are often sprayed with pesticides so it is important to buy organic or even better, grow them yourself!

Here is a short list of the impressive health benefits that a cucumber carries:

  • Keeps you hydrated. If you are too busy to drink enough water, munch on the cool cucumber, which is 96 percent water. It will cheerfully compensate!
  • Fights heat, both inside and out. Eat cucumber, and your body gets relief from heartburn. Apply cucumber on your skin, and you get relief from sunburn.
  • Flushes out toxins. All that water in cucumber acts as a virtual broom, sweeping waste products out of your system. With regular use, cucumber is known to dissolve kidney stones.
  • Lavishes you with vitamins. A B and C, which boost immunity, give you energy, and keep you radiant. Give it more power by juicing cucumber with carrot and spinach.
  • Vitamin C serves as one of the many antioxidants that protect the body from free radicals, lowering the risk of various cancers and illness due to damaged cells. Vitamin C aids in collagen production and brain function, and it also helps your body process fat.
  • Vitamin K – Like vitamin A, vitamin K plays a role in building bone, as well as other tissues of the body. However, vitamin K is mainly responsible for making some of the proteins the liver requires for blood clotting. This coagulation ability is important for people who suffer from bleeding disorders, reducing their chances of bleeding out after a cut or injury. Approximately half of the cucumber’s vitamin K content is found in its peel, so keep the peel on for maximal health benefits.
  • Supplies skin-friendly minerals: magnesium, potassium, silicon. That’s why cucumber-based treatments abound in spas.
  • Aids in weight loss. Enjoy cucumbers in your salads and soups. My favorite snack? Crunchy cucumber sticks with creamy low-fat yogurt dip.
  • Revives the eyes. Placing chilled slices of cucumber on the eyes is a clichéd beauty visual, but it really helps reduce under-eye bags and puffiness.
  • Cuts cancer. Cut down your risk of several cancers by including cucumber in your diet. Several studies show its cancer-fighting potential.
  • Stabilizes blood pressure. Patients of blood pressure, both high and low, often find that eating cucumber brings relief.
  • Refreshes the mouth. Cucumber juice refreshes and heals diseased gums, leaving your mouth smelling good.
  • Helps digestion. Chewing cucumber gives the jaws a good workout, and the fiber in it is great for digestion.
  • Smoothes hair and nails. Silica, the wonder mineral in cucumber makes your hair and nails stronger and shinier.
  • Soothes muscle and joint pain. All those vitamins and minerals in cucumber make it a powerful enemy of muscle and joint pain.
  • Keeps kidneys in shape. Cucumber lowers uric acid levels in your system, keeping the kidneys happy.
  • Good for diabetics. Patients of diabetes can enjoy cucumber while also reaping its health benefits: cucumber contains a hormone needed by the cells of the pancreas for producing insulin.
  • Reduces cholesterol. A compound called sterols in cucumber helps reduce bad cholesterol


Learn more:

Nuts for Butternut Squash

I am a HUGE fan of butternut squash. You could probably say I’m nuts for butternut squash.

Butternut squash offers home cooks with some incredibly easy culinary possibilities. You can just place it on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for about an hour, or until you can pierce it with a sharp knife. Or remove the skin using a vegetable peeler and cut the flesh into chunks for steaming or sautéing. Once cooked, mash it, puree it for soup, fold it into a pasta or risotto dish, or simply savor your butternut squash as is. It has a naturally sweet flavor and is delicious.

Although Butternut Squash is the most popular vegetable among winter squash varieties, it can also be a little intimidating if you have never cooked it. I know I used to just pass butternut squash by while shopping because I simply did not know what to do with it. But fortunately, as my culinary taste buds expanded, so did my interest in cooking this oddly shaped vegetable (technically it’s a fruit because of the seeds). And in doing so, I have discovered how wonderful butternut squash is.

The squash you see in the photos were shipped to me all the way from New Jersey. My dear friend Anderson grew these in his garden. He has at least 30 of them and also has an amazing garden. You’ll see more of his garden in future blogs. As you can see, things don’t just grow big in Texas.

Buttternut squash 1 Butternut squash 3 Butternut squash 2



How to Buy Butternut Squash

Choose an unblemished fruit that feels heavy for its size with a matte, rather than glossy, skin. A shiny exterior indicates that the fruit was picked too early, and it won’t be as sweet as a fully grown squash. Most winter squash is available late into the fall. Store whole butternut squash in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator) with plenty of ventilation; it should keep for up to three months. Cut squash will stay fresh for up to a week, wrapped, in the fridge.


How to Cut and Peel Butternut Squash

It’s really not hard at all. You basically cut off the ends, peel it with a very sharp knife or sharp vegetable peeler, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and chop it up. Your knife or peeler must be sharp. It will not work if they are dull. There are many ways to prepare butternut squash and you can bake it, boil it or roast it. I prefer roasting because there is much more flavor when roasted. If I am making soup, I skip the steps of chopping and just roast it after cutting it in half and scooping out the seeds.

Butternut squash chopped (1)

Cut off both ends of squash

Peel the skin of the squash off with a vegetable peeler or sharp heavy knife. Be sure your vegetable peeler is sharp. If your knife or peeler is dull this task will be nearly impossible to complete successfully. If using a knife, you can also make several penetrating cuts on the surface of the butternut squash. Once pierced, place the squash in the microwave and cook on high heat for 2 minutes. Warming butternut squash in the microwave is an effective way to soften the shell if needed.

Slice the peeled squash in half from top to bottom.
Scoop the seeds out with a spoon or with an ice cream scooper

Lay both halves of squash so that the cut side is facing down. Slice into 1 inch side wide pieces. These pieces can be sliced again to make smaller cubes, depending on your preference and the recipe you are preparing.

Health Benefits of Butternut Squash

Low in fat, butternut squash delivers an ample dose of dietary fiber, making it an exceptionally heart-friendly choice. It provides significant amounts of potassium, important for bone health, and vitamin B6, essential for the proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems. The folate content adds yet another boost to its heart-healthy reputation and helps guard against brain and spinal-cord-related birth defects such as spina bifida.

Recipes using Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash for recipe

Chef Sandra’s twist – I start with this basic recipe, but also add fresh ginger, an entire cut up Fuji apple and sometimes add a bit of almond milk instead of cream. The apple gives it a perfect sweetness and the ginger, mixed with the celery onions and carrots makes this soup amazing. 

Butternut Squash Fries

Carmelized Butternut Squash – Great for holidays

Baked Butternut Squash – One of my favorite ways to cook butternut squash, sprinkled with a little cinnamon, nutmeg and butter. Yum!!

Risotto with Butternut Squash, Pancetta, and Jack Cheese – for my serious foodies

Other Resources


Okra, Kelli & “The Voice”

My niece, Kelli Douglas (my sister Agnes’ daughter), is on Season 7 of “THE VOICE” and we are all very excited in my family. Be sure to watch and support Kelli. It starts airing tonight!

Here’s a short blub from Kelli’s bio:

Kelli Douglas is a soulful singer with a desire to bring back timeless music.  She has been a singer all her life, but only recently began to fully embrace the gift when she began recording 6 years ago in Dallas with a few local musicians. Since then, she sang with a regional cover band, The Ice House Band, for a few years, performing at wedding receptions, corporate events, and local nightclubs.

Kelli Douglas’s music is lyrical, but catchy. Classy, but sassy. She has been heavily influenced by artists such as Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Lalah Hathaway, Brandy, and D’Angelo, to name a few. She has had opportunities to rub elbows with artists and producers such as Timbaland and Jimmy Douglas. Kelli is a careful writer who puts a great deal of thought into each song.  She has been told that her style is refreshing, and she hopes new fans will agree. She can be seen on Season 7 of The Voice.

Here’s a short music clip from a commercial that Kelli wrote and sung for the play “Suspicion, Lies and Sweet Potato Pies”.  Kelli was also played a main role in the play.

Okay, so what does all that have to with okra??

Well, like me, Kelli and her son Alex also love to garden and since they are also both vegetarian, they really love fresh vegetables.  Alex has been my gardening buddy since he was probably around two years old and has helped me plant, pick and eat vegetables from my garden.  He is now a pretty serious gardener himself and can name every vegetable in the garden. The photos of Alex are in my garden when he was younger and in 2013.

Kelli - holding okra
Kelli in her garden
Alex in Garden
Alex and me in my garden – 2011

pickikng okra




The plant  itself is one of the most heat and drought tolerant plants in the world. When grown in direct sunlight and watered sufficiently it grows quickly and continues to produce fruit.  We are still picking okra from Agnes’ garden.okra plant

Okra has a mucilaginous texture, which is effective for thickening liquid-based foods. The vegetable can get slimy if not cooked properly but can be eaten in a variety of ways. It is a characteristic ingredient of gumbo, a Cajun specialty stew that is thickened with the starch from the pods.

History of Okra

Okra has a history that dates back to antiquity and was recorded to have been widely cultivated along the banks of the Nile in ancient Egyptian times.

The available historical data are vague about okra and its exact origin, but Africa is the commonly thought of beginning.  From Ethiopia to South America and from North Africa to the slaver countries it was carried and documented to travel far and wide along the trade routes to Northern Europe and Asia.

Today the recipes for okra are found everywhere and okra is a popular staple throughout the world. As it grows best in warmer weather with plenty of water, the US center is and has been the Southern states where it first showed up with slaves that were brought over from Africa and the Caribbean.

An interesting side note is that many of the slaves brought over from Africa sequestered okra seeds, (and probably some other plant species), in their matted hair to use when, (and if), they arrived.

Health Benefits of Okra

Besides being low in calories it is aplenty with vitamins of the category A, Thiamin, B6, C, folic acid, riboflavin, calcium, zinc and dietary fiber. Eating okra is much recommended for pregnant woman besides other for it is rich in folic acid which is essential in the neural tube formation of the fetus during 4-12 weeks of gestation period in the mother’s womb.

  • The mucilage and fiber found in okra helps adjust blood sugar by regulating its absorption in the small intestine.
  • The fiber of okra has many superior qualities in maintaining the health of the gastro-intestinal tract.
  • It helps reabsorb water and traps excess cholesterol, metabolic toxins and surplus bile in its mucilage and slips it out through the stool. Due to greater percentage of water in the bulk it thereby prevents constipation, gas and bloating in the abdomen.
  • It is an ideal vegetable for weight loss and is storehouse of health benefits provided it is cooked over low flame to retain its properties. This also to ensure that the invaluable mucilage contained in it is not lost to high heat.
  • Okra facilitates the propagation of good bacteria referred to as probiotics. These are similar to the ones proliferate by the yoghurt in the small intestine and helps biosynthesis of Vitamin B complex.
  • Okra is an excellent laxative treats irritable bowels, heals ulcers and sooths the gastrointestinal track.
  • Protein and oil contained in the seeds of okra serves as the source of first-rate vegetable protein. It is enriched with amino acids on the likes of tryptophan, cystine and other sulfur amino acids.

Cultivation of Okra

Where do we get okra or how do we grow it? It doesn’t take much research to find the answers as okra is, as mentioned before, one of the oldest and most popular greens in the world.

Okra plants grows best in warm climates that aren’t prone to frost.  In the US that means in the southern states it will grow most all year.  In cash crop countries such as those who produce food crops for US consumption, (Mexico, Chile, etc.), it is made available throughout the year and will be shipped just about everywhere.  If your favorite local market doesn’t carry it you may try asking for a case as it will be available through their suppliers.

If you want to plant okra for yourself, start by putting down seeds about three of four weeks after the last frost of the season.  It’s very important that they have a full sun environment and good drainage.  Place three or four seeds together about one half inch deep and six inches apart in rows two feet apart to allow yourself to work the plants as the pods ripen.  Sprinkle water gently after the planting, but keep the plants wet after they start to grow, but not so much that puddles form.

As the plants break the surface, thin them out and space them about a foot apart as they will widen quite a bit as they mature.  When the okra seed pods start to form pick them when they are three of four inches in length.  If they get bigger than that they tend to get woody and lose their tender texture.  At this point you need to check them every couple of days as they will have new growth popping out that often.  The more you harvest the more they will be encouraged to grow.

Chef Sandra is in a Pickle!

I have been growing pickling cucumbers for many years and make a mean bread and butter pickle – recipe courtesy of my mom. I also like to make dill spears, and use my cucumbers in relishes too. Cucumbers are great for pickling, tossing in salads, or just eating straight off the vine. Of course to make a good pickle, you have to first start by using fresh firm pickling cucumbers. And you MUST use pickling cucumbers for pickles and not salad or “slicing cucumbers”. You cannot make pickles using slicing cucumbers.  If you are fortunate to live near a farmer’s market, that is always a good option, but look for local farmers and ask when the cucumbers were picked.

Cucumbers like warm, humid weather; loose, organic soil; and plenty of sunlight. They grow well in most regions of the United States and do especially well in the South which is why I have had such good success here in Texas. These photos were from my spring garden earlier this year.



How to Plant Cucumbers

Cucumbers may be planted in hills or rows about 1 inch deep and thinned as needed. Since cucumbers are a vine crop, they usually require a lot of space. In large gardens, cucumber vines may spread throughout rows; within smaller gardens, cucumbers may be trained for climbing on a fence or trellis. Training cucumbers on a fence or trellis will reduce space and lift the fruit off the soil. This method also can provide your garden with a neater appearance. The bush or compact varieties work well for growing in small spaces or even in containers, although I recommend a lot more space.

Purchasing Cucumber Seeds Locally

Cucumber seeds are plentiful from any garden center or nursery, or places like Home Depot, Loews, Walmart, and some hardware stores. I like Calloway’s Nursery (great resource if you live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area to locate the Calloway’s near you. Or you can do a search for a garden center in your area.   Like any good garden center, Calloway’s always has a garden expert available to answer your gardening questions. And they also offer free weekly workshops and if you join the garden club, you get regular updates on weekly sales, workshops, etc.

Purchasing Organic Cucumber Seeds Online

I now use organic seeds. My sister Agnes and my Niece Kelli (and her son Alex also love to garden), and we have been sharing organic seeds that we purchase online. It takes only a few seeds for a huge yield, especially with things like squash!! Squash will totally take over your garden if you are not careful so don’t use many seeds. My basil, oregano and cilantro have all seeded, and I was able to save seeds from each of them for planting next Spring. And if you should purchase an organic vegetable like butternut squash for example, you can remove the seeds before you roast your squash, dry the seeds and then replant them in your garden at a later date. Be on the lookout for a blog about Butternut squash!!

Here are a couple of resources for purchasing organic cucumber seeds, including pickling cucumbers as well as a list of the different varieties of cucumbers for pickling. I am always amazed by the many different varieties.

Recipes using Pickling Cucumbers

I still eat a version of this simple, yet very flavorful fresh cucumber salad when I go home to visit my parents. In fact, there is always some sort of homemade condiment on our table. Usually chow chow relish, sliced tomatoes and onions in a vinaigrette dressing, or something else fresh. My dad grows pickling cucumbers Spring and Fall. We have often eaten an entire salad from our family garden, including bibb lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, bulb onions, parsley, fresh dill. Below is my version of my dad’s cucumber salad.

Chef Sandra’s Simple Cucumber and Tomato Salad