When you think about cucumbers, the first thing that might come to your mind is Mia Thermopolis getting the royal treatment in that classic scene from the movie Princess Diaries (or is that just me?). Although you might ordinarily associate this green fruit with what seems to be an old wives’ tale for achieving unmatched levels of complete and total spa-centric relaxation, there might actually be some truth to it all.
It turns out that cucumbers are filled with tons of vitamins and minerals that fight inflammation and reduce vascular congestion to help depuff skin. So… we know that cucumber is great for plopping on our eyelids, but what can it do for us on the inside? To find out more, we spoke with Kara Lydon, RD, LDN, RYT, a registered dietitian and owner of Kara Lydon Nutrition to find out the benefits of cucumber water and to see if this easy beverage is the hydration queen we’ve been overlooking all along. Spoiler alert: The findings were surprising in the best way possible. In fact, when it comes to health benefits and refreshing flavor, cucumber water might actually beat out lemon water (I said what I said).
Health benefits of cucumber water
1. It’s filled with tons of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory vitamins and minerals
“Cucumbers contain vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, B vitamins, manganese, and copper,” says Lydon. “While there is very little research on cucumber-infused water specifically, these vitamins and minerals found in cucumber have been associated with numerous positive effects.” Lydon shares that cucumber’s vitamin C capacity in particular is significant, as this powerful antioxidant can help combat oxidative stress and inflammation associated with certain chronic diseases.
2. Cucumbers can help regulate fluid balance and support bone health
Aside from cucumbers’ antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, they’re also filled with potassium, which plays a role in fluid balance and lowering blood pressure. Plus, cukes contain vitamin K, which helps support bone health, Lydon says. They’re basically the gift that keeps on giving.
3. Cucumber water can help you stay hydrated
Although she notes that not much research has been done on consuming infused waters specifically (as opposed to the whole food), drinking cucumber water might be a great way to increase your hydration, especially if you’re not particularly keen on sipping plain ol’ H2O. “If you struggle to drink enough water, adding cucumber can be an easy way to boost flavor to help you stay hydrated, especially as the weather gets hotter,” Lydon says.
4. Cucumbers are the most water-rich food of them all, too
“Adults should drink about nine to thirteen cups of water per day according to the Institute of Medicine,” says Lydon. If you struggle to meet your daily fluid intake with just plain water, adding flavor enhancers like cucumber or other fruits and vegetables can incentivize you to drink more, increasing overall hydration (as mentioned above). Plus, it definitely helps that cucumbers are uber-hydrating on their own—they’re made up of 96 percent water, which Lydon says is the highest of any food. This makes them a great way to increase water intake whether you’re eating your cukes or drinking them.
5. You can add electrolytes to help maintain sodium levels while exercising
“Adding electrolytes such as salt may be helpful if you’re engaging in a long, intense workouts—especially if it’s on a hot day. It really depends on the intensity and duration of your exercise, how much sodium you release when you sweat, and if you have enough sodium in your diet,” Lydon says. She adds that if you’re experiencing muscle cramps following a workout, that can be a sign of electrolyte imbalance and a good reason to try adding salt to your cucumber water.
How to make cucumber water
The beauty of cucumber water is that it’s beyond easy to make and completely customizable. To infuse water with this hydrating and mineral-rich food, you’ll want to thinly slice a whole, clean cucumber and soak it in eight cups of filtered, cold water in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to three days.
To keep things simple, you can call it a day with just a mixture of water and cucumbers; however, if you’re feeling the mood to really jazz things up, you can add flavor-enhancing ingredients like mint, ginger, and lemon for even more benefits and deliciousness. Plus, as Lydon noted, a few pinches of salt can help add electrolytes to replenish sodium and hydration after working out.
So, does this mean it’s okay to drink pickle juice, too?
Of course, we had to find out if this meant that pickle juice also made the good-for-you-hydrating-beverage cut. According to Lydon, pickle juice, in fact, can have several potential health benefits other than tasting so oddly delicious. “There are a few studies that highlight the ability of pickle juice to relieve muscle cramps. The mechanism is not entirely clear, but it’s thought to involve vinegar’s role in electrolyte balance and nerve signaling,” Lydon notes. “There are a few other studied benefits of vinegar, which is used to ferment pickles and found in pickle juice. It’s associated with better blood sugar regulation, and because vinegar is a fermented food, some research points towards benefits for your digestive system.”
Lydon also points out that aside from the vinegar, pickle juice contains a fair amount of sodium which may help your body recover after a tough sweat sesh. “If you’re an athlete or tend to sweat a lot on hot, humid days, a little extra sodium may help your electrolyte levels recover more quickly,” Lydon says. But because it is super high in sodium, be sure to check with a healthcare provider before ingesting straight pickle juice—consuming significant amounts of sodium isn’t ideal for many folks, especially those concerned about their blood pressure and/or cardiovascular health.
Check out this dietitian’s guide to the *most* hydrating foods: