In their wild, undomesticated state, certain fruits known as cucurbits, which include cucumbers, squash, and melons, have a distinctive, bitter taste. While this bitterness makes them difficult to eat, researchers are finding that their bitter component may have important health benefits. Traditional Chinese Medicine, as well as Indian Medicine, have long embraced wild cucumbers, and historically used them for purging, and for the treatment of liver ailments.
Now, researchers from the University of California-Davis are finding
that they may be useful in the treatment of both diabetes and certain
cancers. During their study, the researchers identified nine genes which
were involved in the formation of cucurbitacin, the compound
responsible for a wild cucumber’s bitterness. Additionally, many
different varieties of cucumbers were taste-tested for bitter notes.
According to UC Davis professor of plant biology, William Lucas:
“Luckily this is an easy trait to test for. You just chomp on a cucumber
leaf or fruit and your tongue gives you the readout!” Because
of the anticarcinogenic, and diabetes-ameliorating potential of
cucurbitacin, Lucas states that this study could make this compound
easier to produce, so that it can be used in clinical trials, as well as
more research still needs to be done on wild cucumbers and their
cucurbitacin, the good news for us is that regular, domesticated
cucumbers still contain this compound, though in lower amounts.
Cucumbers also contain antioxidants known as lignans, which have also
been linked to cancer-fighting abilities. On top of that, cucumbers are
rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus
and potassium, and are extremely hydrating due to their high water
content. All the more reason to make them part of your healthy diet!
-The Alternative Daily
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