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Summer relief

The cucumber diet is a great favourite with dieters everywhere, but substituting them for regular food is, in effect, a starvation diet. A better strategy is to snack on a cucumber every time you feel the need to eat more than your daily nutrition needs.



COOL DEAL: The healthy and economical summer option.

"A CUCUMBER should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing,"

Samuel `Dictionary' Johnson.

THE CUCUMBER is indeed exasperatingly short on nutrients, but it is also full of life's most vital need: water. Nearly 96 per cent of this gourd is water, which makes it a blessing in summer.

The cucumber is a native to India, and its cultivation goes back over 3,000 years. Trade and war with Greece spread it throughout Europe and Asia, eventually to the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire. Cucumber salad tossed with olive oil was a favourite of the thirsty Roman warriors and their gluttonous emperors.



TEA TIME: Cucumber sandwiches are the last word for the genteel.

The Spaniards introduced it into the Americas, where it quickly became popular with the natives and the rising New England population.

Back in England, the latter half of the 17th century saw fresh fruit and vegetables falling out of favour with the middle classes and the aristocracy. Ill-informed quacks distributed pamphlets that said uncooked fruit and vegetables were the source of all diseases. The cucumber's reputation suffered as a result. The common slur against it - "it is fit only for cows"- earned it the nickname "cowcumber".

Non-European cultures have been kinder towards it. From the time of the Pharaohs, the Egyptians valued it for its delicate flavour and medicinal properties. The Old Testament is full of glowing, longing references to this gourd. The seeds are diuretic, which make them favourite cures for all sorts of kidney ailments. The seeds also induce vomiting.



ABSOLUTELY MANDATORY: A salad without cucumber is unthinkable.

The tribes of North Africa use the seed paste to treat inflammations of the skin and various gut and kidney ailments. In beauty parlours around the world, beauticians employ cucumber slices to hydrate and moisturise the skin. The benefit, if any, is temporary.

Drinking plenty of water everyday is probably a better way to hydrate the skin. The cucumber diet is a great favourite of desperate dieters everywhere, but substituting cucumbers for regular food is, in effect, a starvation diet. In the long run, it simply does not work. A better strategy is to snack on a cucumber every time you feel the need to eat more than your daily nutrition needs. Because it contains minute amounts of virtually every micronutrient necessary for a healthy life, it is wrong to label it a zero nutrient food. Dr Johnson was certainly overstating the facts, but not by much!

RAJIV M.

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