okra

Nutrition and Health Benefits Of Okra

Okra is a flowering plant known for its edible seed pods. It’s cultivated in warm and tropical climates, such as those in Africa and South Asia.

Sometimes referred to as “lady’s finger,” okra comes in two colors — red and green. Both varieties taste the same, and the red one turns green when cooked.

Biologically classified as a fruit, okra is generally utilized like a vegetable in cooking.

It’s frequently used in Southern American cuisine and a popular addition to gumbo. Yet, it can have a slimy texture, which some people find unappealing.

Though it’s not one of the most common foods, okra is packed with nutrition.

Okra is a flowering plant that is known in many parts of the world as ladyfinger or bhindi, is highly prized because of its seed pods. The scientific name of this interesting plant is Abelmoschus esculentus. While its origin is still unclear, research says that it could have been native of South Asian, West African, or Ethiopian but the jury is still out.

Uses

Okra is frequently used in dishes worldwide, from the Caribbean to China. Its popularity is increasing all the time, particularly due to its various uses. The different uses include:

  • As a pickled vegetable
  • As an ingredient in soups, and side dishes
  • The oil extracted from okra can also be utilized as a vegetable oil
  • Okra water is used as a traditional and alternative therapy for diabetes

Nutrition Facts

Okra may not be the most conventional vegetable in the garden, but it has a rich content of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins as well as vitamins A, C, E, and K, as per the USDA National Nutrient Database. The vegetable also contains calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Furthermore, it contains high levels of nutritious mucilaginous fiber, colloquially called “okra slime”. Most of the health benefits are due to the presence of minerals, vitamins, and organic compounds found in it.

Health Benefits

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can reduce a person’s chances of developing a range of health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

The mucilage of okra may also help remove toxins from the body.

May Help Improve Digestion

A 2016 study by a team of international researchers says that the fiber content of okra can help improve digestion. The study found that the high amount of fiber in the vegetable helped improve the absorption process in the large intestine and stimulated peristalsis in the body. This may also help prevent constipation.

Contains beneficial antioxidants

Okra packs many antioxidants that benefit your health.

Antioxidants are compounds in food that fend off damage from harmful molecules called free radicals.

The main antioxidants in okra are polyphenols, including flavonoids and isoquercetin, as well as vitamins A and C.

Research shows that eating a diet high in polyphenols may improve heart health by lowering your risk of blood clots and oxidative damage.

Polyphenols may also benefit brain health due to their unique ability to enter your brain and protect against inflammation.

These defense mechanisms may help protect your brain from symptoms of aging and improve cognition, learning, and memory .

May Aid in Diabetes Management

Okra has potent antioxidant power in its seeds and peel, which specifically help people with type 2 diabetes. A recent study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences explored the antidiabetic and antihyperlipidemic properties of the green sticky vegetable. Diabetic rats were administered the powdered form for a range of 14 to 28 days and showed improved lipid profiles when the tests ended.

Furthermore, the health benefits of okra water are known to be beneficial for managing blood glucose levels. A study published in the Natural Product Communications, says that in Turkey, drinking water infused with roasted okra seeds is a common natural remedy for diabetes.

May Reduce Fatigue

Okra may help reduce fatigue levels in the body. Researchers led by Fangbo Xia from Beijing, China in their study titled “Antioxidant and Anti-Fatigue Constituents of Okra” found that antioxidant-rich vegetable seeds may help reduce muscle tiredness. In a clinical trial conducted on laboratory mice, the swimming time of mice who were given the extract increased significantly as compared to the control group. Also, lactic acid levels were possibly much lower in the mice that had the vegetable extracts, indicating a lower muscle weakness effect. The research study suggested that okra consumption could be related to improved metabolic capacity and improved ability stress of mice.

Beneficial for pregnant women

Eating okra may help pregnant women meet their daily folate needs. Folate is important for preventing neural tube defects.

Folate (vitamin B9) is an important nutrient for pregnant women. It helps lower the risk of a neural tube defect, which affects the brain and spine of a developing fetus.

It’s recommended that all women of childbearing age consume 400 mcg of folate every day.

A review that included 12,000 healthy adult women found that most consumed just 245 mcg of folate per day, on average.

Another study that followed 6,000 non-pregnant women over 5 years discovered that 23% of participants had inadequate folate concentrations in their blood.

Okra is a good source of folate, with 1 cup (100 grams) providing 15% of a woman’s daily needs for this nutrient.

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  • Adult & Youth Sizes Available

Can Help Manage Hypertriglyceridemia

Okra can be a dietary therapy source for hypertriglyceridemia, a condition that occurs when there is a high level of a certain type of fat (triglycerides) in the blood. People with hypertriglyceridemia, which may contribute to the hardening of arteries and subsequently, cardiovascular diseases. The aforementioned study was conducted in China and published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry (July 2014).

Easy to add to your diet

Though okra may not be a staple in your kitchen, it’s quite easy to cook.

When purchasing okra, look for smooth and tender green pods without brown spots or dried ends. Store them in the fridge for up to four days before cooking.

Usually, okra is used in soups and stews like gumbo. It contains mucilage, a thick substance that becomes gummy when heated. To avoid slimy okra, follow these simple cooking techniques:

  • Cook okra at high heat.
  • Avoid crowding your pan or skillet, as this will reduce the heat and cause sliminess.
  • Pickling okra may reduce the slime factor.
  • Cooking it in an acid-like tomato sauce reduces the gumminess.
  • Simply slice and roast okra in your oven.
  • Grill it until it’s slightly charred.

Bottom Line

Okra is a nutritious food with many health benefits.

It’s rich in magnesium, folate, fiber, antioxidants, and vitamin C, K1, and A.

Okra may benefit pregnant women, heart health, and blood sugar control. It may even have anticancer properties.

Cooking okra can be simple. Add it to your grocery list to try a new ingredient with powerful health effects.

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