Okra health benefits are plentiful, and warrant its inclusion in your diet. Possessing a mild flavor, and a naturally mucilaginous texture, it is brimming with nutrition. Wondering what this versatile veggie can do for your health? Read on below to find out more.
What Is Okra?
Okra is known by a few different names depending on where you are from. If you are from the Caribbean, or Nigeria, you are likely to call it okro (or ochro), while American, British and Filipinos refer to it as Okra. It is also sometimes referred to as ladies’ fingers.
Known binomially as Abelmoschus esculentus, its country of origin is disputed, but is likely to be either from South Asia or East Africa. It was subsequently introduced to the Caribbean and Americas from slaves during the transatlantic slave trade, and today remains an important part of cuisine in the region.
In order to be edible, okra pods need to be harvested when they are young, as the seeds quickly become quite tough and wood-like if allowed to fully mature.
Okra Nutrition Info (per 100g, cooked)
Total Carbohydrate 4.9g
Dietary Fiber 2.5g 10%
Vitamin A 283IU 6%
Vitamin C 16.3mg 27%
Vitamin K 40mcg 50%
Thiamin 0.1mg 9%
Riboflavin 0.1mg 3%
Niacin 0.9mg 4%
Vitamin B6 0.2mg 9%
Folate 46mcg 11%
Pantothenic Acid 0.2mg 2%
Calcium 77mg 8%
Iron 0.3mg 2%
Magnesium 36mg 9%
Phosphorus 32mg 3%
Potassium 135mg 4%
Zinc 0.4mg 3%
Copper 0.1mg 4%
Manganese 0.3mg 15%
12 Amazing Health Benefits of Okra
1. Reduces Cholesterol
Consuming more vegetables is an excellent way to naturally manage cholesterol, and in the case of okra this is very true. The mucilage naturally contained is a type of soluble fiber that is capable of binding to cholesterol and helping prevent some degree of absorption.
It also does the same to bile acids, which are synthesized from cholesterol. They are both subsequently excreted from the body. Then, the new production of bile acids requires for more cholesterol to be used, leading to a net drop in the available amount circulating in blood. If you are looking for an effective natural way to help maintain good cholesterol levels, be sure to eat more okra.
2. Supports a Healthy Pregnancy
During pregnancy nutritional requirements are usually increased significantly. One of the most critical for helping ensure that the brain and nervous system of the unborn child develops properly is folate, which okra supplies a good amount of. Women are often advised to supplement with folic acid supplements in an effort to ensure requirements for this nutrient are met, but consumption of natural folate from vegetables offers superior absorption.
Okra also contains some supporting nutrients in smaller amounts as well, such as calcium and iron.
3. Supports Blood Glucose Management
The potential use of okra for managing diabetes is extremely promising, with more and more studies being conducted to investigate its role in controlling the disease. To date, the results are exciting; even if they were only done in rodents.
It was found that the animals given a solution of okra soaked in water displayed slowed absorption of glucose into blood, which for diabetics is a good thing. Diabetics typically have reduced insulin function, and manifests by excessive blood sugar.
Chronically high blood sugar levels can be extremely damaging, and is the primary reason why people develop nerve and circulatory disorders secondarily to the condition.
You don’t have to wait on studies to eat more okra, however. Simply add more to your diet and compare your average blood glucose results before and while using it. You will be pleasantly surprised.
4. Reduces Osteoporosis Risk
Okra is a rich source of vitamin K, one of the most important nutrients to help shuttle calcium into the bone matrix. Given, it isn’t extremely rich in calcium, but we doubt your diet consists of okra only!
Consumption of okra might be of particular benefit to post-menopausal women who lose the protective benefit of estrogen on bones, and see their risk of fractures and developing osteoporosis increase exponentially.
5. May Reduce Cancer Risk
Okra is a promising anticancer food, attributed in large part to the presence of a specialized protein known as lectin. Studies conducted in labs have found that this specific protein may help to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells by more than 50%, while another study conducted in mice diagnosed with melanoma found that extracts made from okra were able to increase the likelihood of programmed cell death occurring in cancer cells.
Even though these are only preliminary studies, and the fact that more studies need to be conducted, so far the research is extremely promising.
6. Supports Brain Health
Okra turns out to be in excellent addition when it comes to maintaining cognitive health, which is likely attributed to the presence of significant amounts of dietary folate, along with vitamin C which can help prevent oxidative damage from affecting the brain.
What does this mean for you? It means that there is a greater probability that your mental faculties and cognition will be preserved well into old age.
7. Benefits Eye Health
Antioxidant vitamins play several roles, and when it comes to the health of your eyes, their importance is often understated. However, vision loss is extremely common as we age, with the likelihood of macular degeneration occurring resulting in a significant amount of preventable blindness.
The antioxidant vitamin C can help to slow the rate of macular degeneration, thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. There is also a reduced the risk of cataract development from the consumption of this true superfood.
8. Promotes Healing Of Gastric Ulcers
Gastric ulcers are fairly common and extremely painful, resulting in erosions along the gastrointestinal tract that become inflamed and tender from hydrochloric acid in the stomach irritating lesions.
While there is therapy designed to help with healing of these ulcers, okra is a viable option if you are looking for natural alternatives. The mucilage it contains is able to coat the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, helping to reduce the likelihood of irritation occurring and allowing the ulcer time to heal.
9. Promotes Health Of Skin And Hair
Collagen is the body’s most important structural protein, and one that is responsible for the maintenance of good skin and hair health.
Regular consumption of okra can benefit your skin and hair since it can stimulate the production of natural collagen, and also reduce the impact of sun damage. Consumption of a varied source of fruits and vegetables, which includes okra, can leave you looking younger and feeling great too.
10. Helps Manage Asthma Symptoms
It is well known that fruits and vegetables that are high in their vitamin C content are beneficial to asthmatics and other people diagnosed with respiratory illnesses.
However, even though okra possesses a natural mucilage like compound, it can actually help to reduce chest congestion, promoting the expulsion of mucus.
The antioxidant compounds it contains also helps to reduce the likelihood of airway inflammation which can lead to difficulty breathing and subsequently triggering an asthmatic attack.
11. Can Help Prevent Constipation
Any food that is high in fiber is a great addition to your diet, if not for its direct benefits on health, for the simple fact that it can prevent the occurrence of frequent constipation. The fiber found in okra is responsible for this, since as it moves along the digestive tract it forms a bulky mass with waste material, helping it retain moisture and facilitate hasty evacuation from the body.
12. Supports Liver Function
Every single day the liver processes significant amounts of waste material, and in turn toxins. While this organ is very efficient at its job, over time it may lose its efficiency causing several metabolic changes.
Regular consumption of okra may prove beneficial to people with fatty liver disease, or anyone experiencing elevated liver enzymes.
Okra is also thought to be able to stabilize the structural integrity of liver cells, protecting it from the ravages of inflammation and oxidation.
Consuming more okra is one of the easiest ways to fast-track your health. Its naturally mild flavor makes it easily blend with many meals, so if you make one healthy change this year, choose okra!