Okra is a flowering plant known for its edible seeds. It is grown in warm tropical climates, such as those found in Africa and South Asia.
Sometimes referred to as the “female finger”, okra is available in two colors: red and green. Both varieties have the same taste and turn red to green when cooked.
Okra is organically classified as a fruit and is generally used as a vegetable in cooking.
It is often used in South American cuisine and is a popular addition to okra. However, it can have a sticky texture, which some people find unpleasant.
Although okra is not one of the most common foods, it is also packed with nutrients. Here are 7 health benefits of okra.
Health Benefits Of Okra
1. Rich In Nutrients
Okra has an impressive nutritional profile. Okra is a good source of vitamins C and K1. Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient that contributes to the general immune function, while vitamin K1 is A.
A fat-soluble vitamin that is known to play a role in blood clotting (2, 3).
Okra is also low in calories and carbohydrates and contains some protein and fiber. Many fruits and vegetables are not available
The protein that makes okra unique.
Adequate protein intake is associated with benefits from weight management, blood sugar control, bone structure and muscle mass (4, 5).
2. Contains Beneficial Antioxidants
Okra contains many antioxidants that are beneficial to your health.
Antioxidants are compounds found in foods that protect against damage from harmful molecules called free radicals.
The main antioxidant in okra
Polyphenols, including flavonoids and isoxycetin, as well as vitamins A and C.
Research shows that eating a diet rich in polyphenols can improve heart health by reducing the risk of blood clots and oxidative damage.
Polyphenols can also benefit brain health due to their unique ability to enter the brain and protect against inflammation.
These defense mechanisms can help protect your brain from the symptoms of aging and improve cognition, learning and memory.
3. May Reduce The Risk Of Heart Disease
Levels of High cholesterol are associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Okra contains a thick, jelly-like substance called mucus, which can attach to cholesterol during digestion, causing it to be excreted in the feces instead of being absorbed by the body.
An 8-week study randomly divided mice into 3 groups and fed them either on a high-fat diet containing 1% or 2% ground okra or on a high-fat diet without okra powder.
Mice that follow the okra diet secrete more cholesterol in the stool and have lower levels of total blood cholesterol than the control group.
Another potential heart health benefit of okra is its polyphenol content. A four-year study of 1,100 people found that those on a polyphenol-rich diet had fewer inflammatory markers associated with heart disease.
4. May Have Anti-cancer Properties
Okra contains a type of protein called lectin, which can inhibit the growth of human cancer cells.
A study of test tubes in breast cancer cells found that lectin in okra can prevent the growth of cancer cells by up to 63%.
Another study of test tubes in metastatic mouse melanoma cells found that okra extract caused cancer cell death.
Note that these studies were performed in test tubes with concentrated and extracted okra ingredients.
More human research is needed before conclusions can be drawn.
5. It Can Lower Blood Sugar
Maintaining a normal blood sugar levels is very necessary to your overall health. Consistently high blood sugar can lead to type 2 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Research in mice shows that consuming okra or okra extract can help lower blood sugar levels.
In one study, rats fed liquid sugar and peeled okra had lower blood sugar levels than animals in the control group.
The researchers suggested that okra reduced the absorption of sugar in the digestive system, leading to a more stable response to blood sugar.
That said, okra can affect metformin, a common diabetes drug.
Therefore, the consumption of okra is not recommended for those taking this medicine.
6. Beneficial For Pregnant Women
Folic acid (vitamin B9) is an important nutrient for pregnant women. Helps reduce the risk of neural tube damage, which affects the brain and spine of a developing fetus.
It is recommended for all women of childbearing potential to consume 400 mcg of folic acid daily.
A review of 12,000 healthy adult women found that most consumed just 245 mcg of folic acid a day, on average.
Another study of 6,000 non-pregnant women over the age of 5 found that 23% of participants had low levels of folic acid in their blood.
Okra is a good source of folic acid, with 1 cup (100 grams) providing 15% of a woman’s daily needs for this nutrient.
7. Easy Addition To Your Diet
Although okra may not be a staple in your kitchen, it is very easy to cook.
When buying okra, look for smooth and tender green pods without brown spots or dry edges.
Store them in the refrigerator for up to four days before cooking.
Okra is commonly used in soups and stews such as gumbo. It contains mucus, a thick substance that becomes sticky when heated.
Follow these simple cooking techniques, to avoid slimy okra:
- Cook okra over high heat.
- Avoid filling your pan or skillet, as this will reduce the heat and cause weakness.
- Okra pickling can reduce the mud factor.
- Cooking in a tomato sauce that looks like acid reduces the gum.
- Just cut and bake okra in your oven.
- Bake until lightly browned.
These are the 7 health benefits of okra.
Okra is a nutritional food with so many health benefits.
It is rich in magnesium, folic acid, fiber, antioxidants and vitamins C, K1 and A.
Okra can be beneficial for a pregnant women’s, heart health and blood sugar control. It may even have anti-cancer properties.
Cooking okra can be simple.
Add it to the grocery list to try a new ingredient with strong health effects.