15 Benefits of Okra for Disease Prevention
Okra or commonly referred to as gumbo or lady fingers, is a flowering plant pertaining to the mallow family. It produces edible green seed pods, which have built much of its notoriety especially because of the many health benefits they have. A lot of dispute goes on around the geographical area this plant comes from. Some say that the origins of okra go as far as West Africa, Ethiopia or even South Asia. (1, 2) Regardless, okra is considered a highly nutritious vegetable with several known health benefits. Aside from giving your immune system a boost, okra pods are also reputed for having healing and anti-inflammatory properties.
Nutritional Value of Okra
The nutritional value of okra is dependent on how much and what form it is consumed (whole or seedless). However, some of the key substances remain the same such as the following vitamins, minerals and nutrients:
Per 1 cup of okra, it contains
Energy – 39 kcals
Protein – 2.92 grams
Fat – 0.45 grams
Carbohydrate – 7.94
Dietary fiber – 3.7 grams
Sugars – 3.65 grams
Niacin – 2.485 mg
Vitamin B-6 – 0.095 mg
Calcium – 17 mg
Sodium – 663 mg
Potassium – 201 mg
Phosphorus – 103 mg
15 Health Benefits of Okra
1. Okra is a good source of fiber and helps balance blood sugar levels.
The fiber found in okra pods promotes digestion and regularity. Pectin, the fiber in okra, is water-soluble, which makes it easy absorb in the intestine and stimulate excretion. Just ½ cup of okra or approximately 8 pods, contains 2 grams of dietary fiber. (3)
Okra was found to have incredible benefits for diabetes by effectively keeping sugar levels in check. Its insulin-like attributes help lower blood sugar levels which can benefit those with chronically high blood sugar levels. It works because of the Eugenol fiber content, which stabilizes sugar levels by reducing the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the digestive tract.
2. Okra is a source of calcium.
Okra can help towards preventing calcium and magnecium deficiency, both of which are responsible for muscle function, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, heart rhythms, nerve signaling, and bone health.
For those with lactose intolerance or who do not get their calcium from dairy products such as vegans or vegetarians, okra may help close nutritional gaps. At nearly 51 micrograms of calcium per serving, okra can be integrated into a balanced diet to reach the daily recommended value of 1000 mg for adults. (4)
3. Okra is extremely beneficial during pregnancy and helps fetal development.
High in folate, okra does not only improve a woman’s ability to conceive, but it also aids in fetal brain development, supports formation of the fetus’ neural tube, and keeps it safe from potential damage.
Folate is recommended to help prevent birth defects such as spina bifida, and also to help the fetus to grow at a normal rate. Vitamin C is another essential element for fetal development, which can also be found in okra. (5)
4. Okra helps fight osteoporosis and promotes healthy bones.
Due to its vitamin K content, okra supports blood coagulation. Additionally, vitamin K combined with the folate content in okra, helps fight osteoporosis by restoring bone density and strengthening bone tissue.
In human intervention studies, it has been demonstrated that not only can vitamin K increase bone mineral density in people diagnosed with osteoporosis, it can also reduce fracture rates. Another essential vitamin to bone health is vitamin D. Vitamin D works synergistically with vitamin K to maintain or increase bone density and help modulate bone metabolism. (6)
5. Okra may offer relief for asthma patients and those suffering from respiratory conditions.
Okra is an effective remedy for asthma. Due to its vitamin C-rich content, which accounts for its antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, okra can effectively curb aggravation of asthma and prevent any fatal events. In fact, a dosage of 15,000 to 50,000 mg divided into 8 doses has been shown to work on asthma patients. (7)
A decoction of okra leaves and flowers can effectively combat bronchitis and pneumonia. Due to its mucilaginous (slimy) properties, this vegetable is a potent home remedy for the common cold and flu that may help in alleviating symptoms such as runny nose and congestion. (8)
6. Okra combats constipation.
High in fiber and mucilage, okra helps regularize stool by increasing its mass and improving water absorption. During the digestive process, the mucilage in okra attaches to the toxins living in the digestive tract and lubricates the intestines, thereby ensuring smooth bowel movements.
Due to its composition, okra may also serve as a laxative when taken in large amounts due to its fiber and mucilaginous properties.
7. Okra reduces your risk of developing colon cancer.
Among other nutrients, okra also contains insoluble fiber, which cleanses the digestive tract, thereby lowering your risk of developing colorectal cancer. The potent antioxidants found in okra break down free radicals and curb harmful mutations of cells, which can further protect you against several types of cancers.
Okra also supports the gastrointestinal system through cleansing, which will allow the colon to work more efficiently. Additionally, its vitamin A content supports healthy digestion. (9)
8. Okra reduces cholesterol levels.
Due to its pectin content, okra can help reduce cholesterol (LDL) levels in the blood, thereby preventing associated conditions, such as atherosclerosis. What pectin specifically does is to reduce the production of bile in the gut and promote the elimination of cholesterol deposits and clots from the intestines. (10)
9. Okra promotes healthy skin and hair.
The fiber in okra supports elimination of waste, while vitamin C helps replenish the elasticity and suppleness of the skin tissue, fighting off skin blemishes, preventing acne, psoriasis and other conditions affecting the epidermis.
The mucilage in okra helps unruly, curly or lifeless hair look lively and healthy. Okra boosts hair health in many ways acting as a potent hair conditioner, moisturizer for dry and itchy scalp, preventing dandruff and lice and giving hair a healthy shine.
10. Okra supports immunity.
Due to its antioxidative properties and vitamin C content, okra is a true immunity booster. Scientific research revealed that okra is also rich in essential minerals, such magnesium, manganese, calcium and iron, which help your body fight the damaging effect of free radicals, thereby supporting the immune system function.
11. Okra supports healthy vision.
Containing beta-carotenes, such as xanthin and lutein, okra can effectively prevent vision-related ailments like cataract and glaucoma. It is also a good source of vitamin A, an important nutrient for maintaining healthy eyesight and skin. (11)
12. Okra combats anemia.
The iron, folate and vitamin K in this veggie support formation of hemoglobin, blood coagulation and proliferation of red blood cells, thereby helping the body fight anemia.
13. Okra may help prevent peptic ulcers and inflammatory bowel syndrome.
Due to its alkaline mucilage content, okra can help prevent peptic ulcers. The alkaline mucilage neutralizes acids and builds up a protective coating for the digestive tract, thereby accelerating the healing process of peptic ulcers. It is also an excellent prebiotic, which can prevent adhesion of Helicobacter pylori to the Gastric mucosa. (12, 13)
14. Okra is a plant-based source of protein.
Okra seeds are an amazing source of vegetable oils and protein, which along with amino acids, such as tryptophan, cystine combined with the sulfur-containing amino acids in this vegetable make it a true wonder food.
15. Okra supports the proliferation of good bacteria.
Scientific research found that the good bacteria or probiotics living in the intestinal tract flourish with okra. Supporting development and proliferation of probiotics, okra promotes overall health of the digestive tract by helping the biosynthesis of vitamin B complex in almost the same way that yogurt aids in the function of the small intestine. (14)
Potential risks of okra consumption have been associated with the administration of metformin (a drug used to treat diabetics) due to its interactions with the drug.
Due to its content rich in oxalates, which are compounds naturally occurring in many vegan foods, okra may increase risk of developing kidney stones when consumed in excess. Additionally, okra contains fructan, a carbohydrate that may cause diarrhea, bloating or cramps in certain individuals.
Okra is a vegetable that offers many healing, anti-inflammatory and nutritional benefits. Though it is mainly found in tropical climates, okra is a great low-calorie option for those who wish to increase their vegetable intake. It is a powerhouse with antioxidants that can support cardiovascular health and prevent diabetes and digestive diseases.