Health Benefits of Okra: This 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.
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Advantages of Okra
Though it’s not one of the most common foods, okra is packed with nutrition.
Here are 7 nutrition and health benefits of okra:
- Rich in nutrients: Okra boasts an impressive nutrient profile (1). Okra is rich in many nutrients and particularly high in vitamins C and K (2, 3). This fruit is unique, as it provides protein (4, 5), a nutrient that many other fruits and vegetables lack.
- Contains beneficial antioxidants: Okra is rich in antioxidants that may reduce your risk of serious diseases, prevent inflammation, and contribute to overall health. Most notably, it contains polyphenols that may contribute to heart and brain health (6, 7, 8, 9).
- May lower heart disease risk: Animal research suggests that okra may bind to cholesterol in your gut and lower blood cholesterol levels (10). It’s also rich in polyphenols, which fight harmful inflammation and protect your heart (11).
- May have anticancer properties: Okra contains a protein called lectin, which is being studied for its role in cancer prevention and treatment. One test-tube study in breast cancer cells found that the lectin in okra may prevent cancer cell growth by up to 63% (12) . Another test-tube study in metastatic mouse melanoma cells discovered that okra extract caused cancer cell death (13). More human research is needed.
- May lower blood sugar: Research in mice indicates that eating okra or okra extract may help decrease blood sugar levels (14). In one study, rats given liquid sugar and purified okra experienced fewer blood sugar spikes than animals in the control group (15).
Researchers suggested that the okra decreased sugar absorption in the digestive tract, leading to a more stable blood sugar response (16).
That said, okra may interfere with metformin, a common diabetes medication. Therefore, eating okra is not recommended for those taking this drug (17).
- Beneficial for pregnant women: Eating okra may help pregnant women meet their daily folate needs. Folate is important for preventing neural tube defects (18, 19, 20).
- Easy to add to your diet: Though okra may not be a staple in your kitchen, it’s quite easy to cook. 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 in okra recipe:
- 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.
The 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.
We deliver them free of charge within Nairobi Metropolitan Area.