Health Benefits Of Okra Nutrition
1. Digestive Health
Perhaps the best part of adding okra to your diet is the significant increase it can have on your total fiber intake.
Mucilaginous fiber like you find in okra can help move food through your digestive tract by adding bulk.
This means that bowel movements are more regular and there is a reduction in gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, cramping, constipation, and excess gas.
Oddly, it also helps prevent diarrhea, because it adds bulk to watery stools. Finally, fiber can help to clear out excess cholesterol in the body.
2. Vision Booster
Okra contains a very high content of vitamin A, as well as antioxidant components like beta carotenes, xanthein, and lutein.
Antioxidants are powerful compounds that destroy or neutralize free radicals, which are the dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism.
Free radicals are responsible for the degreadation of the cells in the body, including those responsible for vision.
With high levels of okra in your diet, you will have more protection for your sight, including macular degeneration and cataracts.
3. Skin Health
Vitamin A antioxidants are also able to protect skin health, by promoting quicker healing, reducing the appearance of scars and acne, and eliminating wrinkles.
This is because the antioxidants are able to neutralize the free radicals which may have damaged those skin cells.
4. Immune System
The various antioxidant components of okra make it very beneficial to fight off free radicals, but the high vitamin C content also means that the general immune system is boosted.
Vitamin C can stimulate the immune system to create more white blood cells.
Which can combat the other foreign pathogens and materials in the body that can compromise the immune system.
5. Blood Pressure and Heart Health
Okra is a good source of both vitamins and minerals, including potassium, which is an essential aspect of human health.
Potassium is necessary to maintain proper fluid balance in the body, because it balances sodium.
Furthermore, potassium helps to relax the blood vessels and arteries, which therefore reduces blood pressure and lessens the strain on the cardiovascular system.
This means that clotting and atherosclerosis will be greatly reduced.
6. Improves Eyesight
Okra is also used to improve eyesight!
Okra pods are fantastic source of vitamin A and beta-carotene.
Which are both important nourishment for sustaining excellent eyesight (along with healthy skin).
Additionally, this nourishment may help inhibit eye-associated illnesses.
7. Good Source of Protein
Okra nutrition benefits are so plentiful that it’s been called the “perfect villager’s vegetable,” with its robust nature, dietary fiber and distinct seed protein balance of both lysine and tryptophan amino acids.
The amino acid composition of okra seed protein is actually comparable to that of soybean — the protein efficiency ratio is higher than that of soybean.
And the amino acid pattern of the protein renders it an adequate supplement to legume- or cereal-based diets.
Indeed, the okra seed is known to be rich in high-quality protein.
Especially with regard to its content of essential amino acids relative to other plant protein sources, making okra one of the top vegetable protein foods out there.
8. Helps Stabilize Blood Sugar
Okra helps stabilize blood sugar by regulating the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract.
The okra seed contains blood glucose normalization qualities and lipid profiles that may help naturally treat diabetes.
In a 2011 study published in the Journal of Pharmacy & BioAllied Sciences, researchers in India found that when subjects were fed dried and ground okra peels and seeds.
They experienced a reduction in their blood glucose levels.
While others showed a gradual decrease in blood glucose following regular feeding of okra extract for about 10 days.
Outside of scientific research, many people with diabetes have reported decreasing blood sugar levels after soaking cut-up okra pieces in water overnight and then drinking the juice in the morning.
While in Turkey roasted okra seeds have been used as a traditional diabetes medicine for generations.
Brief History Of Okra
It’s believed that okra originated in the Abyssinia region of Africa, the area we now know as Ethiopia.
Because this mountainous region was so isolated for centuries, little is known about the cultivation and uses there.
Eventually, however, okra made its way throughout North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean regions, before eventually moving on to the rest of the world.
Okra was said to be introduced to the U.S. in the late 1700s by French colonists in Louisiana.
That wasn’t its debut in the Western Hemisphere, however, as it reached Brazil via Africa in at least the 1600s.
Some More Okra Basic Health Benefits
Okra contains several healthy components including vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants like B1 and B2, quercetin, rutin, catechin, and epiatechin.
It’s also known for high vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate content.
Studies have indicated the vitamin C content of okra could help with asthma and even skin conditions.
But many of the health benefits of okra come from it’s superior fiber content.
As a fiber source, it helps to regulate digestion and maintain blood sugar levels.
The inclusion of pectin also makes it a great choice for helping to reduce cholesterol.
Okra Growing Tips
Okra is easy to grow during summer months and can do well in most continental climates. You can simply start it from seed.
As it grows, it produces pretty flowers from which the fruit develops. As your okra is producing, you’ll want to harvest it often.
One common mistake is letting the pods get too large, at which point they get dry and tough. So, harvest them small and young.
While you can fry okra, that’s probably not the healthiest option. In soups and gumbo it’s somewhat slimy texture gives the broth a great feel and flavor.
But, you can also eat okra raw. Without being cooked, the slime is kept at a minimum. Add it to a salad or simply eat it plain.
Okra – Serving Suggestions
The pods are great for thickening dishes, as they become gooey when cooked. They are delicious cooked in soups with some fish, which is a Caribbean take on okra.
For a bit of an Egyptian touch, prepare okra in a thick stew of lamb or beef. This delicacy is actually known as bamia or bamiya.
If you want to reduce the vegetable’s mucilage and use it in drier dishes, add some lemon juice (which can be used as a natural medicine).
Chopped or sliced pods can be fried as fritters and then mixed with other vegetables or meat.
For a healthy version, simply steam the pods (whole or cut) and enjoy them as a side dish with rice and vegetables or meat. Steaming is one of the best cooking methods to keep the vitamins in food.
The pods can also be pickled and preserved in the same way you pickle your other vegetables.
If you happen to come across bamia’s leaves, you can eat those as well. They can be consumed raw in salads or cooked in soups and stews.
How to Use Okra
The fibrous, 5 to 15 centimeters long fruits are best when eaten fresh and slightly immature.
If you buy pods that have been left on the plant for too long, they become woody and don’t taste nice.
Avoid those that look sunken or dry and have discolored spots or cuts.
If you can, eat them on the day of purchase. They can also be stored in the refrigerator for one to two days.
Wash the pods well before you use them, as they might have been exposed to pesticides and chemicals.
Wash them well with water and fruit and vegetable soap.
Some prefer to trim the top stem end and the tip, while others use the whole pod.
You may slice it as you desire and include it in your favorite African, Middle-Eastern, Caribbean or Asian dish.
Okra is packed with valuable nutrients.
It’s a high-fiber food, for starters: Nearly half of its nutrition is a soluble fiber in the form of gums and pectins.
Nearly 10 percent of the recommended levels of vitamin B6 and folic acid are also present in a half cup of cooked okra.
Here’s a measurement of the nutrition in okra, both cooked and sliced:
- 1.5 grams protein
- 5.8 grams carbohydrates
- 37 micrograms folic acid
- 13 milligrams vitamin C (22 percent DV)
- 46 milligrams magnesium (11.5 percent DV)
- 460 IU vitamin A (9.2 percent DV)
- 2 grams dietary fiber (8 percent DV)
- 257 milligrams potassium (7.3 percent DV)
- 50 milligrams calcium (5 percent DV)
- 0.4 milligrams iron (2.3 percent DV)