Okra is one of the most nutritious vegetables available in the market today. Okra has been used for centuries as food and medicine. It has been cultivated since ancient times and it was probably first domesticated some 4000 years ago in Africa. Today, okra is grown worldwide but mainly in tropical regions like South America, Central America, Asia and Australia.
The edible part of okra plant consists mostly of the underground stem called “okro” or “okra”. The other parts are the leaves, flowers and fruit.
Okra seeds are not edible but they have many uses including food supplements.
7 Nutritional Benefits of Eating Okra:
1) Supports Weight Loss: One of the best reasons why you should eat okra daily is because it helps in weight loss.
Studies show that consuming okra reduces body fat levels and improves metabolic rate. You can increase your energy level and reduce appetite.
2) Improves Blood Sugar Levels: Okra contains a natural sugar called glucose which helps in lowering blood sugar levels.
People with diabetes often experience low blood sugar levels due to their disease condition. When you consume okra regularly, it will improve your blood sugar levels naturally.
3) Helps in Digestion: Okra is rich in fiber which aids digestion and relieves constipation.
The antioxidants present in the vegetable prevent colon cancer.
4) Good for Heart and Arteries: Okra contains folate which prevents hardening of the arteries and reduces the risk of heart attacks.
It also improves the supply of blood and oxygen to different organs in the body.
5) Gives You Energy: The high fiber content in okra helps you get instant energy.
Furthermore, it keeps your stomach full for longer and manage hunger pangs between meals.
6) Decrease Risk of Some Cancers: The antioxidants in okra eliminate free radicals which fight cancer causing cells in the body.
It also prevents cervical cancer in women.
7) Treats Asthma and Allergies: Okra is beneficial for people who suffer from respiratory problems like asthma and allergies.
It clears the lungs and airways, relieves congestion and reduces mucus associated with such conditions.
Other Nutritional Benefits of Okra:
1) Lowers Cholesterol: The soluble fiber in okra binds with bile acids and removes them from the body.
Bile acids are produced by the liver to help in the digestion of fat. They increase cholesterol levels in the blood when they are reabsorbed back into the body.
Reducing their levels means that there will be less cholesterol in your blood.
2) Improves Eye Health: Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that improves eye health.
It protects the cells in the eyes and reduces the risk of cataracts and night blindness. Okra contains good amounts of carotenoids which is a form of Vitamin A.
3) Reduces Risk of Prostate Cancer: Recent studies have shown that people who consume okra on a regular basis have a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
4) Lowers Risk of Other Cancers: The antioxidants in okra combat free radicals in the body to reduce the risk of several types of cancers.
5) Regulates Blood Pressure: The high potassium content in okra helps to regulate blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium.
6) Prevents Kidney Stones: The diuretic properties of okra increase the quantity of urine passed.
This helps to flush out dangerous substances like uric acid from the body and reduce the risk of kidney stones.
7) Treats Cold and Cough: You can make a tea with the seeds of the okra plant to relieve a cold or cough.
The mucus in the respiratory system can be eliminated by taking this tea.
Things to Remember
1) Do not eat if you have a cut or wound on your hand.
The gumbo soup made from okra can be used as an adhesive in the garden. It can cause the seeds of the vegetable to stick to your hand and these seeds can cause serious problems if they enter an open wound.
They will easily grow inside the body and cause serious infections.
2) Avoid eating large quantities of raw okra.
The vegetable has a sticky texture and can cause stomach upset when consumed in large quantities.
3) Only buy organic okra because it has been shown to have lower amounts of pesticides.
4) Be careful when cooking with hot oil because it can cause burns.
Things to Do With Okra:
1) Make Gumbo Soup: The most popular recipe that uses this vegetable is Gumbo soup.
It should have a thick and stew type consistency.
2) Bake It: Baking the vegetable in the oven instead of boiling it will help keep its shape and retain its texture.
3) Make Cutlets: Okra can be combined with other ingredients to make cutlets or fritters.
These can be dipped in a batter and deep fried to make tasty appetizers.
Sources & references used in this article:
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Knowledge of nutrition and health benefits and frequency of consumption of fruits and vegetables among Ghanaian homemakers by CA Nti, J Hagan, F Bagina… – African Journal of Food …, 2011 – academicjournals.org
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Phytochemical, nutritional and pharmacological evidences for Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) by RK Sindhu, V Puri – The Journal of Phytopharmacology, 2016 – phytopharmajournal.com
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Extract of okra lowers blood glucose and serum lipids in high-fat diet-induced obese C57BL/6 mice by S Fan, Y Zhang, Q Sun, L Yu, M Li, B Zheng… – The Journal of nutritional …, 2014 – Elsevier
Chemical composition, nutritional value and antioxidant properties of Mediterranean okra genotypes in relation to harvest stage by S Petropoulos, Â Fernandes, L Barros, ICFR Ferreira – Food chemistry, 2018 – Elsevier
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