Okra contains valuable vitamins and minerals which makes it very beneficial to us health-wise. Okra helps to boost our immunity, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Most people also drink okra water to regulate blood sugar levels, for those with diabetes.
Is Okra a Fruit or a Vegetable?
Technically, okra is a fruit, but it is eaten as a vegetable. From botanical viewpoint, an edible plant is considered a fruit if it has seeds, whereas if it’s seedless, such as roots, leaves and stems, it is considered a vegetable.
In terms of culinary uses, however, many foods that are botanically fruits, but have savory taste rather than sweet, are typically considered vegetables.
Nutritional Benefits of Okra Nutrition
Rich in vitamin A and K
Okra is rich in Vitamin A and other antioxidants that help to maintain good vision and rid your body of free radicals. Also, okra is rich in vitamin K which your body needs to help blood clot properly.
Good source of vitamin C
Okra contains striking levels of essential vitamins that can boost your immunity. One cup of okra contains about 40% your recommended daily vitamin C needs, according to research at University of Arizona.
Contains high levels of magnesium
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, okra also contains high levels of magnesium which is vital for regulating blood pressure and controlling blood sugar levels.
Rich in Calcium and potassium
Calcium and potassium are other nutrients present in okra which help maintain good bone health and control muscle function.3
Good source of folate (B9)
Another beneficial nutritional value of okra is that it contains many B-group vitamins. Folate is essential during pregnancy. Your body needs folate and vitamin B12 to prevent anemia and to boost immune system and brain function.
Health Benefits of Okra
Scientific research has revealed a whole lot of health benefits attached to eating okra.
Helps lose weight
Research shows that consuming okra can significantly help you to shed some pounds. Okra is a rich source of dietary fiber, and eating okra will keep you feeling fuller for longer period of time. Okra is low in calories but high in vitamins in nutrients. This means that okra can help to nurture your body without adding body fat.
Consuming more okra in your diet can help to boost your energy naturally.
Okra contains anti-fatigue properties. Certain enzymes and nutrients in the seeds of the okra plant reduce levels of blood lactic acid and other chemicals that affect feelings of fatigue.
Full of nutrients
One of the best reasons for consuming more okra is that it contains nutrients that are vital for good health. The journal Food Science & Nutrition stated that okra is a rich source of vital nutrients required by the body to maintain a healthy immune system. The researchers stated that among the beneficial nutrients found in okra are:
- Calcium that is needed for strong bones and healthy teeth.
- Iron to keep your blood healthy and produce red blood cells.
- Potassium for maintaining normal blood pressure levels.
- Zinc to protect DNA and strengthen your immune system.
- Antioxidants that help to eliminate free radicals from your body and protect against diseases.
- Dietary fiber to improve the health of your digestive system.
The researchers concluded that okra is a rich source of mineral, vitamins, and nutrients in the diet.
Controls cholesterol levels
Consuming more okra in your diet can help you to reduce cholesterol levels in your blood. Also contains compounds that actively reduces “bad” cholesterol.
According to research published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, components in okra reduce fat cells in the blood. In animal study, dried okra powder was added to the diet, and after 8 weeks the total cholesterol in blood was lower. It was also discovered that raw okra can help to manage conditions associated with high LDL cholesterol and other metabolic disorders.
Regulates blood sugar levels
One of the many health benefits of okra is that it helps to prevent blood sugar levels spiking after a meal. Over time, okra extracts can reduce levels of glucose in the blood and can be useful in managing type 2 diabetes.
Near the end of this article, you can find more information on how to use okra for diabetes as well as some ways to prepare okra water for diabetes.
Reduces stress and anxiety and boosts your mood
Okra can be used as a natural antidepressant, researchers say. One of the benefits of eating okra or making okra water is that it can help to reduce stress and boost your mood at the same time. In fact, extracts of dried okra have been found to have a similar effect as some drugs that are prescribed for anxiety.
The Scientific World Journal published a clinical trial on how eating okra extracts can have a calming effect and get rid of stress. It was found that okra has an anti-anxiety, anti-stress, and anti-depression effect. Okra supplements helped to induce calm and reduce physiological and biochemical responses to stress. The dried okra had a similar effect to benzodiazepine drugs that treat depression and anxiety.
Research carried out in 2013 found that okra extracts have antidepressant properties. In one clinical trial, okra extracts were as effective as some pharmaceutical antidepressants.
Protects the liver
Okra also has properties that protect the liver from damage and can prevent liver disease. A study published in the Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal discovered that okra has an antioxidant effect on liver tissue. In the study, okra helped to stop liver disease and had liver-protective properties. Okra extracts increased protein concentration in the liver and helped to counter the effects of liver disease.
Precautions with Okra
Though okra is generally safe to eat and is used to help treat various ailments, however, there are some precautions that you should be aware of.
Kidney stones. People suffering from kidney stones may want to avoid consuming okra because it contains sources of calcium oxalates, and studies have shown that these minerals can form kidney stones.
Gastrointestinal problems. Okra is high in fructose and if you have fructose intolerance okra can cause digestive issues. This includes excess gas, diarrhea, bloating and abdominal cramping. Those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may also want to avoid okra because symptoms tends to escalate after eating the fruit.
Blood clotting. The vitamin K content of okra means that it can help with blood clotting. However, high amounts of okra can affect blood-thinning medication. If you are at risk of blood clotting, you should speak to your doctor about using okra for its health benefits.
Okra and Pregnancy
According to studies, okra has many health benefits for the general population and can enhance your health. There is no medical research pointing to specific precautions for pregnant women using okra. However, if you have fructose intolerance, are susceptible to to kidney stones or blood clots, you should speak to your doctor before eating okra
How to Use Okra for its Health Benefits
The taste and consistency of okra depends on the method of preparation.
Okra water for diabetes
To get the many health benefits of okra, lots of people make their own okra water. Okra-infused water can help treat diabetes. This also makes sure that many of the vitamins and nutrients aren’t destroyed due to overcooking.
How to make healthy okra water:
- Thoroughly wash 4 medium size okra pods.
- Slice down both ends of the pods.
- Poke the pods with a fork on opposite sides or split them in half.
- Place in an 8-oz. glass of water and leave overnight.
- In the morning, squeeze the goopy substance from the pods before discarding them from the water.
- Drink daily to help give your health a boost and benefit from the nutritional content of okra.
How to get the health benefits of cooked okra
Many people, especially the Africans love the method of preparing okra where it becomes slimy. However, this method is being detested by others. There are ways to cook okra to make the pods taste delicious.
- Always cut the okra just before adding to a dish. This prevents the slime forming too early.
- Soak whole okra pods in vinegar or lemon juice for 30 minutes before cooking. Rinse well and dry before cutting and using.
- If using okra as a thickener for gumbo or stews, blanch the whole, uncut okra first. Add chopped slices of okra 10 minutes before the end of cooking.