Okra also popularly known as lady's finger is a pod vegetable that has a gooey or rather slimy texture when cut open. Okra pods are cooked, pickled or added to salads. Aside from having a delicate taste, okra pods have excellent nutritional value. This article provides an in-depth perspective of health benefits of okra (lady's finger) and nutritional value associated with it.
Okra plant requires a warm, tropical or subtropical temperature for cultivation. The plant is found in abundance in South East Asia, Ethiopia and West Africa. Soil condition greatly determines quality of okra. The two varieties of okra are green okra and red okra. The flavor of both varieties is the same, however, when cooked, red okra pods turn green. Green okra is more commonly available in vegetable markets.
Red okra is often more expensive than green okra because of its unavailability all year long. Okra has a huge consumption in South East Asia, Middle East and Africa.
When cut open okra pods have soft-round-white edible seeds. Okra is a great source of soluble fiber that helps with proper natural bowel movement. Leaves of okra are also used in cooking. In South East Asian regions leaves of okra are used in several stir fry dishes. The leaves of okra have a neutral taste and are often used as an ingredient in salads. Seeds of okra are used to press oil. The color of okra oil is greenish- yellow in color. The oil has a pleasant odor and taste. Furthermore, the oil is rich in unsaturated fats such as linoleic acid and oleic acid. Research reveals okra oil is can be suitably used as biofuel.
Okra is an excellent source of fiber which helps maintain a healthy digestive system. The vegetable provides a good value of magnesium, iron and calcium. One cup of okra (raw) provides approximately 33 calories and also includes a high percentage of bone strengthening vitamin K. Okra provides 36 percent of RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) of Vitamin C that helps fight infections, and 43 percent of RDA of manganese. Folate present in okra (1 cup serving) gives 22 percent RDA.
The lines below discuss various health benefits associated with okra.
1. Helps maintain healthy Cholesterol levels
Regular consumption of lady’s finger ensures lesser absorption of cholesterol thereby minimizing the risk of cardiovascular diseases drastically. By promoting cholesterol degradation it helps decrease triglyceride and total cholesterol thereby enhancing excretion of acid bile in feces. By consuming okra regularly the clogging of arteries is greatly minimized and in the process protects from diseases associated with the heart.
2. Prevents Constipation
Okra is consumed in many households in South East Asia because of its ability to prevent constipation. Okra is an excellent source of soluble fiber which helps facilitate proper bowel movement thereby ensuring proper disposal of motion.
3. Treatment for Asthma
In many Asian households individuals suffering from Asthma are put on an okra diet. Okra is a good source of diverse minerals and vitamins that are vital for a healthy body. Consuming okra regularly reduces the number of asthmatic attacks. Also, the water in which okra is soaked overnight is given to individuals suffering from asthma for relief.
4. Helps with varied Diabetic Conditions
Individuals with diabetic conditions should include lady’s finger in their daily diet. Okra seeds and okra peel consumption help lower blood glucose levels. Regular consumption of this vegetable helps inhibit carb breaking enzymes and increases sensitivity associated with insulin. Daily okra consumption helps manage diabetes mellitus effectively by ensuring sufficiency of cells producing insulin in the pancreas. Okra seeds also play a pivotal role in preventing intestinal breakdown of carbs to glucose by inhibition of alpha-glucosidase.
5. Has the ability to reduce fatigue levels
A natural way to minimize fatigue in this fast paced world is by consuming healthy food. The presence of antioxidant flavonoids and polyphenols in okra help promote storage of glycogen in the liver. Glycogen is a polysaccharide of glucose that serves as a body fuel reserve, a form of energy which ensures it takes a longer time to get tired.
6. Gives skin a natural glow
Consuming okra regularly ensures healthy glowing skin with natural glow. Okra is an excellent source of Vitamin A that aids in repair of skin cells thereby making skin look younger and vibrant. Furthermore the complex nutrients present in lady’s finger prevent skin pigmentation and repair skin cells contributing towards skin rejuvenation. Also dietary fiber present in okra keeps the digestive tract healthy and in turn reflects through glowing skin.
7. Excellent for Bone Health
Individuals with arthritis conditions should include okra in their daily diet. The presence of vitamin K in okra plays an important role in strengthening bones. Individuals that consume okra regularly are less likely to develop osteoporosis.
8. Ensures Good Heart Health
Lady’s finger is rich in minerals and vitamins that include potassium, an essential aspect that determines good health. Potassium is an essential requirement to maintain proper body fluid balance, as it balances sodium. Also, potassium stimulates relaxation of arteries and blood vessels which in turn reduce blood pressure thereby reducing overall strain of the cardiovascular system. When the cardiovascular system is healthy atherosclerosis and clotting is reduced greatly.
9. Excellent for pregnant women
Okra is good to have at different stages of pregnancy. The presence of folates in okra reduces neural tube defects in new born babies greatly. And so, okra is recommended for women during pregnancy or pre-conception.
10. Helps in Weight Loss
Okra is a nutritional powerhouse. Okra pods are loaded with healthy vital nutrients such as calcium, fiber, zinc, protein, and iron. Okra is recommended by nutritionists and dieticians in weight loss diets for individuals because of the presence of soluble fiber with makes you full faster. This helps keep check on calorie intake and achieve weight loss goals. With the feeling of long lasting satiety binge eating is curbed immensely.
11. Excellent for strengthening hair root and cleaning scalp
Okra plays a pivotal role in strengthening hair and giving it volume. When you boil okra with water you see transparent mucilage (gooey slime). This mucilage can be applied on hair and then washed clean with an herbal shampoo. The mucilage brings back bounce in your hair and also strengthens hair from the roots. The mucilage also acts as a natural moisturizer for itchy scalp or dry scalp. The mucilage can be mixed with yogurt and applied on the scalp and washed clean to get rid of dandruff. Okra gives hair natural shine and helps keep the scalp clean
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12. Minimizes the risk of Cancer
Research and studies reveal okra has the capacity to keep cancer at bay. Lecetin isolated from okra facilitates cell suicide in breast cancer cells. The antioxidant activity in okra plays a vital role in prevention and spread of free radicals that damage body cells and weaken the immune system. Incorporating okra in your daily diet greatly minimizes the risk of cancer.
13. Natural Vision Booster
Okra is an excellent source of antioxidant components like beta carotenes, lutein and xanthein. The powerful compounds neutralize and destroy free radicals which are responsible for cell degradation in the body including those associated with vision. Regular consumption of okra in your diet improves your eye sight and minimizes the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
14. Helps Build better Immunity
The antioxidant components present in okra play an important role in fighting harmful free radicals that destroy body cells. The high content of vitamin C present in okra ensures better immunity. Vitamin C plays an important role in stimulation and production of white blood cells which help combat diseases and infection. Foreign pathogens that can compromise immune system in the body are restricted by the presence of white blood cell production.
15. Strengthens stomach lining and prevents gastritis
Gastritis is an inflammation or erosion caused by H. pylori bacteria in the stomach lining. The presence of anti adhesive compounds in okra help bind with bacteria in the gut forming a thin wall which in turn blocks new bacteria from docking on the stomach lining. Okra juices prevent H. pylori infections that damage the stomach lining.
Since ancient times okra has been used as a form of treatment and medicine. Mentioned below are the various medicinal uses of okra
Carbohydrates- 7.48 g
Sugars- 1.48 g
Dietary fiber- 3.2 g
Fat- 0.19 g
Water- 89.6 g
(Nutritional Value source: USDA Nutrition Database)
Okra can be used in different ways in cooking.
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