While okra is perhaps most often linked with the southern United States, this warm weather vegetable is also quite popular both for culinary as well as medicinal purposes in the Middle East, Africa, and South America.
It can be eaten raw in salads, cooked with a variety of spices and other veggies, as an addition to soup, or even made into okra water. Beyond being a delicious addition to countless dishes of many different types of cuisine, okra is also a powerhouse when it comes to boosting an individual’s health.
Health Benefits of Okra
Get the full details on the various ways in which consuming okra on a regular basis can greatly benefit an individual’s health now.
1. Lowers LDL Cholesterol
Mucilage, the protein- and carbohydrate-rich gummy substance found in okra, seaweed, and other plants attaches itself to cholesterol and removes it from the body.
The American Heart Association states okra’s high amounts of fiber—3.2 grams in one cup—lowers low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. A 2011 Chinese research study discovered mice fed an okra extract had lower total cholesterol.
The magic ingredients in this solution include okra’s nutrients and antioxidants, especially quercetin and isoquercitrin, which can reduce the inflammation behind so many health issues.
There is more good news: since overweight individuals are more likely to have elevated cholesterol, fiber makes them feel full more quickly and for longer. Add to that okra’s low amounts of saturated fat and few calories, and it certainly makes for a cholesterol-busting dynamo.
The tastiest and most nutritious way to prepare okra is baking or grilling, either alone or with other cholesterol-reducing foods like garlic cloves. Be careful not to overcook, as doing so might ‘kill’ the vegetable’s nutrients.
2. Controls Blood Sugar
In a 2011 study, researchers gave rats with diabetes a powder made from the seeds and peel of okra. They discovered the treated animals had lower blood glucose than those in the control group.
Okra’s hefty dose of soluble fiber controls blood sugar by absorbing sugar in the intestines. Even drinking okra water, which is made by infusing water with roasted seeds, effectively controls blood sugar; the concoction is a popular Turkish remedy.
There is another perk; the consumption of liquids, by hydrating the blood, keeps glucose levels in check and can prevent diabetes. In addition, okra is a great source of blood sugar-regulating vitamin B6.
However, a word to the wise is in order. Individuals who take metformin for type 2 diabetes should limit their consumption of okra.
According to a study appearing in the International Scholarly Research Notices, the vegetable can negatively affect the body’s absorption of the medication.
3. Prevents Kidney Disease
Studies have proven eating okra regularly reduces and even prevents damage to the kidneys over time. According to research conducted in 2005 and published in the Jilin Medical Journal, individuals who consumed okra every day exhibited less kidney damage than patients on a diet designed to control diabetes.
Since nearly half of all instances of kidney disease are traced to diabetes, the ability of okra’s fiber to control sugar absorption makes eating the veggie a win-win situation.
And there’s more: as kidney function declines, patients tend to develop additional complications. Patients with chronic kidney disease are more prone to cardiovascular disease than those with healthy kidneys.
Individuals suffering from kidney failure are also at a greater risk of succumbing to heart ailments than kidney problems. A regimen as simple as regularly consuming okra thus not only prevents kidney disease, but wards off related health issues as well.
4. Acts as A Diuretic
Drinking too much water can be uncomfortable, unsightly, and even dangerous. It can make individuals feel and look bloated, gain weight, cause swelling, cause inflammation of the kidneys and related organs, make bathroom visits difficult and painful, and result in conditions like elevated blood pressure and sciatica.
While it is tempting to drink less, doing so can make individuals dehydrated—bringing with it its own set of problems. Happily, the best remedy for excess water retention is a simple one: eating okra.
This veggie acts as a diuretic, increasing urine production, thus allowing the body to naturally detoxify. It’s also a boon for digestive health, proper electrolyte balance, and brain-body communication.
5. Fights Cancer
Okra is a significant source of tumor-busting ingredients. A 2016 review and analysis of sixteen studies indicated folate may lower the risk of breast cancer.
In addition, patients whose diets are low in this nutrient have a higher chance of developing other malignancies as well. One cup of frozen, cooked okra weighs in at a healthy fifteen percent of the recommended daily intake of folate.
Since studies do not show a folate supplement fights cancer, the vegetable itself is what the doctor ordered. And lectin, a variety of protein in okra, was studied for its effect on human breast cancer cells.
The results were impressive: seventy-two percent of malignant cells were killed and their growth was reduced by sixty-three percent.
There is, in addition, another perk to okra’s hefty amount of insoluble fiber, and it is a lower likelihood of rectal and colon cancers. The antioxidants in okra also keep free radicals at bay and act against cell mutations.