If you’re looking to expand the variety of vegetables you eat you might want to consider adding Okra to your shopping list. Besides being low in calories, Okra is packed with essential vitamins and nutrients including fiber, Vitamin C, Folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Niacin, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Magnesium, Manganese, Beta Carotene, Lutein and Zeaxanthin.
Okra is a green, flowering plant from the mallow family. Its scientific name is Abelmoschus esculentus but it’s known colloquially as ladies’ fingers in many parts of the world. It was discovered as far back as 3500 and was used by ancient Egyptians and people of South Asia, West Africa and Ethiopia. Okra is usually grown throughout the tropical and warm temperate regions around the world and it’s highly prized for its fibrous fruits or “pods.”
Video: Health Benefits of Okra
There are many nutrients and vitamins that are found in Okra plant. In addition to fiber, Okra contains variety of other healthy vitamins and minerals, some of which are listed below.
•Unsaturated Fats: These are fatty acids that increase cell membrane fluidity and contain fewer calories than other fats.
•Fiber: Helps in absorption of excess body water and eases defecation.
•Linoleic Acid: It is an omega-6 fatty acid (polyunsaturated) that is essential for proper health.
•Oleic Acid: It is an omega-9 fatty acid (monounsaturated) that:
i. Decreases bad cholesterol (LDL)
ii. Increases HDL cholesterol levels, which is good
iii. Hinders the effects of diseases that target the brain and adrenal glands; such as adrenoleukodystrophy (ADL)
iv. Reduces blood pressure
•Vitamins: Okra contains Vitamin C, which participates in several enzyme reactions such as collagen synthesis, which if imbalanced causes scurvy. It also helps with proper metabolism. Vitamins K and E are also present.
•Folate: It is a naturally occurring form of vitamin B9 and is used in the synthesis, repair and methylation of DNA as well as helping in rapid cell growth and division.
•Antioxidants: They are primarily responsible for keeping body toxicity levels in check as well as eliminating unnecessary and dangerous substances from the body.
•Minerals: They include Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium and Zinc.
OKRA HEALTH BENEFITS
1. Prevention of Diabetes – The high fiber content in Okra, as well as the presence of antioxidants and other nutrients, normalizes blood sugar levels. This helps in keeping diabetes at bay.
2. Healthy Pregnancy – Okra contains folate, which is a vital B vitamin that optimizes the production and maintenance of new cells. It is essential for preventing spina bifida and other birth defects. Vitamin C, which is also vital for fetal development is found in Okra as well.
3. Abates Kidney Disease – Those who commonly consume okra are found to exhibit the signs of kidney damage far less than those who don’t- especially diabetics. Avoiding kidney disease is a primary step in preventing the occurrence of diabetes.
4. Improves Digestive Health – The dietary fiber contained within the okra plant helps in maintaining efficient operation of the digestive tract by cleaning out the gastro-intestinal system.
In addition, the mucilaginous okra seeds have shown to have following health benefits:
*provide a natural lining to the intestinal mucosa
*protect against ulcerations, dyspepsia
*reduce bacterial imbalances.
The combined effect is:-lowered inflammation-increased active transportation of nutritional take up (conversion)-reduced fluid retention
5. Improves Respiratory Health
The vitamin C in Okra helps with preventing wheezing and other respiratory problems which can later manifest as serious diseases like asthma.
6. Improves Skin: This is, again, made possible by the vitamin C in Okra. It increases the vibrancy and vitality of skin tissue by aiding in collagen formation, proper skin pigmentation and rejuvenation of damaged skin cells.
Caution: Even thought it has been shown that Okra is extremely safe and very rarely causes any allergic reaction, one should be aware that it contains oxalic and oleic acids which may cause a negative reaction in individuals who are allergic to these compounds . If this occurs, just like with any allergic reaction, it should be advised to visit a local clinic or a doctor office for proper allergy medication, which is usually covered by EHIC card that is commonly used to cover the costs.