Okra, also known as lady’s finger, bhindi, bamia or gumbo, belongs to the mallow family. This plant is mainly grown in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions. It is a good low-calorie, fat-free, nutrient-dense addition to any diet.
Fresh, immature okra pods and the leaves are used in different cuisines as a vegetable. You can enjoy it fried, boiled or pickled.
The seeds are pressed to make the greenish-yellow, edible okra oil, which has a pleasant taste and odor. The oil is high in unsaturated fats, such as oleic and linolenic acids.
Okra has high fiber, vitamins C and K, and folate content as well as calcium and potassium. It also contains niacin (vitamin B3), thiamine (vitamin B1), vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, beta-carotene and lutein. In addition, it has powerful antioxidant properties.
The various vitamins, minerals and nutrients in okra are responsible for its numerous health benefits.
1. Reduces Blood Sugar Levels
Okra contains insulin-like properties that help reduce blood sugar levels. It also has a low glycemic index of about 20, making it a good choice for people with diabetes.
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Pharmacy & BioAllied Sciences confirmed the antidiabetic and antihyperlipidemic potential of abelmoschus esculentus (okra) peel and seed powder in diabetic rats.
Another study published in the same year in ISRN Pharmaceutics found that okra helps reduce the absorption of glucose, which in turn lowers blood sugar levels.
- Cut off the ends of 4 or 5 okras and prick the body using a fork. Instead of pricking, you can also slit halfway.
- Soak the pricked okras in a glass of water overnight.
- The next morning, remove the okras and drink the water on an empty stomach.
- Do this daily to maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
2. Lowers Bad Cholesterol
Okra may also help lower cholesterol levels. A 2014 study published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology found that the hypolipidemic activity of okra skin extract provides cholesterol-lowering benefits.
It inhibits pancreatic cholesterol esterase activity, reduces the efficacy of cholesterol micellization and binds to bile acids, which in turn delays cholesterol absorption and increases its excretion.
In addition, it contains no saturated fats or cholesterol and helps prevent heart disease and other health problems caused by cholesterol in the blood.
Include okra in your diet to lower your bad cholesterol level. You can even take okra extract, after consulting your doctor.
3. Treats Leukorrhea
According to folkloric practice, fresh tender okra pods are beneficial in treating leukorrhea, which causes whitish or yellowish vaginal discharge between menstruations.
Its mucilaginous property helps remove mucous from your system, which in turn reduces vaginal discharge. In addition, it boosts your immune system to help fight the problem.
- Wash 1 cup of fresh okras and cut them into small pieces.
- Boil the pieces in 2 cups of water for about 15 minutes or until the water is reduced by half.
- Strain, divide it into 3 parts and add drink it 3 times a day until you notice improvement in your condition.
4. Promotes a Healthy Pregnancy
Okra is highly recommended for pregnant women. The important B vitamins in it help ensure healthy growth of the baby in the womb and prevent birth defects like spinal bifida.
In addition, it is rich in folic acid that aids in producing and maintaining new cells, which is essential for a healthy pregnancy. Folate also prevents miscarriage. The vitamin C in okra also plays a key role in fetal development.
Include okra in your diet during pregnancy, especially during the 4th and 12th weeks when the neural tube develops in the fetus.
5. Prevents Liver Disease
Okra helps cleanse the liver and prevent liver disease. It contains substances that bind bile acid and cholesterol to detoxify the liver. It even prevents the accumulation of fats in the liver.
In a 2012 study published in the Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal, researchers concluded that the potent antioxidant property of okra extract has the ability to protect against chemically induced liver damage.
To improve your liver health and prevent disease, include okra in your diet or take an okra supplement after consulting your doctor.