Okra or commonly known as lady’s finger is a widely consumed vegetable in tropical regions. Especially in Ghanaian kitchen okra is one of the most versatile foods, which are loved and consumed by all.
It is biologically categorized as a fruit but is generally consumed as a vegetable. For men, there are assertions that men who eat too much of it could affect their waist BUT no studies confirm this.
However, okra presents much good news for men and women from a scientific perspective and I examine it in this article.
Rich in nutrients
Okra boasts an impressive nutrient profile.
The US Department of Agriculture reports that one cup (100 grams) of raw okra contains:
- Calories: 33
- Carbs: 7 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Magnesium: 14% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Folate: 15% of the DV
- Vitamin A: 14% of the DV
- Vitamin C: 26% of the DV
- Vitamin K: 26% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 14% of the DV
Two studies (Carr and Maggini, 2017; DiNicolantonio et al. 2015) found that okra is a good source of vitamins C and K1. Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient that aids holistic immune function, and vitamin K1 is a fat-soluble vitamin known for its role in blood clotting.
Moreover, okra is low in calories and carbs and contains some protein and fiber. Numerous fruits and vegetables lack protein, which makes okra somewhat unique.
Eating enough protein is linked with weight management, blood sugar control, bone structure, and muscle mass (Pasiakos SM, 2015; Devries and Phillips, 2015).
Okra is loaded with numerous antioxidants. One study(Xia et al. 2015) found that the main antioxidants in okra are polyphenols, including flavonoids and isoquercetin, as well as vitamins A and C.
Tressera-Rimbau et al.(2017) note that eating a diet high in polyphenols may improve heart health by lowering the risk of blood clots and oxidative damage. It may also support brain health as it can penetrate the brain and protect against inflammation (Sarubbo et al. 2018), enhance symptoms of aging and improve cognition, learning, and memory.
Decreases heart diseases risk
The thick-gel nature of okra called mucilage plays an important role as it kind binds cholesterol during digestion and triggers it to get rid of the body with the stool instead of maintaining it in the body.
For instance, Wang et al.(2014) conducted an 8-week duration randomly separated mice into 3 groups and gave them a high-fat diet containing 1% or 2% okra powder or a high-fat diet without okra powder. It was found that the mice on the okra diet got rid of extra cholesterol in their stools and had decreased total blood cholesterol levels than the control group.
Okra also contains polyphenols. For instance, Medina-Remón et al.(2017) conducted a 4-year study on 1,100 people and found that those who ate a diet rich in polyphenols had reduced inflammatory markers linked with heart disease.
Okra also contains a type of protein called lectin, which may inhibit the growth of human cancer cells. These properties have been reported to demonstrate potential in many cancer cells, which are adumbrated as follows:
The first study report: Okra kills 72% of human breast cancer cells in vitro
This study was conducted by Monte et al. (2014) and found that the lectin in common okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) was shown to kill up to 72% of human breast cancer cells (MCF7) in vitro, mostly by inducing programmed cell death (apoptosis). The Okra lectin was found to reduce the growth of breast cancer cells by 63%. In this study, the lectin was found in okra seeds, and researchers got their lectin by water extraction from okra seed meal. This anti-cancer lectin was found in 2012 and contained anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive (pain-relieving) properties, which makes it a very interesting compound for future research.
Doreddula et al.’s (2014) study found that the okra seed extracts have an antioxidant, anti-stress effect in the bloodstream of mice. Managing stress levels is an important part of managing diabetes. Long-term, high-stress levels can cause blood sugar levels to spike.
Okra, Pregnant women
Okra is a good source of folate, with 1 cup (100 grams) providing 15% of a woman’s daily needs for this nutrient. Folate (vitamin B9) is an important nutrient for pregnant women. It helps lower the risk of a neural tube defect, which affects the brain and spine of a developing fetus (16Trusted Source). It’s recommended that all women of childbearing age consume 400 mcg of folate daily.
Drinking “okra water” is a popular new method of using okra. Some have even suggested that drinking it helps lessen diabetes symptoms.
The drink is made by putting okra pods in water and soaking them overnight. Some of the valuable nutrients in the skin and seed pods will be absorbed into the water.
If you’re not crazy about the taste of okra, drinking this okra water solution is a quick and simple way to derive the benefits of okra without eating it.
Some people prefer to cut the okra into thin slices instead of soaking the pods whole. If you’re going to prepare okra water this way, be prepared for a slightly bitter drink.
Okra peel and powdered seeds
Okra peel is the most traditional way to use okra medicinally.
In the preliminary studies done to investigate the benefits of using okra, using shredded okra peel was seen to be the most favorable way to ingest it.
You can prepare okra to peel yourself by using a handheld kitchen grater or a lemon zester. Though there’s no known limit for how much okra peel someone should eat at one time, half of a teaspoon of okra peel should be more than enough for your body to benefit.
Powdered okra seeds are dried out before being ground down. Ingesting the powder from the seeds as a supplement has also been researched and seen to be beneficial.
The process of making the powder is a bit time- and labor-intensive. However, you can easily buy powdered okra seeds from health food stores and online suppliers.