The health benefits of okra include its ability to improve digestive health and vision, boost skin health, protect infant health, prevent certain cancers, and strengthen bones. It also improves cardiovascular health, lowers total cholesterol levels, aids the immune system, lowers blood pressure, and protects heart health.
What Is Okra?
Okra is a flowering plant that is known in many parts of the world as ladies’ fingers or bhindi and is most highly prized because of its seed pods. The scientific name of this interesting plant is Abelmoschus esculentusand its origin is still unclear. Contrasting research says that it could have been South Asian, West African, and Ethiopian in origin, but the jury is still out.
Uses Of Okra
Okra is frequently used in dishes from the Caribbean to China, and its popularity is increasing all the time, particularly because of its various uses. This vegetable pod can be used as a pickled vegetable, an ingredient in soups, side dishes, and also utilized for its oil, which can be extracted and used as a vegetable oil.
Okra Nutrition Facts
Okra may not be the most conventional vegetable in the garden, but it has a rich content of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B, C, E, and K, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Furthermore, okra contains high levels of mucilaginous fiber. Most of the health benefits of okra are due to the minerals, vitamins, and organic compounds found in it.
Health Benefits Of Okra
Let us discuss the various health benefits of okra in detail below.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Okra is a good source of both vitamins and minerals, including potassium, which is an essential aspect of human health. Potassium is necessary to maintain proper fluid balance in the body because it balances sodium. Furthermore, potassium helps to relax the blood vessels and arteries, which therefore reduces blood pressure and lessens the strain on the cardiovascular system. This means that clotting and atherosclerosis will be greatly reduced
Okra contains a very high content of vitamin A, as well as antioxidant components like beta carotenes, xanthein, and lutein. Antioxidants are powerful compounds that destroy or neutralize free radicals, which are the dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism. Free radicals are responsible for cell degradation in the body, including those responsible for vision. With high levels of okra in your diet, you can protect your eyes against macular degeneration and cataracts.
Vitamin A antioxidants are also able to protect skin health, by promoting quicker healing, reducing the appearance of scars and acne, and eliminating wrinkles. This is because the antioxidants are able to neutralize the free radicals which may have damaged those skin cells.
The various antioxidant components of okra make it very beneficial to fight off free radicals, but the high vitamin content also means that the body’s immunity is boosted. This vitamin can stimulate the immune system to create white blood cells, which can combat the other foreign pathogens and materials in the body that can weaken the immune system.
Perhaps, the best part of adding okra to your diet is the significant increase it can have on your total fiber intake. Mucilaginous fiber found in okra can help move food through your digestive tract by adding bulk. This means that bowel movements are more regular and there is a reduction in gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, cramping, constipation, and excess gas. Oddly, it also helps prevent diarrhea, because it adds bulk to watery stools. Further, its fiber content can help to clear out excess cholesterol in the body and controls the rate at which sugar is absorbed into the body.
Prepared as Soup In Nigeria
Okra is a good source of vegetable, it is used for cooking in Nigeria, and also other West African countries. It is used for soup together with other ingredients. The northern parts of Nigeria like to slice it and dry it up with sun light for preservation for later use, while the south part prefer to prepare it fresh. No matter how it is prepared, it still maintains it’s nutritional elements.
Word of Caution
One thing you do need to worry about consuming okra is its high levels of oxalates. Oxalates bind to existing kidney and gallstones and cause them to grow and may worsen the associated conditions. Frying okra can also increase your cholesterol intake for the day, so cooking it in other ways is wise if you want to maintain a good cholesterol balance.