What is an Okra?
Okra contains folate which help reduce the neural tube defects in a newborn baby. Okra, also known as “lady’s fingers,” is a green flowering plant. Okra belongs to the same plant family as hibiscus and cotton. The term “okra” most commonly refers to the edible seedpods of the plant.
Okra has long been favored as a food for the health-conscious. It contains potassium, vitamin B, vitamin C, folic acid, and calcium. It’s low in calories and has a high dietary fiber content. Recently, a new benefit of including okra in your diet is being considered. Okra has been suggested to help manage blood sugar in cases of type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
Incidences of diabetes diagnoses are only increasing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The verdict is out on whether okra can be used successfully as a direct diabetes treatment. However, the okra plant does have many proven health benefits. Read on to see if okra could be a viable part of your diabetes treatment plan.
Okra contains potassium, vitamin B, vitamin C, folic acid, and calcium. It’s low in calories and has a high dietary fiber content. It has many health benefits which includes strengthens bones,aids in digestion, improves vision, skin care among others.
Okra Nutrition History
Okra’s scientific name is Abelmoschus esculentus or Hibiscus esculentus. In various parts of the world, it’s known as okra, lady’s fingers, gumbo, okro (English); gombo, bendakai, bhindi (India), Kacang bendi (Malay) and quimgombó (Spanish).
“The Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (Volume 2)” authored by George Gregory (1754–1808) reports that okra is from the hibiscus family Syrian mallow, a genus of the polyandria order, in the monadelphia class of plants, and in the natural method ranking under the 37th order, columniferre. Of this genus, there are 45 species; one of the most remarkable is the esculentus, or eatable hibiscus, which rises to five or six feet and has broad five-parted leaves and large yellow flowers. The pod or okra is from two to six inches long,and one inch in diameter. When ripe, it opens longitudinally in five different places and discharges a number of heart-shaped seeds.
Some of the world’s most powerful women, Cleopatra of Egypt and Yang Guifei of China, loved to eat okra, according to the history record.
Whether using the word okra or gumbo, both of these names are of African origin. Gumbo is believed to be of a Portuguese corruption, quingombo, of the word quillobo, native name for the plant in the Congo and Angola area of Africa.
Okra was apparently discovered in the Abyssinian center of origin of cultivated plants, an area that includes present-day Ethiopia, the mountainous or plateau portion of Eritrea, and the eastern, higher part of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.
Since the Spanish Moors and the Egyptians of the 12th and 13th centuries used an Arab word for okra, it probably was taken into Egypt by the Muslims from the East who conquered Egypt in the seventh century. It’s also believed that the plant was taken from Ethiopia to Arabia across the narrow Red Sea or the narrower strait at its southern end. Then it was spread over North Africa, completely around the Mediterranean, and eastward, reaching India after the beginning of the Christian Era.
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Modern travelers have found okra growing wild along the White Nile and elsewhere in the upper Nile country, as well as in Ethiopia. One of the earliest accounts of okra is by a Spanish Moor who visited Egypt in 1216, describing the plant in detail stating that the pods were eaten when young and tender.
It makes sense that it was likely introduced to this country by the French colonists of Louisiana in the early 1700s. It had been introduced to the New World, however, before 1658, reaching Brazil supposedly from Africa and known in Surinam in 1686.
While records of okra during early American colonial times are lacking, it must have been common among French colonists. It was being grown as far north as Philadelphia in 1748, and Thomas Jefferson said it was known in Virginia before 1781. From about 1800, it has been written about by numerous gardeners with several distinct varieties known as early as 1806.
A powerhouse of valuable nutrients, okra provides numerous health benefits. Known as a high-antioxidant food, okra may support improvement in cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, digestive diseases, and even some cancers. Okra is also abundant in several vitamins and minerals, including thiamin, vitamin B6, folic acid, riboflavin/vitamin B2, zinc and dietary fiber.
Here are seven okra nutrition benefits:
1. Source of Calcium
Okra provides ample calcium and magnesium, helping prevent both calcium deficiency and magnesium deficiency. In addition to healthy bones, calcium is needed to regulate heart rhythms, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. (4) It also helps with muscle function and nerve-signaling functions.
For those who suffer from the symptoms of lactose intolerance or are vegans or vegetarians, okra can help provide enough calcium to make up the lack of dairy. It provides nearly 51 milligrams of calcium per serving, and while that is not enough for the day with the recommendation daily value at around 1,000 milligrams for most adults, it can be integrated as part of the diet on regular basis.
2. Improves Heart Health
The soluble fiber within okra helps naturally reduce cholesterol and, therefore, decreases the chance of cardiovascular disease, according to the Journal of Food Processing & Technology, making the consumption of okra is an efficient method to manage the body’s cholesterol levels. Okra additionally is loaded with pectin that can help reduce high blood cholesterol simply by modifying the creation of bile within the intestines.
3. Improves Eyesight
Okra is also used to improve eyesight! Okra pods are fantastic source of vitamin A and beta-carotene, which are both important nourishment for sustaining excellent eyesight (along with healthy skin). Additionally, this nourishment may help inhibit eye-associated illnesses.
4. Good Source of Protein
Okra nutrition benefits are so plentiful that it’s been called the “perfect villager’s vegetable,” with its robust nature, dietary fiber and distinct seed protein balance of both lysine and tryptophan amino acids. The amino acid composition of okra seed protein is actually comparable to that of soybean — the protein efficiency ratio is higher than that of soybean, and the amino acid pattern of the protein renders it an adequate supplement to legume- or cereal-based diets.
Indeed, the okra seed is known to be rich in high-quality protein, especially with regard to its content of essential amino acids relative to other plant protein sources, making okra one of the top vegetable protein foods out there.
5. Helps Lower Cholesterol
Research from the Pakistan Journal of Food Science found that nearly half of the contents of the okra pod is soluble fiber in the form of gums and pectins, which help lower serum cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart diseases. That means you can add okra to the list of cholesterol-lowering foods. Okra binds excess cholesterol and toxins in the bile acids, making it easy to eliminate and thus preventing many health problems.
Okra also assures easy passage of the waste from the body. The mucilage in okra has medicinal applications when used as a plasma replacement or blood volume expander. The mucilage of okra binds cholesterol and bile acid, carrying toxins dumped into it by the liver with it.
6. Helps Stabilize Blood Sugar
Okra helps stabilize blood sugar by regulating the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract. The okra seed contains blood glucose normalization qualities and lipid profiles that may help naturally treat diabetes. In a 2011 study published in the Journal of Pharmacy & BioAllied Sciences, researchers in India found that when subjects were fed dried and ground okra peels and seeds, they experienced a reduction in their blood glucose levels, while others showed a gradual decrease in blood glucose following regular feeding of okra extract for about 10 days.
Outside of scientific research, many people with diabetes have reported decreasing blood sugar levels after soaking cut-up okra pieces in water overnight and then drinking the juice in the morning, while in Turkey roasted okra seeds have been used as a traditional diabetes medicine for generations.
Amount Per 100 grams
- Calories 33
- Total Fat 0.2 g
- Cholesterol 0 mg
- Sodium 7 mg
- Potassium 299 mg – 8% RDA
- Carbohydrate 7 g – 2% RDA
- Dietary fiber 3.2 g – 12% RDA
- Sugar 1.5 g
- Protein 1.9 g – 3% RDA
- Vitamin A 14% RDA
- Vitamin C 38% RDA
- Calcium 8% RDA
- Iron 3% RDA
- Vitamin B-6 10% RDA
- Magnesium 14% RDA
Health Benefits of Okra
1. Strengthens Bones
Okra are high in vitamin K which helps absorb calcium which helps strengthen the bone and prevent osteoporosis.
2. Improves Digestion
Okra contains mucilaginous fiber which help in bowel movement but adding bulk to the digestion material thereby reducing gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, cramping, constipation, and excess gas.
Okra is high in fiber. Eight medium-sized pods are estimated to contain 3 grams of fiber. This bulk fiber quality has several benefits. It helps digestion, cuts hunger cravings, and keeps those who eat it fuller for longer. Foods that are high in fiber content are an important part of dietary treatment options for diabetes. Increased dietary fiber intake has been shown to promote better glycemic control and improve insulin sensitivity.
3. Improves Vision
Okra contains high content of vitamin A which is essential for vision improvement and prevents macular degeneration and cataracts.
They also contain antioxidants which neutralizes free radicals which are responsible for cell degradation in the body, including those responsible for vision.
4. Skin Care
Vitamin A antioxidants are also able to protect skin health, by promoting quicker healing, reducing the appearance of scars and acne, and eliminating wrinkles.
5. Boosts Immunity
The various antioxidant components of okra make it very beneficial to fight off free radicals and the high vitamin C 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 foreign pathogens and materials in the body that can weaken the immune system.
6. Lowers Blood Pressure
Okra has potassium which maintain proper fluid balance in the body because it balances sodium. Potassium also helps relax the blood vessels and arteries, which reduces blood pressure and lessens the strain on the cardiovascular system. This means that the chances of clotting and atherosclerosis will be greatly reduced.
Okra’s peel and seed lower blood glucose level by inhibiting carb-breaking enzymes, increasing sensitivity to insulin, and ensuring there are sufficient insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.More insulin and less breakdown of carbs to glucose means lower blood sugar. Medical research on okra for diabetes management is still in early stages. We do know that according to one study, okra water improved the blood sugar levels of pregnant rats that had gestational diabetes. Roasted okra seeds, which have long been used in Turkey to treat diabetes, have also been studied and proven to have a positive effect on lowering blood sugar.
8. Prevents Gastritis
H. pylori bacteria infect the stomach lining and cause inflammation called gastritis. Okra juice contains anti-adhesive compounds that bind to the surface of free-floating bacteria in the gut.
9. Heart Health
Okra promotes cholesterol degradation and inhibits the production of fat in the body. It thus decreases total cholesterol which prevent clogging of arteries which help protect against heart diseases like atherosclerosis.
10. Foetal Development
11. Anti-Stress Effects
There is evidence that the seed extracts of okra 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. Mental health should be a part of any diabetes treatment plan, and using okra and its derivative seeds can be a part of that plan
12. May Help Lower Cholesterol
Okra has been found to lower cholesterol levels in diabetic lab mice. Foods with high fiber content and antioxidant qualities are recommended for those with diabetes because they lower cholesterol. The American Heart Association points out that people with diabetes are more likely to have unhealthy cholesterol levels. When high cholesterol levels are combined with diabetes, the outlook is not good. That’s why it’s so critical to make sure that your diet has healthy cholesterol levels.
13. Anti-Fatigue Benefit
One study indicates that recovery times and “fatigue levels” can be improved by use of the okra plant. By including okra in your diet along with a healthy exercise routine, you may be able to work out for longer and recover more quickly from your exercise. Cardiovascular activity is an essential part of preventing and treating diabetes. This means that the okra plant may contribute to a more active lifestyle.
Forms in Which Okra is Found
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 are going to prepare okra water this way, be prepared for a drink that is slightly bitter.
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 peel yourself by using a handheld kitchen grater or a lemon zester. Though there is 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.
Okra Recipe Ideas
The gel inside of okra is a thickening agent, making it a common ingredient in some soups and stews. If you’d like to start to use okra as a part of your diet, you can start with a simple gumbo recipe.
Pickled okra is another popular okra variation that replaces the bitterness of the okra pod with a sour taste. Pickling okra also softens the peel. If you own a dehydrator, drying out okra pods and seasoning them with sea salt makes a tasty snack to satisfy your craving for crunch.
Okra is traditionally a southern U.S. plant that thrives in warm weather. Here’s how to grow okra plants in your own garden! Okra is easy to grow and use and looks great throughout the growing season due to its beautiful flowers. It’s also rich in vitamin A and low in calories, which makes it a great addition to your diet.
You can start okra seeds indoors in peat pots under full light 3 to 4 weeks before the last spring frost date.
You can also start okra directly in your garden 3 to 4 weeks before the last spring frost date as long as you cover the plants with a cold frame or grow tunnel until the weather warms up. Make sure that the covering is 2 to 3 feet tall so that the plants have room to grow.
If you do not start your okra plants early, wait until there is stable warm weather. You can plant okra in the garden when the soil has warmed to 65° to 70°F.
Plant okra in fertile, well-drained soil in full light about ½ to 1 inch deep and 12 to 18 inches apart. You can soak the seeds overnight in tepid water to help speed up germination.
If you are planting okra transplants, be sure to space them 1 to 2 feet apart to give them ample room to grow.
Okra plants are tall, so be sure to space out the rows 3 to 4 feet apart.
Eliminate weeds when the plants are young, then mulch heavily to prevent more weeds from growing. Apply a layer of mulch 4 to 8 inches high. You should also side-dress the plants with 10-10-10, aged manure, or rich compost (½ pound per 25 feet of row). You could also apply a balanced liquid fertilizer monthly. Learn more about soil amendments and preparing soil for planting.
When the seedlings are about 3 inches tall, thin the plants so that they are 10 to 18 inches apart.
Keep the plants well watered throughout the summer months; 1 inch of water per week is ideal, but use more if you are in a hot, arid region.
After the first harvest, remove the lower leaves to help speed up production.
Pests And Diseases
- Corn ear worms
- Fusarium wilt
Harvest And Storage
The first harvest will be ready about 2 months after planting.
Harvest the okra when it’s about 2 to 3 inches long. Harvest it every other day.
Cut the stem just above the cap with a knife; if the stem is too hard to cut, the pod is probably too old and should be tossed.
Wear gloves and long sleeves when cutting the okra because most varieties are covered with tiny spines that will irritate your skin, unless you have a spineless variety. Do not worry: this irritation will not happen when you eat them.
To store okra, put the uncut and uncooked pods into freezer bags and keep them in the freezer. You can then prepare the okra any way you like throughout the winter months.
You can also can okra to have it throughout the winter.
‘Annie Oakley’, which takes 52 days to mature and has spineless pods. It grows to about 5 feet tall.
‘Park’s Candelabra Branching’, which is a base-branching okra plant. This type of branching makes picking easy.
‘Louisiana Green Velvet’ is good for big areas; it is vigorous and its plants grow to be 6 feet tall. It is also smooth and spineless.
Okra is sometimes called “lady’s fingers” thanks to the vegetable’s long, slender shape.
Okra can be consumed in a number of ways—raw, pickled, stir-fried—you name it! One of the main reasons that okra is not eaten enough in the average American’s diet? We don’t know what to do with it! But fortunately there are many great okra recipes, especially from the Deep South, that are comforting, delicious and nutritious when the right, healthy fats are used.
Honey and Sesame Roasted Vegetables
- 2 orange carrots
- 2 purple carrots
- 1 small yellow squash
- 1 small zucchini
- 2 cups okra
- 1 sweet potato
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt
- 2 tablespoons cold-pressed sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon local honey
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Wash and chop all veggies.
- Grease a large baking sheet with a small amount of sesame oil. Place chopped veggies onto the greased baking sheet.
- Blend the honey, cinnamon and sesame oil and drizzle the over top, massaging and spreading evenly into veggies.
- Sprinkle on sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and flip veggies, and bake for another 35–40 minutes until golden brown and slightly crisp.
How to make Bhindi Masala/ How to Cook Lady Finger
Half pound okra, 1 and half tablespoon of oil, half teaspoon cumin seed, pinch of Hing, 1 and half tablespoon of coriander powder, half teaspoon of turmeric, half teaspoon chili powder, half teaspoon salt, pepper and mango powder, 1 tablespoon of gram flour and 1 inch of red and yellow pepper finely chopped.
Cut the ends of the okra and cut it into slices. Add oil to the pan and after it’s hot add cumin seeds and Hing. Then add the okra and allow it to fry till it changes its color slightly. Add coriander powder, turmeric, red chili powder and after two minutes add the salt and mango powder. Add gram flour and the red and yellow bell pepper. Stir it for some more time. Serve it with any Indian bread and enjoy.
Note- Before cooking make sure the okras are completely dried, if not the dish might become extremely slimy.
How to make Okra Juice?
Cut 2 to 3 Okra into small pieces, add 2-3 slices of ginger, add some lemon juice, few pieces of cucumber, 1 tablespoon of honey and add water. Blend it into a juice. Serve with ice cubes and enjoy the healthy drink that will give you all the benefits of okra.
Now that you know the benefits of okra water and the way to cook it, what are you waiting for? Grab those green veggies and be healthy.
Negative Effects Of Okra
It is advisable for people taking metformin not to consume okra as it interferes with the drug’s action. Metformin helps to keep sugar levels in control and okra intake may nullify its effects. Moreover, okra is rich in oxalates which may bind with existing gall and kidney stones and cause them to deteriorate. Therefore okra should be consumed in optimum quantities.