Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus), also known as lady’s finger, bhindi or gumbo is a highly nutritious vegetable, usually eaten while the pod is green, tender and immature and is a perennial flowering plant that belongs to the mallow family. The appearance of okra is comparable to that of a grooved pepper and food experts believe that okra originated in Africa. History says that Cleopatra of Egypt loved to eat okra and that okra’s popularity has seen that it never disappears from local markets or convenience stores throughout the world, throughout the year.
Nutritional Content of Okra
Okra is a popular health food that is high in fiber, vitamin C and folate. Okra is also a source of many antioxidants and nutrients including calcium, potassium, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, vitamin A and magnesium. It also contains starch and some fat which is mainly unsaturated.
Health Benefits of Okra
1. Okra’s fiber is superior and helps stabilize blood sugar by curbing the rate of absorption of sugar thus making it an anti-diabetic.
2. Okra fiber is excellent for feeding the good bacteria in the gut and contributes to the health of the intestinal tract.
3. The rich fiber and mucilaginous content in okra pods helps in smooth peristalsis of digested food particles and can help relieve constipation.
4. Fresh pods are a good source of folates whose consumption is especially good during pregnancy because it prevents babies being born with birth defects.
5. Okra helps in the treatment of lung inflammation, sore throat and irritable bowel syndrome.
6. Okra contains vitamin K which is necessary in the blood clotting process and plays a vital role in the strengthening of bones in the body.
7. The soluble fibers in okra, called pectin, helps lower blood cholesterol levels by 10%.
8. Asthma can be treated by including okra in one’s meals.
9. Okra is good for the skin and protects the skin from pimples while maintaining smooth and beautiful skin.
10. Regular consumption of raw or cooked okra can help avoid obesity.
11. Okra can help lower the risk of cataracts and is believed to protect against some forms of cancer expansion, especially colorectal cancer. This is due to the high amounts of vitamin A and flavonoid antioxidants such as beta carotenes, xanthin and lutein.
12. Okra can prevent sun strokes.
13. Okra pods are an excellent source of vitamin C which helps the body’s immunity system in the fight against infectious agents, cold, flu and harmful free radicals.
14. Okra is great in protecting against atherosclerosis owing to its action of supporting the structure of capillaries.