Okra or ladyfinger is a popular vegetable of the North East African region and is cultivated in tropical and warm regions. It is scientifically known as “Abelmoschus esculentus”. Being an excellent source of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, polyphenols, and dietary fibers, etc, okra provides numerous health and beauty benefits.
Health Benefits of Okra
Some major health benefits of okra are as follows
(1) Promotes Weight Loss
Okra has a low calorific value of 30 calories per 100 grams and promotes weight loss.
Dietary fibers in okra provide stomach satiety and control overeating, a major cause of obesity.
(2) Regulates Blood Pressure
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a common health condition that affects millions around the world and causes cardiovascular and other health problems.
Okra contains potassium, a natural vasodilator that relaxes blood vessels, improves blood circulation, and provides relief from hypertension or high blood pressure.
Despite the advantage, consume okra in moderation as too much potassium may drop the blood pressure below the healthy range, and cause dizziness, blurred vision, weakness, confusion, fainting, etc.
If you take blood pressure medication, consult your doctor before adding okra to your diet to ensure there is no food-drug interference risk.Source-Pixabay.com
(3) Manages Cholesterol Level
Atherosclerosis is a condition that leads to hardening and narrowing of the arteries and is mainly caused by the accumulation of plaque and fat deposits in the arterial walls. It is a leading cause of several cardiovascular problems like coronary artery disease, heart attack, and heart stroke, etc.
(4) Improves Cardiovascular Health
Essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in the okra improve our cardiovascular system.
Vitamin C, vitamin A and other antioxidantal compounds like phytonutrients and polyphenols protect our cardiovascular system from free radical damage.
Pectin, a soluble fiber in okra minimizes LDL cholesterol and prevents atherosclerosis which is a leading cause of cardiovascular issues.
It also contains potassium that provides relief from hypertension and minimizes the risk of several cardiovascular problems like heart attack, heart stroke, and, irregular heartbeat, etc.
(5) Better Digestive System
The laxative properties of the dietary fibers in okra improve bowel movement, helps in stool elimination, and thus relieve constipation and other gastrointestinal problems like abdominal pain, irritable bowel syndrome, gas, bloating, flatulence and indigestion, etc.
The slimy substance called mucilage in okra improves our digestive health.
Vitamin C, vitamin A and other antioxidantal compounds like phytonutrients and polyphenols in okra protect our digestive system from free radical damage and minimizes the risk of several cancers like colon cancer, abdominal cancer, pancreatic cancer, abdominal cancer, and intestinal cancer, etc.
(6) Prevents Diabetes
With a low glycemic index of 20, okra slows down the rate at which sugar is released into the bloodstream, prevents a sudden spike in blood sugar level, and thus aids in managing diabetes.
Even with this benefit, consume okra in moderation as excessive consumption may increase the risk of hypoglycemia with symptoms like shakiness, dizziness, shaking, hunger, fast heartbeat, confusion, and irritability.
If you are already on diabetes medication, then consult your doctor before adding okra to your diet to avoid the risk of food-drug intolerance.
(7) Good For Brain
Okra is good for the brain and improves our neurological health.
It contains vitamin C, vitamin A and other antioxidantal compounds like phytonutrients and polyphenols that protect our brain cells aka neurons from free radical damage, and thus minimizes the risk of various neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and amnesia, etc.
Other nutrients like zinc, iron, potassium, and magnesium in okra improve nerve functioning and provide cognitive benefits like a sharper memory, better focus, improved concentration, reduced confusion, etc.
(8) Beneficial During Pregnancy
Okra contains essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and dietary fibers, etc.
These compounds play an important role during pregnancy.
Antioxidants in okra like vitamin C and vitamin A protect the uterus from free radical damage.
It also contains folate, an essential amino acid that aids in the brain development of the baby and minimizes the risk of spina bifida, neural tube defect, congenital disabilities of the brain, spine, or spinal cord.
Dietary fibers reduce LDL cholesterol and manage cholesterol during pregnancy.
As it has a low glycemic index of 20, it regulates blood sugar and minimizes the risk of gestational diabetes.
Other nutrients like iron, potassium, magnesium, and B vitamins, etc in okra also play a significant role in maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
However, to be on the safe side, it is advised to consult your doctor before adding okra to your diet.
If you are on any prescription drug, ensure that there is no food-drug interference.
(9) Helps in Blood Clotting
Vitamin K, an essential mineral present in the okra helps with blood clotting and aids in the quick healing of cuts and wounds.
(10) Strengthens Respiratory Health
Okra strengthens our respiratory system and minimizes the risk of respiratory problems like asthma.
Antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin A and other relevant compounds like phytonutrients and polyphenols protect the respiratory system from free radical damage.
Vitamin C is an anti-inflammatory compound that reduces the risk of lung inflammation and keeps inflammatory problems like asthma and bronchial asthma at bay.
(11) Strengthens Immune System
Okra strengthens our immune system, the defense mechanism of the body that prevents and treats several microbial infections, injuries and wounds.
It is loaded with antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin A and other compounds as phytonutrients and polyphenols that protect the white blood cells or the immune cells from free radical damage, and thus strengthens immunity.
Vitamin C enhances the production of white blood cells, and further strengthens immunity.
With stronger immunity, we are less likely to get a cough, cold, fever, and flu, etc.
Other nutrients like iron, potassium, zinc, and folate, etc also contribute to stronger immunity.
(12) Good For Eyes
Okra is beneficial for our ocular health.
Antioxidants and relevant compounds such as vitamin C, vitamin A, beta-carotene, phytonutrients, and polyphenols protect our eyes from free radical damage and minimizes the risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataract, and glaucoma, etc.
Beta-carotene converts to vitamin A which is an essential nutrient for the eyes as it improves vision prevents eye dryness and reduces the risk of night-blindness.
(13) Cures Ulcers
Okra speeds up the healing of peptic ulcers as it contains mucilage, a sticky-gluey substance in the okra that neutralizes acids in the stomach and forms a temporary protective coating for the digestive tract.
(14) Genital Disorder Treatment
Okra aids in treating many genital disorders like syphilis, gonorrhea, leucorrhoea, dysuria, and excessive menstrual bleeding.
(15) Rich in Protein
Okra seeds are an excellent source of vegetable protein, oils, and essential amino acids like tryptophan and Cystine.
Our body converts L-tryptophan to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps control mood and sleep.
(16) Good For Skin
Okra is a natural skin cleanser that keeps toxins and impurities out of the skin pores and minimizes the risk of several skin problems like acne, pimples, and psoriasis.
Dietary fibers in okra eliminate toxins, pollutants, and other unwanted substances from our bodies.
When there are fewer toxins in the body, they are less likely to accumulate in our skin pores and this minimizes the risk of skin problems like acne, pimples, and psoriasis, etc.
Antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, and other antioxidantal compounds like phytonutrients and polyphenols protect our skin cells from free radical damage and keep various signs of premature aging like fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, dark spots, and skin blemishes, etc at bay.
Vitamin C enhances the production of collagen, an essential amino acid that maintains skin elasticity and minimizes wrinkles and saggy skin.
(17) Good for Hair
The thick gluey substance called “Mucilage” in okra works as a natural hair conditioner and scalp moisturizer that gives life to unruly and lifeless hair and heals the dry and itchy scalp. It fights against dandruff and lice and gives a natural shine to the hair.
Okra contains several antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin A, and phytonutrients, etc that protect the hair follicles and scalp from free radical damage, and minimizes premature greying of hair, dryness of hair, split end, etc.
Points To Remember
- People who are prone to kidney stones should be cautious of consuming okra as it has a high concentration of calcium oxalate that may give increase the risk of kidney stones and associated symptoms
- Cook okra with a moderate level of fat as otherwise, it may increase the risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular problems.
- Cook okra in low flame as cooking it in high flame may deprive it of its essential nutrients.
The information contained in the post is for general purposes only and shouldn’t be considered as medical advice or as an alternative to medical advice. Although I’ve tried my best to keep the information contained in this post as accurate and updated as possible, I make no guarantee of the accurateness of the same.
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Bharat Sharma is a Delhi-based writer who loves reading and writing research-based topics revolving around health, fitness, and nutrition. His love for writing started during his teenage and continues till date. After his graduation, he worked for GE Money, and IBM, but later found his true love i.e. blogging.