Health Benefits of Okra
The health benefits of okra include its ability to lower total cholesterol levels, improve digestive health, improve vision, boost skin health, protect infant health, prevent certain cancers, strengthen bones, improve cardiovascular health, aid the immune system, lower blood pressure, and protect heart health.
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 esculentus and it is unsure where the actual beginning of this vegetable was. Contrasting research says that it could have been South Asian, West African, and Ethiopian in origin, but the jury is still out. America is the main country that calls this vegetable okra, and it has many names around the world.
Okra is frequently used in dishes from the Caribbean to China, and its popularity is increasing all the time, particularly since 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.
There are plenty of alternative uses for okra, due to its wide range of health benefits, but most of the health benefits are due to the minerals, vitamins, and organic compounds found in this vegetable.
Nutritional Value of Okra
Okra might not be the most conventional vegetable in the garden, but its 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.
Health Benefits of Okra
Digestive Health: Perhaps the best part of adding okra to your diet is the significant increase it can have on your total fiber intake. Mucilaginous fiber like you find 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. Finally, fiber can help to clear out excess cholesterol in the body.
Vision Booster: 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 the degreadation of the cells in the body, including those responsible for vision. With high levels of okra in your diet, you will have more protection for your sight, including macular degeneration and cataracts.
Skin Health: 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.
Immune System: The various antioxidant components of okra make it very beneficial to fight off free radicals, but the high vitamin C content also means that the general immune system is boosted. Vitamin C can stimulate the immune system to create more white blood cells, which can combat the other foreign pathogens and materials in the body that can compromise the immune system.
Blood Pressure and Heart Health: 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.
A Final Word of Caution
One thing you do need to worry about with okra is its high levels of oxalates. Oxalates can cause kidney and gall stone conditions to worsen, as the oxalates bond to existing stones and cause them to grow. Frying okra can also contain a dangerously high level of your cholesterol intake for the day, so cooking it in other ways is wise if you want to maintain a good cholesterol balance in your body. Other than these considerations, enjoy okra in many of your favorite dishes or find some new delectable dietary choices from around the world!