Top 5 Health Benefits of Okra

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

Okra, often referred to as ladyfinger, is not just a staple in many cuisines around the world but also a storehouse of health benefits. This blog explores the numerous advantages of incorporating okra into your diet, ranging from improving digestive health and managing diabetes to boosting endurance and reducing fatigue. Renowned for its rich nutritional profile, okra is packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Its potential role in stress reduction, cholesterol management, and further underscores its significance as a health-enhancing food. As we delve into the multifaceted benefits of this unique vegetable, we’ll uncover the myriad ways okra can contribute to a healthier, more balanced lifestyle.

What is Okra?

Okra is a flowering plant that is known in many parts of the world as ladyfinger or bhindi and is highly prized because of its seed pods. The scientific name of this interesting plant is Abelmoschus esculentus. [1]While its origin is still unclear, research says that it could have been native to South Asia, West Africa, or Ethiopia but the jury is still out.

Possible Uses

Okra is frequently used in dishes worldwide, from the Caribbean to China. Its popularity is increasing all the time, particularly due to its various uses. The different uses include:

  • As a pickled vegetable
  • As an ingredient in soups, and side dishes
  • The oil extracted from okra can also be utilized as a vegetable oil
  • Okra water is used as a traditional and alternative therapy for diabetes
Nutrition Facts

Okra, raw
Serving Size :
Water [g]89.58
Energy 33
Energy [kJ]138
Protein [g]1.93
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.19
Ash [g]0.86
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]7.45
Fiber, total dietary [g]3.2
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]1.48
Sucrose [g]0.6
Glucose (dextrose) [g]0.32
Fructose [g]0.57
Starch [g]0.34
Calcium, Ca [mg]82
Iron, Fe [mg]0.62
Magnesium, Mg [mg]57
Phosphorus, P [mg]61
Potassium, K [mg]299
Sodium, Na [mg]7
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.58
Copper, Cu [mg]0.11
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.79
Selenium, Se [µg]0.7
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]23
Thiamin [mg]0.2
Riboflavin [mg]0.06
Niacin [mg]1
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.25
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.22
Folate, total [µg]60
Folate, food [µg]60
Folate, DFE [µg]60
Choline, total [mg]12.3
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]36
Carotene, beta [µg]416
Carotene, alpha [µg]27
Vitamin A, IU [IU]716
Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]280
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.27
Tocopherol, gamma [mg]0.16
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]31.3
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.03
16:0 [g]0.02
18:0 [g]0
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.02
18:1 [g]0.02
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.03
18:2 [g]0.03
18:3 [g]0
Phytosterols [mg]24
Tryptophan [g]0.02
Threonine [g]0.07
Isoleucine [g]0.07
Leucine [g]0.11
Lysine [g]0.08
Methionine [g]0.02
Cystine [g]0.02
Phenylalanine [g]0.07
Tyrosine [g]0.09
Valine [g]0.09
Arginine [g]0.08
Histidine [g]0.03
Alanine [g]0.07
Aspartic acid [g]0.15
Glutamic acid [g]0.27
Glycine [g]0.04
Proline [g]0.05
Serine [g]0.04
Sources include : USDA [2]

Nutrition Facts

Okra may not be the most conventional vegetable in the garden, but it has a rich content of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins as well as vitamins A, C, E, and K, as per the USDA National Nutrient Database. The vegetable also contains calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Furthermore, it contains high levels of nutritious mucilaginous fiber, colloquially called “okra slime”. Most of the health benefits are due to the presence of minerals, vitamins, and organic compounds found in it. [3]

Health Benefits of Okra

Let us discuss the important health benefits of okra in detail below.

May Aid in Diabetes Management

Okra, known for its antioxidant properties in seeds and peel, shows promise in managing type 2 diabetes. A study in the Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences demonstrated that diabetic rats fed powdered okra for 14 to 28 days experienced improved lipid profiles and hypoglycemic effects.  [4]

Additionally, in Turkey, a natural remedy for diabetes involves drinking water infused with roasted okra seeds, as reported in Natural Product Communications, highlighting its role in blood glucose regulation.  [5]

Another study involving pregnant rats with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) showed that okra extract effectively reduced oxidative stress and insulin resistance, thereby improving blood glucose levels in GDM rats. [6]

May Help Improve Digestion

Okra’s high fiber content is key to its gastrointestinal benefits. A 2016 study highlighted that the vegetable’s fiber improves digestion by enhancing absorption in the large intestine and stimulating peristalsis, potentially aiding in preventing constipation.  [7]

Fresh and sliced okra or lady finger on a wooden table

Okra is rich in magnesium, folate, and fiber. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

May Reduce Fatigue

Okra might play a role in reducing fatigue, particularly due to its high antioxidant content. A study led by Fangbo Xia in Beijing found that seeds from this antioxidant-rich vegetable could help alleviate muscle tiredness. In experiments with laboratory mice, those given okra extract showed significantly increased swimming endurance and lower lactic acid levels, indicating reduced muscle weakness.  [8]

Another study focusing on water-soluble pectic hydrocolloids from okra stems demonstrated that a high dosage increased energy storage capacity and improved renal function in physically fatigued mice, outperforming some conventional herbal supplements. [9]

However human research is needed to further validate this claim.

May Help Lower Cholesterol Levels

Okra might be beneficial in reducing cholesterol levels. A study by the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine found that administering an ethanol extract of okra to obese mice helped lower blood glucose, insulin, and total cholesterol levels, thanks to nutrients like isoquercitrin and quercetin.  [10]

Further research demonstrated that okra powder when added to a hyperlipidemic diet, can decrease serum and hepatic cholesterol and triglycerides in mice. This effect is linked to the upregulation of cholesterol degradation and inhibition of lipogenesis.  [11]

While these animal research are promising Okra’s effects on human cholesterol levels needs to tested.

Health benefits of okra infographic

Okra has potent antioxidant power in its seeds and peel, which specifically help people with type 2 diabetes.

Possible Anti-stress Effect

Researchers in India have found scientific evidence through a study conducted on laboratory rats that okra seed extracts have anti-stress (adaptogen) properties. Adaptogens can help enhance overall health, as prolonged stressful situations can cause ineffective adaptation in the body, which can include reduced stamina levels and affect mood. According to the study not only can it help reduce stress levels, but it also has the potential to manage stress-related disorders. Further detailed studies, particularly with human subjects are required to explore this particular health benefit. [12] [13]

Word of Caution: People who are taking metformin to control type 2 diabetes should not complement it with excessive okra consumption. A study [14] published in the International Scholarly Research Notices shows that consuming vegetables may improve glycemic control but can interact with metformin and alter its absorption as observed on experimental rats.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, okra emerges as a remarkable vegetable, offering a spectrum of health benefits. From aiding diabetes management and gastrointestinal health to reducing fatigue and cholesterol levels, okra is a nutritional powerhouse. Its potential role in stress management further elevates its value however more human research is required in that regard. While it’s essential to be mindful of interactions with certain diabetes medications, the overall advantages of including okra in your diet are significant. Rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, okra is more than just a culinary delight; it’s a key contributor to a healthier lifestyle. Protection Status
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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