Okra is a warm-season vegetable, also known as gumbo or ladies’ fingers. It is a good source of minerals, vitamins, and fiber. It contains a characteristic viscous juice that can be used to thicken sauces.
Gumbo is popular in the southern United States (U.S.), parts of Africa and the Middle East, the Caribbean, and South America.
It is considered an important crop in many countries, because of its nutritional value, and because many parts of the plant can be used, including the fresh leaves, buds, flowers, pods, stems, and seeds.
The taste is mild, but it has a unique texture with peach-like fuzz on the outside and small, edible seeds on the inside of the pod.
It offers a wide range of health benefits.
We will look at the nutritional content of okra, its possible health benefits, recipe tips for preparing okra, and any possible health risks.Fast facts about okra
- Okra is a green, finger-shaped vegetable with a characteristic viscous juice.
- It provides fiber, folate, and vitamin K.
- Its nutritional content means it can promote heart health and strong bones and protect against cancer.
- Buy okra when it is firm and keep it dry. Store for no more than 3 to 4 days in paper or plastic in a crisper drawer.
- Cooking it whole makes it the mucilaginous juice, unpopular with some people, less obvious.
- People who use blood thinners should not eat too much okra, as the vitamin K levels can interact with the drug.
Okra grows easily in many climates and is rich in nutrients.
Individual needs for nutrients vary according to age, sex, activity level, and caloric intake.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, one cup of raw okra, weighing around 100 grams (g) contains:
- 33 calories
- 1.93 g of protein
- 0.19 g of fat
- 7.45 g of carbohydrate
- 3.2 g of fiber
- 1.48 g of sugar
- 31.3 milligrams (mg) of vitamin K
- 299 mg of potassium
- 7 mg of sodium
- 23 mg of vitamin C
- 0.2 mg of thiamin
- 57 mg of magnesium
- 82 mg of calcium
- 0.215 mg of vitamin B6
- 60 micrograms (mcg) of folate
- 36 mcg of vitamin A
Okra also provides some iron, niacin, phosphorus, and copper.
Okra is also a source of antioxidants. Okra seeds contain oligomeric catechins and flavonoid derivatives, both of which have been linked to a lower risk of cancer.
The gumbo itself contains quercetin derivatives, and both pods and seeds contain phenolic compounds.
These compounds are believed to have antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of a range of health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
The mucilage of okra is also said to bind cholesterol and bile acid. It collects toxins from the liver and carries them out of the body.
The nutrients in okra may make it useful for preventing a number of health problems.
Lectin is a type of protein found in okra, beans, peanuts, and grains. Lectin from okra was used in a study to treat human breast cancer cells.
The treatment reduced cancer cell growth by 63 percent and killed 72 percent of the human cancer cells. More studies need to be done to see if okra has an effect on cancer in humans.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Folate is important for preventing fetal problems during a pregnancy. Low folate levels can lead to a loss of pregnancy or problems for the child in later life. Low folate levels have been linked to conditions such as spina bifida.
Getting enough folate is especially important for women before and during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding.
One 100-gram cup of okra contains 60 mcg of folate. For most people, the recommended daily allowance of folate is 400 mcg.
In 2011, researchers made a powder from the peel and seeds of okra to treat rats with diabetes.
The rats that were treated with the powder had lower blood sugar and fat levels than rats that did not receive the powder.
If this affects humans in the same way, it could lead to new therapies.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), eating foods that are high in fiber can reduce harmful cholesterol levels in the blood.
High-fiber foods lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and diabetes. Fiber can also slow heart disease in people who already have it.
Women aged 19 to 30 years should aim to consume at least 28 grams of fiber each day in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains, while men need 33.6 grams a day. Okra has 3.2 g of fiber per cup.
Vitamin K helps the bones absorb calcium. In theory, people who eat enough vitamin K are more likely to have strong bones and fewer fractures. Foods that are high in vitamin K, such as okra, are good for the bones.
Okra and leafy greens such as Swiss chard, arugula, and spinach add vitamin K and calcium to a diet.
Dietary fiber helps prevent constipation and maintain a healthy digestive system.
Research suggests that the more fiber a person eats, the less chance they have of developing colorectal cancer.
Fiber in the diet also helps to reduce appetite, and it may contribute to weight loss.
In Asian medicine, okra extract is added to foods to protect against irritation and inflammatory gastric diseases. The anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial action may help protect against gastrointestinal problems.