Okra, also known as “lady finger”, bhindi, kopi, okoro or gumbo in other parts of the world, is an edible green pod, belonging to the mallow family, and scientifically known as Abelmoschus esculentus or Hibiscus esulentus. It is found throughout the world, where warm and temperate climatic seasons prevail.
It originated in Ethiopia, spreading to India, the Americas and the Caribbean. The Okra plant can grow up to six feet in height. Its immature green pods are full of health benefits and healing properties. Okra contains high amounts of Vitamins A, C, B and K, not to mention, folates, iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and manganese. It is also an excellent source of fiber.
Some of the health benefits of okra are:
- The high amounts of fiber found in Okra, helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. It also reduces the rate of absorption by the intestines.
- The mucilage in Okra binds cholesterol. It also binds the bile acid that carries the toxins dumped because of the filtering of the liver.
- Okra has a sticky, white substance within its pod, which after consumption lubricates large intestines, acting as a natural laxative. This vegetable is great for ensuring formed stools, and preventing constipation. By consuming adequate amounts of Okra, you will eliminate the need to purchase over-the-counter medication for bowel movements.
- By consuming Okra, you will increase the health of your intestinal tract, by feeding the good bacteria (probiotics) that already live there.
- The high amounts of flavonoids, Vitamin A and beta-carotenes, makes Okra an essential nutritional support for Vision and reducing the risk of developing cataracts, healthy skin, and protection against oral cavity and lung cancers.
- Since Okra is high in folates, regularly consuming this wonder-veg before conception, will prevent the likelihood of neural tube defects in your unborn baby.
- Due to its high levels of Vitamin C, consuming Okra will boost your immunity, offering you long term protection against common colds and free radicals. Vitamin C also has anti-inflammatory properties, making Okra ideal for relieving the onset of asthma symptoms. Vitamin C and flavonoids are also necessary for strengthening the capillaries.
- Okra has a high level of B vitamins, such as niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine and thiamine. These are essential for optimal brain function, and can provide protection against lethargy and depression. There is also growing evidence to suggest that eating regular amounts of Okra protects against the development of Multiple Sclerosis.
- There are high levels of Vitamin K in Okra, which is essential for bone strengthening and blood clotting.
- Okra is also rich in amounts of insoluble fiber, making it ideal for preventing atherosclerosis.
- Okra also has the magical powers to heal ulcers and keep the joints limber. Also, this wonderful vegetable helps in neutralizing the acids because of its alkaline behavior. It even provides a protective coating on the digestive tract.
Okra can be consumed, either raw or cooked. Okra pods are usually steamed, cooked in soups, or cooked in oil and spices. To obtain the most nutritional benefits from this natural medicinal storehouse, Womansaga suggests you to eat this vegetable at least twice a week to get the maximum health benefits of okra.