HEALTH: Okra’s Health Benefits
OKRA is also known as “lady finger” because of its unique elongated shape. It has a green colored and fibrous fruit, called a pod, and measures between 2 to 7 inches in length. The okra pod contains rows of small round white- colored seeds and a slimy thick fluid.
A half cup of sliced cooked okra contains the following nutritional value: 25 calories, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 1.5 grams of protein, 5.8 grams of carbohydrates, 460 IU of vitamin A, 200 mcg of beta- carotene, 13 mg of vitamin C, 36.5 micrograms of folate, 50 mg of calcium, 0.4 mg of iron, 32 micrograms of Vitamin K, 257 mg of potassium, and 46 mg of magnesium.
Health Benefits of Okra:
1. Prevents constipation and good for the bowels - Okra contains a unique gooey fluid, called mucilage, which lubricates the intestines and helps in the passage of stools. The okra fiber also absorbs lots of water and adds to the bulk of the stools. Both characteristics make the okra beneficial for maintaining a healthy gut.
2. Can be taken by diabetics and those with heart disease - Okra contains both insoluble fiber and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is good for the intestines and build the bulk of the stool, while soluble fiber is absorbed by the body and helps lower cholesterol levels. Okra’s soluble fiber binds with excess cholesterol and toxins and excretes them out of the body. It can also reduce the absorption rate of sugar in the intestines.
3. Good for weight loss – A half cup of cooked okra contains only 25 calories, one of the lowest amounts for any kind of food. Okra is high in dietary fiber ( insoluble fiber), which makes one feel full and satisfied. Moreover, okra contains zero fat and zero cholesterol.
4. May prevent cancers – A study at Emory Univer- sity showed that persons who consumed foods high in glutathione had a 50% reduction in the risk of developing oral and throat cancers. Okra has moderate levels of glutathione, similar to other foods like watermelon and avocados. A high intake of vegetables and fruits is likewise proven to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
5. Other possible benefits - Okra contains ample quantities of antioxidants like vitamin A, beta- carotene, xanthin and lutein, which are known to be beneficial for one’s vision. Some claim it may lower the risk of cataracts. The high vitamin C content of okra may be good for the immune system and help prevent cough and colds. Okra also has adequate amounts of folates ( folic acid), a compound that is proven to help decrease neural tube defects in the fetus. Hence, pregnant and breastfeeding women may benefit from okra.
Finally, I know you may not be fond of eating okra. But after discovering its wonderful health benefits, you may want to reconsider and add it to your regular meals.
Dr. Willie T. Ong