Health Benefits of Okra (Hibiscus esculentus)
A guy had been suffering from constipation for the past 20 years and recently from acid reflux. He didn’t realize that the treatment could be so simple — OKRA! He started eating okra within the last 2 months and since then have never taken medication again. All he did was eat 6 pieces of OKRA everyday. He’s now regular and his blood sugar has dropped from 135 to 98, with his cholesterol and acid reflux also under control. Here are some facts on okra (from the research of Ms. Sylvia Zook, PH.D (nutrition), University of Illinois.
“Okra is a powerhouse of valuable nutrients, nearly half of which is soluble fiber in the form of gums and pectins. Soluble fiber helps to lower serum cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease. The other half is insoluble fiber which helps to keep the intestinal tract healthy, decreasing the risk of some forms of cancer, especially colo-rectal cancer. Nearly 10% of the recommended levels of vitamin B6 and folic acid is also present in a half cup of cooked okra.
Okra is a rich source of many nutrients, including fiber, vitamin B6 and folic acid. Here’re the following numbers from the University of Illinois Extension Okra Page. [Please check there for more details.]
Okra Nutrition (half-cup cooked okra)
* Calories = 25
* Dietary Fiber = 2 grams
* Protein = 1.5 grams
* Carbohydrates = 5.8 grams
* Vitamin A = 460 IU
* Vitamin C = 13 mg
* Folic acid = 36.5 micrograms
* Calcium = 50 mg
* Iron = 0.4 mg
* Potassium = 256 mg
* Magnesium = 46 mg
These numbers should be used as a guideline only, and if you are on a medically-restricted diet please consult your physician and/or dietician.
Ms Sylvia W. Zook, Ph.D. (nutritionist) has very kindly provided the following thought-provoking comments on the many benefits of this versatile vegetable. They are well worth reading.
1. The superior fiber found in okra helps to stabilize blood sugar as it curbs the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract.
2. Okra’s mucilage not only binds cholesterol but bile acid carrying toxins dumped into it by the filtering liver. But it doesn’t stop there…
3. Many alternative health practitioners believe all disease begins in The colon. The okra fiber, absorbing water and ensuring bulk in stools, helps prevent constipation. Fiber in general is helpful for this but okra is one of the best, along with ground flax seed and psyllium. Unlike harsh wheat bran, which can irritate or injure the intestinal tract, okra’s mucilage soothes, and okra facilitates elimination more comfortably by its slippery characteristic many people abhor. In other words, this incredibly valuable vegetable not only binds excess cholesterol and toxins (in bile acids) which cause numerous health problems, if not evacuated, but also assures their easy passage from the body.
4. Further contributing to the health of the intestinal tract, okra fiber (as well as flax and psyllium) has no equal among fibers for feeding the good bacteria (probiotics).
5. To retain most of okra’s nutrients and self-digesting enzymes , it should be cooked as little as possible, e.g. with low heat or lightly steamed. Some eat it raw.
Cholesterol lowering effects of OKRA
Okra, a fruit high in water-soluble fiber (WSF) and widely consumed in Africa was investigated as a potential candidate to decrease cholesterol. The water-soluble fiber of some fruits and vegetables has been the focus of scientific research in relation to potential health benefits to cardiovascular diseases (CVD). The 3 weeks randomized crossover placebo study carried out among 30 healthy subjects concluded that Okra is an effective cholesterol lowering dietary adjunct. Okra might therefore be an interesting approach in the prevention of CVD risk factors as well as an opportunity for okra commercial challenge.
Source: Bangana, A., N. Dossou, et al. (2005). “Cholesterol lowering effects of Okra (Hibiscus esculentus) in Senegalese adult men.” Annals of Nutrition and metabolism 18 (Suppl. 1): 199
Okra Against Heart Disease
For a triple-powered punch against heart disease, eat some okra. It strikes first with an antioxidant job to atherosclerosis that dangerous hardening and clogging of your blood vessels. The top antioxidant in okra’s arsenal is vitamin C which the World Health Organization has linked to a reduced risk of fatal heart disease. One cup of sliced okra has more vitamin C than a whole tomato. Although you cannot rely on okra as a single source of this important vitamin, it makes an interesting and nutritious addition to your diet.
With a healthy dose of folate about 40 percent of your daily requirement in each cup okra then gives heart disease a left hook. Without this B vitamin, your body leaves behind loose amino acids, called homocysteine, when it metabolizes protein. Too much homocysteine built up in your blood damages your arteries and can lead to heart disease and stroke.
Okra gives a final knockout blow with its wealth of minerals mainly potassium and magnesium. For lowering blood pressure, experts say eating potassium-rich foods may be as important as losing weight and cutting back on salt. And just the right amount of magnesium is especially important to seniors, who may not absorb it as well as they used to and may excrete more of it as waste. Magnesium helps control cholesterol and blood pressure, regulates your heart rhythm, and may even improve your odds of surviving heart disease and heart attacks.
Arms Against Osteoporosis
Do not forget okra when you’re planning a bone-building menu. It’s full of four osteoporosis-fighting nutrients potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, and beta carotene. People who eat foods high in these nutrients, according to research from the United Kingdom, may slow down the bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis. To top it off, a cup of okra gives you over 10 percent of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of the most famous bone-building mineral of all calcium.
Some doctors used to think osteoarthritis (OA), the most common type of joint disease, was unstoppable, but now natural alternatives give new hope. Foods like okra contain both vitamin C and manganese, nutrients your body needs to build up joints and cartilage. Experts who looked at a variety of research suggest a diet high in vitamin C may slow down the development of OA. They also remind us that manganese is a necessary component of cartilage.