Okra – Nutritional Values and Health Benefits

Evidence Based Article 📄
This article has been based on relevant and up-to-date scientific studies. Our writers are unbiased and objective and present the facts as they are known. Numbers in brackets within the article refer to sources included in the reference list at the end of the article.

When it comes to okra, there are two truths: Number one, it is an acquired taste. That may be an understatement; you will not find many people who tell you that they regularly eat okra because they like the taste. The slimy texture is something that most people just don’t find appealing.

The second truth is that the health benefits of eating this green superfood, more than makes up for what it lacks in the tastiness department.

Eat it raw, sauté it, cook it in a stew, do whatever you have to do, just get it in there. Good eating habits are crucial in living a healthy life, and okra should be a staple part of your diet plan. Here’s why.

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Nutritional Values

As far as nutritional values, Okra checks off a lot of boxes.

Okra contains many vitamins and minerals such as:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, B9 and B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Manganese
  • Dietary fiber

Out of the myriad of vitamins and minerals it contains, Okra is a particularly good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate (Vitamin B9), Thiamine (Vitamin B1), Magnesium and dietary fiber. A single cup of okra can provide around 30% of the daily recommended allowance of Vitamin C, 44% of the daily recommend allowance of Vitamin K and 43% of the daily recommended allowance of manganese.

Fiber is something many people struggle to meet the daily recommend quota of, and Okra is a great supplementary source of dietary fiber (Okra is an excellent source of mucilaginous fiber), providing 3.2 grams per serving.

Okra is very low in calories, with a single serving of Okra only having 33 calories. Okra is low on carbohydrates and sodium, and it has no cholesterol or saturated fat as well, which is always a huge plus.

Keep in mind however, that how you prepare Okra, could severely reduce, or nearly nullify the nutritional benefits of Okra. Drench it in oil and fry it like green peppers you’re about to slap onto a foot-long cheesesteak, and you might as well not be eating it. Remember, okra is for nutrients, not for taste.

Health Benefits of eating Okra

Aside from simply containing many vitamins and minerals, okra has earned its’ title of superfood, by providing some specific, and very powerful health benefits for those who can get past the taste. Some of these health benefits include:

1.Combats and helps treat Diabetes

Okra has drawn the most attention, for it’s potential effectiveness in combating diabetes.

Many studies over the years, have shown that okra can be a powerful tool for those suffering from diabetes or at risk of contracting the disease.

Through animal studies, okra has been proven to reduce blood glucose levels by a significant margin. Some of these claims are greatly exaggerated, and no, okra cannot flat out cure diabetes. However, the official evidence is nigh-impossible to deny, and many individuals who consume okra daily report a decrease in their blood sugar levels.

Diabetes is becoming one of the deadliest killers of Americans, being the third highest cause of death in the United States last year, jumping up from 7th place in 2016. It is also the 7th highest cause of death worldwide with the diabetes rates climbing at a frightening pace over the last two decades.

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Okra is no diabetes curer (Yet, if this is a possibility at all.), but enough evidence has shown that incorporating this superfood into your diet, “will” do you a lot of good. Citation needed. More on this later.

2.Fights off fatigue and depression

Okra seeds contain antioxidants known as flavonoids, which can act as natural antidepressants. Studies have shown, that the seeds of okra contain significantly high levels of flavonoids which lower your blood lactic levels and improve glycogen storage within the liver.

Glycogen acts as a fuel source for your body, thus when glycogen storage is improved, you will be less prone to getting tired and when you do, it will happen at a far lesser rate.

The levels of quercetin (A natural feel-good flavonoid) found in extracts of okra have been shown to be roughly equal to those found in extracts of blackberries and blueberries; both of which are top sources of the antioxidant.

Antidepressants are the second most prescribed drug in America, after blood thinners medication. Depression, like diabetes, is on the rise and is a serious threat to people of all ages, particularly young teens and it’s getting worse. Quercetin can go a long way towards preventing and combating depression, and without any potentially dangerous side effects that come with over the counter antidepressants.

3. Helps Manage Hunger and Curb Urge Eating

Okra is a great source of fiber, particularly soluble fiber. Foods packed with soluble fiber, are great for people on diets, because soluble fibers makes you feel full faster and for longer.

If you ever get the itch for some junk foods, eating some okra can help prevent you from cheating and keep on pace with your weight-loss goals.

Again, keep in mind, that frying up okra to a crisp will likely eliminate most of the dietary benefits of eating okra.

4.Can safely lower cholesterol levels

The soluble fiber found in Okra, again comes in handy for another purpose: that of lowering your cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber binds with substances once inside your body, including cholesterol and can ease the rate and amount of cholesterol is absorbed into your bloodstream.

And since okra contains no cholesterol itself (Again, assuming you are not frying it), it’s completely safe to eat without worry. Okra is easily one of the most effective foods for maintaining a healthy cholesterol level.

5.Improves bowel movement and prevents constipation

Not to sound like a broken record, but fiber is a painfully underappreciated nutrient with a myriad of benefits. Fiber is the oil to the machine that is your digestive system. The mucilaginous fiber found in Okra improves the efficiency of your digestive system, by allowing it to break down foods more easily.

It also helps waste move about more freely and increases the bulk of your stool. Bulky stool passes out of your body more easily so getting enough fiber each day will almost eliminate any chances of having constipation.

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6.May become a potent combatant of breast cancer

Okra was recently used in a study to see how effective it would be against breast cancer, and the results are very promising to say the least. A protein found in okra known as lectin, was proven to be very effective in said study, reducing the growth of cancerous cells by 63% and killing off 72% of cancer cells.

As more conclusive studies take place, okra over time may prove to be one of the most effective combatants against breast cancer in humans. As 1 in every 8 women are expected to suffer from breast cancer in their lifetime, this would be a huge medical breakthrough.

7.Promotes healthy pregnancy

When a woman is expecting, it is crucial that she get all the right foods in her diet, to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy and ensure a smooth childbirth and prevent the risk of birth defects or afflictions for your child later in his/her life.

Okra’s high levels of vitamins in minerals in general, make it a great food for pregnant women to eat regularly, but the highlight of okra for promoting healthy pregnancy, is the amount of folate it contains. Folate is an essential vitamin for all women whom are pregnant or intending to get pregnant. Folate deficiency increases the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. A lack of folate also increases the chances of your baby being born premature or of a low-weight.

Women are recommended to get 400 mcg of folate every day, and one server of okra, provides 60 mcg.

8.Alleviates symptoms of asthma

Studies have shown that getting a large amount of vitamin C, can help stave off the symptoms of asthma.

One serving of okra, provides more than 30% of your daily recommended allowance of Vitamin C, making it a great option to help keep asthma symptoms at bay, and to prevent asthma attacks.

9.Great for bone health

Okra contains a lot of Vitamin K, which is great for bone health. Vitamin K helps your body to absorb calcium more easily which in turn will improve the strength of your bones and help fight off and prevent diseases like osteoporosis.

10.Great for eye health

Due to okra’s high level of Vitamin A it is great for maintaining and improving the healthiness of your eyes. Vitamin A acts against your body’s free radicals, which can damage your ability to see over time. High intake of Vitamin A can prevent the degradation of your eye sight.

Are there any side effects to eating Okra?

Eating okra has a lot of benefits, but as the saying goes, too much of anything, is a bad thing. So how about okra?

Well, by itself, no. However, depending on your circumstances, eating okra in conjunction with the usage other medications could be harmful and or dangerous.

Do not eat okra if you are using blood thinners

Due to the high level of Vitamin K found in Okra, it is highly unrecommended that anyone using blood thinners also eat okra. Vitamin K promotes the production of blood-clotting proteins by the liver and a high intake of Vitamin K will very likely counteract the effectiveness of blood-thinning antiplatelet drugs and anticoagulants.

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Do not eat okra if you are using metformin

Okra can be effective against diabetes, however if you are using the drug metformin, okra may do more harm than good.

Metformin is a drug very commonly used by people with type 2 diabetes, as a means of reducing blood sugar levels. Studies of interactions between okra and metformin have shown that okra can block the absorption of metformin into the body. If you are using metformin, you should not be eating okra.

Do not eat okra if you have a calcium oxalate kidney stone

Kidney stones fall into several categories, with calcium oxalate stones being the most common. A calcium oxalate kidney stone can form, when there is too much oxalate, and too little fluid in your urine. The oxalate will stick itself to calcium and a kidney stone will be formed.

Should you have a calcium oxalate kidney stone, it goes without saying that you should avoid all foods with a notable amount of oxalate. Okra is one such food.

How to prepare/eat okra

Despite all the amazing health benefits that can come from eating okra, many people are still averse to adding it to their diet due to the taste and the sliminess. Yes, okra is quite slimy; almost to a cartoonish extent.

Now as much as I am sure you would love to fry okra to get it down, doing so eliminates most of the nutritional benefits of the vegetable. Meaning frying is a no-go (Unless, of course, you just like the taste of fried okra and are frying it for that purpose.)

So, frying is out of the question, and eating it raw is far too much to ask of an okra neophyte, so what’s left? Okra like all vegetables can retain most of their nutritional value by utilizing one of several cooking methods: Steaming, roasting, or grilling it. No stir-fry or sauté.

Make sure not to rinse of your okra unless you cook it immediately afterwards. Water will make the sliminess even worse. Two ways to reduce the sliminess of okra, is to freeze it, and cut the okra into pieces while it is still frozen. Another (Tastier) method, is to soak okra in vinegar and then drying it off before cooking it.

Steamed, roasted, and grilled okra, can be eaten by itself, but if it’s your first time, you will probably be better off adding it to something. Okra is frequently used in stew and gumbo.

Another method of intaking okra, one that is commonly used for its’ diabetes and asthma aid purposes, is okra water. Making okra water is simple: Just take some okra pods, add them into water, and let them soak overnight. Then bottoms up the following day. Easy as that! And with liquids, it’s easier to just guzzle it down without tasting it too much.