Tuesday 27 October, 2020

Bet You Didn’t Know: 10 surprising health benefits of Okra

It’s finger-like, ‘hairy’ on the outside, rich and slimy on the inside: often categorised as a vegetable, Okra has a way of escaping normal definitions.

The green plant that Okra grows and matures on belongs to the same family as hibiscus and cotton, whereas the term “okra” most commonly refers to the edible seedpods of the plant.

By botanical terminology, the Okra is a fruit. Throughout Jamaica and the Caribbean, it’s often used as a condiment on various seafood meals, in green beverages and other dishes.

Known by many Jamaicans by its Patois version “ukroh”, or lady-fingers elsewhere in the Caribbean, the fruit, believed to be a natural aphrodisiac in men, is also great for expectant mothers, but what do you really know about okra?

In this edition of Bet You Didn’t Know, Loop Lifestyle presents 10 amazing health benefits the okra can provide to your life. Enjoy!

1.   Okra is high in fibre. The fruit’s bulk fibre quality aids in digestion, cuts hunger cravings, and keeps those who eat it fuller for longer.

2.   Medical research on okra for diabetes management was broken in 2015. In one study by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), okra water improved the blood sugar levels of pregnant rats that had gestational diabetes. Roasted okra seeds, which have long been used in Turkey to treat diabetes, have also been studied and proven to have a positive effect on lowering blood sugar.

3.   Steamed fish enthusiasts across the Caribbean would be familiar with the okra’s rich ooze during preparation. That ooze comes from the fruit’s rich sources of mucilage, which helps in smooth peristalsis (muscle contractions within the oesophagus, stomach and intestines) of digested food through the gut and eases constipation.

4.   Okra pods contain healthy amounts of vitamin A, and flavonoid anti-oxidants such as beta-carotene, xanthin and lutein. Okras are enviably one of the few fruits with highest levels of these anti-oxidants, which have been proven to be essential for optimal vision. Vitamin A is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in flavonoids helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.

5.   Apart from its high fibre content, okras are very low in calories. Each serving of okra provides just 30 calories and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol. Okra is among foods often recommended by nutritionists in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programmes.

6.   In Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia, eating okra is a favourite for pregnant woman for it is rich in folic acid and essential in the neural tube formation of the foetus during the 4-12 week gestation period in the mother's womb.

7.   Additionally, with its impressive mucilage reserves (aka slime), okras help the body to reabsorb water and traps excess cholesterol, metabolic toxins and surplus bile. Due to greater percentage of water in the bulk the okra thereby prevents further constipation, gas and bloating in the abdomen.

8.   Okra is an excellent natural laxative, with possibilities to treat irritable bowels, heal ulcers and soothe the gastrointestinal (GI) track.

9.   Okra facilitates the propagation of good bacteria referred to as probiotics. These are similar to those proliferate by the ‘yoghurt-like’ paste in the small intestine and helps biosynthesis of Vitamin B complex.

10.  Okras, with its high fibre content, are an important part of dietary treatment options for diabetes. In several studies, an increase in dietary fibre intake has been shown to promote better glycaemic control and improve insulin sensitivity.

So what are you waiting for? Pick up a few okra pods and reap these amazing health benefits today!

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