Okra, a flowering plant from the mallow family, produces edible seed pods that are amazingly good for you. Often used to help thicken soups and gumbos, they can also be fried, grilled, or even pickled.
Low in calories and high in vitamin C and folate, okra is an exceptionally healthy food, and can usually be found year round – although it’s cheapest and most accessible during the fall. Here are some health benefits of okra.
1. Okra Helps With Asthma
Because of its high vitamin C content, okra is a great food for asthma sufferers. One 2000 study published in the journal thorax found that foods high in vitamin C content could help prevent “wheezing” symptoms of asthma in childhood(1).
2. Okra Helps Lower Cholesterol
High in fiber, okra is great for digestive health and also for helping to lower cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber, like the kind found in okra, breaks down in the digestive tract, where it binds to cholesterol in other foods, allowing it to be expelled along with other wastes. This helps to lower cholesterol, according to the Harvard Health Publications(2).
3. Okra Helps With Diabetes Management
Soluble fiber is also great for individuals struggling with diabetes – it can help to stabilize blood glucose levels by affecting how the intestines absorb sugar. One 2011 study tested the effects of okra pods on the absorption rate of glucose in rats, and found that okra could help reduce blood sugar levels in the rat models(3).
4. Okra Benefits The Immune System
It’s no secret that vitamin C is great for your immune system, but most people don’t know that they can get plenty of vitamin C – as well as natural antioxidants – from okra. Vitamin C helps the immune system create white blood cells, which fight foreign pathogens and materials in the body.
5. Okra Helps Prevent Kidney Disease
Regular consumption of okra can reduce clinical signs of kidney damage, according to one 2005 study.
6. Okra Is Great For Pregnant Women
All the vitamins and minerals found in Okra – which include vitamin A, vitamins B1, B6, and B2, vitamin C, zinc, and calcium – make it an idea food for pregnant women. It’s also useful as a supplement for fiber and folic acid, which help to prevent birth defects and constipation during pregnancy.
How To Prepare Okra
If you’re looking to introduce okra to your diet but don’t know where to start, try looking up recipes for southern-style soups and gumbos; many of these recipes feature okra as a thickening agent. You can also stir-fry it with acidic ingredients such as a few drops of lemon juice, to minimize the slimy texture that many find off-putting.
Learning to cook with okra can take some practice, but when it comes to healthy ingredients, it’s hard to go wrong with this vegetable.