By Funke Oshifuye
Okra, also known as “lady finger”,is a highly nutritious green edible pod vegetable. Its scientific name is Hibiscus esculentus. Botanically, this perennial flowering plant belongs to the mallow family similar to that of cacao. It is green, sweet, tasty and most of all, slimy.
Okra is known for a lot of names in different parts of the world. Okra is either loved or hated by many for its distinct sticky character but the health benefits are amazing. For instance, Okra is one of the richest sources of soluble as well as insoluble fiber that offer protection from various lifestyles related disorders like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity etc.
The mucilaginous okra fiber is very effective in preventing type II diabetes. It prevents insulin spikes and thus keeps a check on blood sugar.
Patients with type 2 diabetes who consumed a diet containing food naturally rich in fiber (e.g., 50 g fiber/day, 50 per cent soluble) for six weeks had significant improvements in glycemic control and lipid panels when compared with patients who consumed a diet with moderate amounts of fiber (e.g., 25 g fiber/day, 50 per cent soluble).
Okra can tolerate hot, dry climates which makes it a popular vegetable in the tropics. It’s leaves may also be eaten, but people are often interested in the plant’s pods
Okra is very low in calories and a rich source of dietary fiber, minerals and vitamin. It is recommended in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programmes.
The pods contain healthy amounts of vitamin A, and flavonoid anti-oxidants such as beta carotenes, xanthin and lutein. It is one of the green vegetables with highest levels of these anti-oxidants. These compounds are known to have antioxidant properties and are essential for 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.
Fresh pods are good sources of foliates It provides about 22 per cent of RDA per 100 g. Consumption of foods rich in foliates, especially during pre-conception period helps decrease the incidence of neural tube defects in the offspring.
The pods are also an excellent source of anti-oxidant vitamin, vitamin-C. Okra provides about 36 per cent of daily recommended levels. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body develop immunity against infectious agents, reduce episodes of cold and cough and protects body from harmful free radicals.
Okra is also a stomach friendly fiber rich vegetable. Okra is an excellent prebiotic. Okra fiber has a soothing effect on the stomach lining. They prevent adhesion of Helicobacter pylori to the Gastric mucosa and thus prevent peptic ulcer.
They also help to prevent inflammatory bowel syndrome. The fiber in okra is heart- friendly. Okra fiber also helps to fight the free radicals that can lead to plaque formation clogging the arteries and thus prevents atherosclerosis.
However, you can rely on okra to reduce your waist and hip circumference as it is low in calories and high in fiber. Fiber provides satiety and thus you don’t tend to feel hungry and overeat.
Also, rich in B-complex group of vitamins like niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid. The pods also contain good amounts of vitamin K. Vitamin K is a co-factor for blood clotting enzymes and is required for strengthening of bones.