Health benefits of okra (Hibiscus esculentus)
A man had been suffering from constipation for the past 20 years and recently from acid reflux. He did not realize that the treatment could be so simple: OK! He started eating okra in the past 2 months and has never taken medication since. All he did was eat 6 pieces of OKRA every day. He is 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 about 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 lower serum cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease. The other half is insoluble fiber that helps keep the intestinal tract healthy, lowering the risk of some forms of cancer, especially colorectal cancer. Almost 10% of the recommended levels of vitamin B6 and folic acid is also present in half a cup of cooked okra.
Okra is a rich source of many nutrients, including fiber, vitamin B6, and folate. Here are the next issues from the University of Illinois Extension Okra Page. [Please check there for more details.]
Okra Nutrition (half a cup of 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 are to be used as a guide only, and if you are on a medically restricted diet, please consult your physician and / or dietitian.
Ms. Sylvia W. Zook, Ph.D. (Nutritionist) has kindly provided the following thought-provoking comments on the many benefits of this versatile vegetable. They are worth reading.
1. The superior fiber found in okra helps stabilize blood sugar by reducing the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract.
2. The mucilage in okra not only binds to cholesterol, but also contains toxins that carry bile acids and are discharged by the liver that filters it. But it doesn’t stop there …
3. Many alternative health professionals believe that all disease begins in the colon. The okra fiber, which absorbs water and ensures the volume of stool, 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 durum wheat bran, which can irritate or damage the intestinal tract, the mucilage in okra soothes and okra makes it easier to eliminate more comfortably because of its slippery characteristic that many people abhor. In other words, this incredibly valuable vegetable not only binds excess cholesterol and toxins (in bile acids) that cause numerous health problems, if not flushed, but also ensures its easy passage out of the body.
4. Further contributing to the health of the intestinal tract, okra fiber (as well as flaxseed and psyllium) is unmatched among fibers for feeding good bacteria (probiotics).
5. To retain most of the okra’s nutrients and self-digesting enzymes, cook as little as possible, for example, simmering or steaming. Some eat it raw.
Cholesterol lowering effects of OKRA
Okra, a fruit rich in water-soluble fiber (FSM) and widely consumed in Africa, was investigated as a potential cholesterol-lowering candidate. The water-soluble fiber in some fruits and vegetables has been the subject of scientific research regarding the potential health benefits of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The 3-week randomized crossover placebo study conducted among 30 healthy subjects found that Okra is an effective dietary supplement for lowering cholesterol. Therefore, okra could be an interesting approach in the prevention of CVD risk factors, as well as an opportunity for the okra business 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-potency hit against heart disease, eat some okra. It first strikes with an antioxidant work for atherosclerosis that hardens and clogs the blood vessels. The main antioxidant in okra’s arsenal is vitamin C, which the World Health Organization has linked to a reduced risk of fatal heart disease. A cup of sliced okra has more vitamin C than a whole tomato. Although you cannot rely on okra as the sole source of this important vitamin, it is an interesting and nutritious addition to your diet.
With a healthy dose of folic acid – roughly 40 percent of your daily requirement in each cup of okra – heart disease takes a left hook. Without this B vitamin, your body leaves loose amino acids, called homocysteine, when it metabolizes proteins. Too much homocysteine built up in the blood damages the arteries and can lead to heart disease and stroke.
Okra delivers a final knockout with its richness in minerals, primarily potassium and magnesium. To lower blood pressure, experts say that eating foods high in potassium can be just as important as losing weight and reducing salt intake. And the right amount of magnesium is especially important for older people, who may not absorb it as well as they used to and may excrete more as waste. Magnesium helps control cholesterol and blood pressure, regulates your heart rate, and may even improve your chances of surviving heart disease and heart attacks.
Arms against osteoporosis
Don’t forget okra when planning a bone-strengthening menu. It’s packed with four osteoporosis-fighting nutrients: potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. People who eat foods high in these nutrients, according to research from the UK, can slow down bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis. To top it off, a cup of okra provides you with more than 10 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for the most famous bone-building mineral of all calcium.
Some doctors used to think that osteoarthritis (OA), the most common type of joint disease, was unstoppable, but now natural alternatives give new hope. Foods like okra contain vitamin C and manganese, nutrients your body needs to build joints and cartilage. Experts who analyzed a variety of research suggest that a diet rich in vitamin C can slow the development of OA. They also remind us that manganese is a necessary component of cartilage.