“Okra” (Abelmoschus esculentus) is always available in Nigeria and this is one of the gracious foods we are blessed with.
You may have been enjoying this soup your own way before now, but have you sat to think about the benefits?
One question that you should often ask is: “What do I get from this meal?”
There is so much you should know about Okra, a vegetable crop grown in the tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world.
The leaf, the pods and the seeds of this plant are edible and they are full of different nutrients. Some persons even use the flowers too.
In Nigeria, the part of Okra that is most consumed is the pod and it is prepared in different ways. Most times it is the immature pods that are used for soup preparation.
However, there is a way you will prepare your Okra pods to ensure you get the nutrients they carry.
Before we look at the best way to prepare Okra, we will examine the health benefits identified by a 2015 research.
Nutritional Fact Of Okra
There are different compounds that are in Okra that make it a great diet food.
Okra is rich in dietary fibre and distinct seed protein balance of both lysine and tryptophan amino acids.
Okra has been called “a perfect villager’s vegetable” because of its robust nutrient-nature.
The amino acid in the seed protein is comparable to that of soybeans and protein efficient ratio is higher than that of soybeans.
Also, Okra contains carbohydrates and vitamins that are essential for your daily optimum performance.
The pods also contains Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium and Calcium are the principal elements in pods, which contain about 17% seeds.
You may have heard that it is not good for men.
That is a myth.
It contains magnesium, which is a natural relaxant and it is also full of iron, folate, zinc, and vitamin B.
These are nutrients that keep a man’s sex organs healthy and at optimum performance.
Other Nutritional Compounds In Okra
According to researches, the pods also contain manganese and nickel.
Fresh pods of Okra are are low in calories (20 per 100 g), practically no fat, high in fiber, and have several valuable nutrients.
Also, it has about 30% of the recommended levels of vitamin C (16 to 29 mg), 10 to 20% of folate (46 to 88 mg) and
about 5% of vitamin A (14 to 20 RAE).
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Both pod skin (mesocarp) and seeds are excellent source of zinc (80 mg/g).
The seeds are composed of oligomeric catechins (2.5 mg/g of seeds) and flavanol derivatives (3.4 mg/g of seeds).
Furthermore, the pods and seeds are rich in phenolic compounds with important biological properties like quartering derivatives, catechin oligomers and hydroxycinnamic derivatives.
Health Benefits Of Okra
As a result of the nutrients mentioned above and some that will be mentioned later, the health benefits of this vegetable is enormous.
They should give you a good reason to add it to your diet.
1. Lowers Blood Sugar Level
People who are diabetic will find Okra a great food to add to their diet.
This is because it helps slow down sugar assimilation through the intestines.
This way, the amount of sugar that gets to the blood stream is safe.
2. Good For The Heart
Really, one of the causes of heart disease is high cholesterol level that plugs the arteries.
Fresh pods are the most important vegetable source of viscous fibre that lowers cholesterol level.
They are rich in unsaturated fatty acids such as linoleic acid.
When the cholesterol level is lowered, the heart functions better.
Also, it contains antioxidants that lower cholesterol.
3. Great For Weight Loss/Management
Weight loss is one tough task for many people who are obese, but adding this vegetable to your diet could help.
It is rich in fibre and also makes you feel full for a longer period, reducing the desire to eat.
On the other hand, it contains water that also helps increase bowel movement and ensure that fat particles do not find their way into the arteries.
The fibre helps flush down the foods in the bowel, ensuring proper digestion of foods consumed.
4. Aids Conception And Great In Pregnancy
Okra is good for women who want to conceive and this is because it is rich in folate.
Folate is an essential B vitamin for creating and maintaining new cells. This makes it vital for optimum pregnancy.
Doctors often prescribe folate as part of drugs that a woman who wants to conceive could take.
Also, foliate is helpful in pregnancy for the development of the fetus’ brain.
5. Aid Kidney Health
According to the 2015 research, this vegetable has the ability to lower risk of kidney diseases.
The research cited earlier found that those who consumed Okra everyday decreased clinical indications of kidney damage a lot more than the ones that simply consumed a diabetic diet.
6. Helps Address Digestive Issues
Okra contains an antioxidant called Polysaccharides. It is high in immature Okra pods and it possesses considerable anti-adhesive properties.
These help remove the adhesive between bacteria and stomach tissue, preventing the culture from spreading.
For instance, research found that polysaccharides are effective at inhibiting the adhesion of Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that dwells in the stomach and can cause gastritis and gastric ulcers if left unchecked.
7. Great For Colon Health
Recently, colon cancer awareness rose after the death of the major character in Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman.
This vegetable may lower the risk of cancer and one of such cancers is colon cancer.
Interestingly, Okra smoothly cleans the colon, as it flows down.
It cleanses the intestinal system of every toxin and excess water that may be there.
The vitamin A in the pods also assists the digestive system to function adequately.
To keep your stomach clean, add Okra to your diet.
8. Health Skin
vitamin C is an essential antioxidant that aids in the growth and repair of bodily tissues. This vitamin is also high in Okra.
Really, if you want to rejuvenate your skin, eat more Okra.
9. Blood Clot Formation
Also, this vegetable contains vitamin K, known for its potency in blood clot formation. People who suffer regular nosebleeds, bleeding gum, heavy menstrual flow, can add Okra to their diet.
10. Hair Growth
Researches have also highlighted the power of Okra for hair growth.
It is rich in vitamins A, C, and K. Okra also has calcium, potassium, and lots of other nutrients that are great for hair growth, moisturising a dry scalp, and getting rid of dandruff.
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You can slice some of it into a small bowl, add water to it and allow the slimy component to get into the water.
Apply the water to your hair and cover with shower cap for few hours. Consistency in application will give you the result you seek.
11. Great For The Eyes
Furthermore, the vitamin A and beta carotene content of this vegetable are great for your eyes.
12. Okra Helps Relief Stress, Weakness Depression
As a result of the antioxidants in Okra, it is able to fight stress or antibodies that cause trouble. The magnesium in this diet food helps you relax and ease symptoms of depression.
It is also packed with vitamins that help your body system function better.
How To Prepare Okra For Optimum Benefit
One of the very first things that you should know is that preparing Okra in certain ways, lower the nutrient.
For instance, research says dried “Okra” sauce (pods mixed with other ingredients) that are regularly consumed in Nigeria and other West African countries does not provide any bata carotene (vitamin A) or retinol.
The drying process destroys these compounds.
Interestingly, there is a way to prepare your Okra to enjoy its full nutrients.
From research, we found that very tender Okra that are 7-day old have the highest concentration of nutrients.
It is rich in phenolic compounds, mainly composed of flavanol derivatives and oligomeric catechins.
If you have an okra garden, harvest them after 7 days the pods showed up.
It could be friend or cooked. However, when you do, ensure that you do not cook for so long since that could destroy most of the nutrients.
If you do not like the slimy nature, add more vegetables and onions to reduce the slimy component.
One more thing you should know – Okra could thicken soups and stews. This is because of its thick slimy polysaccharides.
Add this vegetable to your diet and enjoy all of its benefits.