Okra isn't just a delicious food you can eat pickled, raw, in gumbo, or in salads. This flowering plant -- also known as Abelmoschus esculentus, ladies' fingers, or ochro -- also has a ton of health benefits! Eating okra can help you with lots of different health and wellness issues, and you can get them if you just cook okra in a stir fry or toss it in a salad or stew. The Okra plant really is amazing if you're looking for foods to add to a cholesterol-free, low-carb, sodium-free, low-calorie, or fat-free diet. Let's take a look at some of the ways okra benefits your health.
Health Benefits of Okra
1. Lots of Nutrients
Okra has fiber, magnesium, folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, folic acid, calcium, and even a little bit of potassium and phosphorus. "Vitamin K1 is a fat-soluble vitamin that's known for its role in blood clotting," Healthline reports. It's low in calories and carbohydrates and is a good source of protein.
2. Weight Management
The same outlet notes that eating enough protein offers benefits for weight management, bone structure, and muscle mass, and Medical News Today says "Fiber in the diet also helps reduce appetite, and may contribute to weight loss." This veggie is a great source of fiber! This fiber content helps with bloating and other stomach woes from too much fast food.
3. Lowering Blood Sugar
Healthline also says eating okra may help lower blood sugar levels. This is helpful for diabetics or those with type 2 diabetes, but lowering blood glucose levels can benefit even those with normal blood sugar levels. One Medical News Today study suggests that, "...the okra decreased sugar absorption in the digestive tract, leading to a more stable blood sugar response." However, okra could possibly interfere with metformin, a diabetes medication, so always talk to your doctor first.
4. Cardiovascular Disease
A diet with lots of fruits and vegetables can help combat cardiovascular disease. So if you're looking to make some dietary changes based on that, look no further than okra, or even okra water if you're feeling a little bit brave.
5. General Heart Health
Eating okra might help with overall heart health because it's high in fiber, which can lower harmful cholesterol levels in the blood. High-fiber food like okra can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and obesity, and fiber can also slow heart disease, according to Medical News Today.
6. Lots of Antioxidants
Okra has lots of antioxidants, which "...are compounds in food that fend off damage from harmful molecules called free radicals," Healthline says. Okra has polyphenols, including flavonoids and isoquercetin, plus vitamins A and C. Okra benefits really are amazing!
7. Aiding in Pregnancy
"One cup of okra has 15 percent of the daily value of folate, a helpful nutrient for pregnant women," WebMD reports. Folate can lower the risk of neural tube defects that can impact the brain and spine of developing fetuses.
8. Gastrointestinal Health
Finally, okra benefits your intestinal system! Dietary fiber can prevent constipation and help your overall digestive system. Plus, lots of fiber may help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, which is always a good thing. Okra seeds and seed pods contain a lot of mucilage, which is loaded with dietary fiber. It sounds gross, but it goes great in gumbo and other stews. Next time you need something to thicken a stew or soup, skip the corn starch and reach for some okra!