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12 Little Known Facts About Okra (We Were Shocked by #8!)
If you are not from the southern parts of the US, you might not be that familiar with okra. Sometimes called lady’s fingers, bamia, or gumbo, this plant grows in tropical and warmer climates. Okra was adored by the Egyptians and is still served in many Indian dishes.
Okra is more than just a tasty seed pod, (you can eat the leaves also, by the way), this ancient plant goes back more than 3500 years where it was not only revered for its tasty pods, but for its incredible health benefits.
There is so much to okra that most people are completely unaware of. If you are like us you will be fascinated by some of the things okra can do. Keep reading and you will want to add more okra to your soups, rice and vegetable dishes.
1. Supports Colon Health
Okra is simply loaded with dietary fiber, which is vital for the entire digestive system, as well as for supporting a healthy colon. Studies have shown that people who eat plenty of healthy fiber have much lower rates of colorectal cancer. Think of okra as a green broom that sweep through the colon cleaning out toxins and excess waste, which will allow the colon to work at a greater level of efficiency. Okra also has plenty of vitamin A, which stimulates the production of healthy mucous membranes in the digestive tract to help it to keep moving things along smoothly.
2. Gives You Healthy Skin
The vitamin C and vitamin A in okra will help to give you younger looking, more vibrant skin. Both vitamins are vital for the repair of skin tissue, the formation of collagen, and even skin pigmentation. You can even use okra as a face mask! Boil a handful of okra until it is soft. Allow to cool completely, and then mash it until it reaches a pasty consistency, something like mashed potatoes. Apply this paste to your face and allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then rinse with cool water. Your skin will feel super smooth and rejuvenated!
3. Supports the Respiratory System
Okra can help those with respiratory problems, such as asthma, through its high levels of vitamin C. Studies have shown that okra, and other produce high in vitamin C, can help reduce the wheezing and other symptoms associated with respiratory problems.
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4. It’s Waistline Friendly
Okra is very low in calories, with a mere 30 calories per 100 grams! However, since this food is full of fiber, it can definitely fill you up without filling you out! Okra has absolutely no cholesterol or saturated fat either. Add more okra to your meals to help support your weight loss efforts or to maintain a healthy weight!
5. Rich in Important Antioxidants
These little green pods contain more healthy antioxidants than you can shake a stick at! You can’t lose with antioxidants like xanthine, lutein, and beta-carotene for healthy eye sight and beautiful skin. Studies have linked a diet high in these types of antioxidants with the prevention of cataracts.
6. Supports the Immune System
This little vegetable is loaded with vitamin C, which is vital for the support of a healthy immune system. Okra has even been linked to the prevention of viruses like the common cold and influenza. Vitamin C is also a natural anti-inflammatory, so it can reduce coughs, the symptoms of asthma, and arthritis pain.
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7. Promotes a Health Pregnancy
Okra contains a very important B vitamin when it comes to the production and maintenance of new cells; folate. Folates are vital for the prevention of birth defects, such as spina bifida, and to help your baby grow. Okra also contains vitamin C, which is also important for the development of your baby. Just 100 grams of okra has about 22 percent of your daily recommended amount of folate. It is also full of vitamin K, which is important for your bone health, and plays a major part when it comes to blood clotting.
8. Serious Help for Diabetics
Okra has been used in many cultures to help to stabilize blood sugar levels. Modern studies have backed up some of these claims. One study, which was published in ISRN Pharmaceutics in 2011, found that when diabetic rats were given sliced okra soaked in water overnight, the okra was shown to reduce the absorption of glucose by the intestines, which reduced the rat’s blood sugar levels. Another study found similar results. These researchers fed rats okra for 28 days, after which it was found that all the rats experienced much lower blood sugar levels, as well as experiencing lower triglyceride levels. This study was published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences.
However, there is one thing you should note about okra and diabetes. Researchers found that when rats were given metformin, and then consumed okra, that the effects of the metformin were almost completely cancelled out. In rats, anyway, okra appears to interfere with the body’s absorption of metformin, which is a medication commonly used to help manage blood sugar levels. Although there have been no studies involving humans, if you are taking metformin, you should definitely speak with your doctor before consuming okra.
9. Helps to Lower Cholesterol
The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology published a study which found that an okra extract helped to lower cholesterol levels. This was a preliminary study, but when you combine this one with the one above that was done with diabetic rats, it’s pretty easy to see that okra somehow interferes with the production and absorption of cholesterol.
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10. Cancer Prevention
Since okra is filled with the immune boosting vitamin C, healthy antioxidants, and disease fighting fiber, okra has a lot going for it in the way of cancer prevention, especially in the area of colorectal cancer.
11. Stops Constipation
Remember about okra next time when you will be thinking about home remedies for constipation. Speaking of fiber, okra can act as a natural laxative. These seed pods are rich in mucilage, which is a thick, gooey type of substance that lubricates the entire digestive system, including the large intestine, and helps with the removal of waste. Fiber filled okra will also feed your gut’s beneficial bacteria and maintain the proper pH of your entire digestive system.
12. Supports Healthy Kidneys
In October of 2005, the Jilin Medical Journal published a study which found that the regular consumption of okra was linked to a lower risk of developing kidney disease. This study showed that those who consumed okra daily had reduced clinical signs of kidney damage. It’s interesting to note that this also ties into the diabetes issue since almost 50 percent of all cases of kidney disease are caused by diabetes.
If you live in an area that has a warm summer, you can probably grow your own okra. It freezes well so you can enjoy okra all year long. Pick seed pods once they are about 3 or 4 inches in length, as these are the most tender.
No matter how you choose to eat okra whether it be steamed, raw, fried, or cooked in stew, soups, and rice dishes, you are sure to get plenty of health benefits that will keep you healthy and younger looking.