Okra may be a new ingredient to you, but it’s one you need to know about to improve your health. Okra – or ladyfingers, as it’s also known as, is a flowering plant that is not as commonly used as other ingredients. It’s still important to know of okra even if it’s unfamiliar to you or you haven’t seen it available. When it comes to your wellness, there are 6 okra health benefits that you’ll be interested in learning about.
What Exactly Is Okra?
As was mentioned, okra is a flowering plant that produces edible seedpods. You can look at it as similar to green beans or edamame. We usually find okra growing in Africa, but it can grow in any warm environment.
The okra leaves are what we use in cooking and they resemble jalapeno peppers, but with a more hexagonal shape to them. Okra has a somewhat bitter taste, but it’s one that you can grow to enjoy.
Besides consuming it in its natural food form, you can use okra in teas and even in extract powder.
How Do You Use It?
Think of okra the same way you would any other vegetable. An easy way is to dice it up and use it in salads along with other healthy ingredients such as spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers. It will give more texture to your salads as it has more firmness and crunch to it.
It makes a great addition to stir-fries to again, give more crunch and texture. It works well with ingredients such as rice, onion, and any proteins you choose to use.
No matter which way you use it, or what form you use it in, here are 6 health benefits of okra.
1. Okra May Help Lower Cholesterol
Okra is an interesting plant as it gives off a mucus-like secretion. This may sound odd, but many plants do this in some form such as chia seeds and oats. When they get wet, they secrete a gel-like consistency and this is where the soluble fiber exists. With okra, this mucus may help lower your cholesterol.
The mucus in okra can bind to cholesterol and bile acids to assist in their elimination from the body. This acts in a similar manner to how oats help in removing and lowering your cholesterol.
2. Okra Can Act As A Detoxifier
With the health benefits that come from okra, the two big ones are related to the mucus secretion. In this case, okra can help to detoxify your liver. It can do this as the mucus can collect toxins and help to eliminate them from the body. Having a healthy liver is really key to overall health and wellness.
If you smoke, consume too many artificial ingredients, use alcohol and medications, your liver may suffer as a result. Consuming foods like okra will help your body to eliminate more toxins.
3. It May Help Combat Cancer
Okra contains a type of protein called lectin, which is a very important substance. They use lectin in research to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells in humans. Some research shows that these lectins may be able to lower the growth of cancer cells by 63%. Further research is definitely needed, but the initial reporting sounds very encouraging.
4. Okra Is A Rich Source Of Folate
These health benefits of okra also have connections to cancer. Some researchers believe that the consumption of folate-rich foods is very important for cancer prevention in humans. Okra is a food that is very high in folate and is easy to incorporate into the diet. Folate is very important in your body for making DNA and other genetic material.
Folate is one of the B-vitamins and is used to make red and white blood cells in the bone marrow. Folate is also responsible for converting carbohydrates into energy.
5. Okra Can Help For Pregnancy
The folate content of okra is what helps give its benefits to women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Folate is very important for maintaining the health of the fetus during pregnancy. A lack of folate during pregnancy may cause problems for children later in life.
Women need to focus on getting enough folate before, during, and after pregnancy while breastfeeding. Okra helps you to get in those required levels as one cup of it contains around 60 micrograms of folate.
6. Okra May Be Beneficial To Those With Diabetes
The occurrence of type two diabetes has skyrocketed in society and it’s impacting more and more people every day. Okra may help combat this growing epidemic. They conducted a study in 2011 where research made a powder out of the skin and seeds of okra. The powder was given to mice with diabetes and the ones that received the powder showed lower blood sugar levels.
The mice even showed lower fat levels compared to the mice that did not consume the powder. Again, more research with human tests is needed, but this was a surprising result from a food source that many tend to ignore.
If you’ve never heard of okra, you may be glad that you now have. If you’re looking for some added health benefits, it’s time to throw some of it into the mix. Okra may be a vegetable you have just passed by before, but it’s one that is worth consuming as often as possible.
Not only is it going to boost your liver health, but it may also lower cholesterol, improve your blood sugar levels, and give you that great boost of folate that your body requires.
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