The Optimist Daily recently wrote an article about how okra may be people’s new hope in battling microplastic contaminated drinking water. Looking into the fruit (yes, it is a fruit) made us realize that there is so much more to share about the benefits of this versatile seed pod.
While relatively obscure on the modern menu, okra has a long and diverse culinary history. Originally native to Africa and South Asia, okra is a common ingredient in many North African and Middle Eastern dishes. It was first introduced to the United States in the 1700s where it gained popularity in the south. Cuisine of the American South uses the fruit in numerous dishes such as gumbo, okra fritters, or as a pickled or fried side dish.
Okra didn’t just get by on its taste. Along with its inclusion in a variety of dishes, this tenacious fruit has a stellar health profile we think you should check out and see if you might not want to make it for dinner.
Rich in nutrients
The appealing nutrient profile of okra would make anyone’s head turn. This unique fruit is packed with protein, a nutrient that many other vegetables and fruit lack, and it’s low in calories and carbs. Okra is rich in vitamin C and K, and it gives you a large amount of your daily recommended magnesium.
Packed with antioxidants
The main antioxidants okra contains are polyphenols, such as flavonoids and isoquercetin. Studies have shown these can improve heart health, brain function, and protect against inflammation.
Reduce the risk of heart disease
Okra has incredible powers of clearing up your blood vessels and gut by reducing cholesterol lurking there. The fruit contains the thick substance, mucilage which binds to cholesterol during digestion and directs it to the stool instead of it being absorbed into the body. If you’re looking for other eating habits to reduce your risk of heart disease, check out this article.
Potentially protects against cancer
The substance lectin has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells by 63 percent in a test-tube, and luckily okra is packed with lots of lectin. Although no conclusive studies have been carried out in a more complex human model, preliminary findings make a strong case.
May lower blood sugar
Studies have linked okra with blood sugar control which could potentially help people with diabetes. The research showed that okra decreases sugar absorption in the digestive tract, resulting in a more stable blood sugar response. However, okra could also interfere with metformin, a common diabetes medication, so speak to your doctor before you start eating okra every night for dinner.
Helps healthy fetus development
Folate, or vitamin B9, is extremely important for a developing fetus’ brain and spine development. Just one cup of okra provides pregnant women with 15 percent of their recommended daily intake.