Native to India and West Africa, okra is known by many names around the world—gombo, bhindi, lady’s finger, and so on. The fact that it has that many names suggests its global popularity and widespread cultivation. This tender, young, unique flavored plant is not only eaten as a vegetable in salads and stews, but also used medicinally because of its many healing properties.
Okra water is a form of this vegetable that has emerged in recent years, and it has gained a reputation as a low-carb diabetes-fighting drink. Just in case you need even more reason to grab a glass of okra water, here are 8 amazing health benefits this super drink offers:
1. Prevents Cancer
Eating folate-rich foods like okra is an important part of cancer prevention. One of several B vitamins, folate produces red blood cells and both makes and repairs your DNA. High intakes of folate may protect against certain cancers, including those of the breast, gut, lung and pancreas.
Some researchers believe that low folate levels can increase your risk of abnormal cell growth and cancer. This is likely because of the role folate plays in gene expression—controlling when genes are turned on or off. It's also been found that low folate levels cause unstable and easily breakable DNA to build up, which may increase cancer risk.
2. Prevents Liver Disease
Your liver is the organ that helps cleanse your body by filtering waste from your blood, and okra can actually help cleanse your liver. The gooey substance of okra is found to be able to bind to cholesterol and bile acids to aid the liver in carrying toxins out of the body.
Another study suggests okra extract can counteract chemically-induced liver disease in lab rats. It reduces the effects of damaging free radicals that can cause many liver diseases. This is likely due to its ability of stabilizing liver cell membranes, making them to resist against intruding free radicals more effectively.
3. Prevents Stroke
Okra is loaded with vitamin C, one of the most powerful anti-oxidants that the human body doesn't produce. Vitamin C plays an important role in lowering blood pressure and keeping blood vessels healthy, thus reducing the risk of stroke. In fact, one study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that those with the highest concentrations of vitamin C in their blood are associated with 42% lower stroke risk than those with the lowest concentrations.
Vitamin C also lessens both the duration and severity of a cold and is necessary to produce collagen, a protein that your skin and tissues need to stay firm but flexible.
4. Improves Colon Health
Okra contains a lot of soluble fiber. In fact, one serving of okra provides 3 to 4 grams of fiber. Unlike other food components such as fats or carbohydrates, fiber can’t be broken down and absorbed. Instead, it passes through your stomach, small intestine, and colon and out of your body. The fact that fiber is mostly left intact is a good thing as it creates a protective barrier in your intestines and colon, reducing your risk for colon cancer. Fiber also acts to slow the rate of digestion, which can slow the rate of sugar being absorbed in the bloodstream, keeping your blood sugar from rising too fast.
5. Lowers Cholesterol Levels
According to the American Heart Association, people with diabetes are more likely to have unhealthy cholesterol levels. When high cholesterol levels are combined with diabetes, the outlook is not good. That’s why it’s so critical to make sure that your diet has healthy cholesterol levels.
Fortunately, okra can help lower cholesterol levels. The same soluble fiber found in okra reduces your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or the "bad" cholesterol by limiting the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. 5 to 10 grams or more of soluble fiber a day decreases your overall LDL cholesterol.
6. Improves Brain Power
Okra has impressively high levels of potassium, which plays an important role in keeping brain function at a normal level. High levels of potassium allow more oxygen to reach the brain, thereby stimulating neural activity and increasing cognitive function. There is a good reason why okra is also known as a good brain food.
Potassium also helps in preventing the occurrence of stroke in the human brain. It's no secret that people at high risk for this tragic condition are often found to be deficient in this essential mineral. The blood vessels relax throughout the body when a proper amount of potassium is consumed. This means that blood flows more freely and is less likely to clot and break off to cause strokes.
7. Provides Non-Dairy Calcium
If you are a vegetarian or lactose intolerant, it can be a struggle to meet you daily calcium needs. Okra serves as a good source of non-dairy calcium. There are 82 milligrams of calcium in just 1 cup of okra. A single 100-gram serving of okra supplies about 8% of your daily calcium requirements, which when combined with other foods can help get you closer to your daily goal.
This calcium is essential to muscle and nerve health and the preservation of bone structure, which prevents conditions such as osteoporosis. Calcium also serves an under-appreciated function in helping the heart to retain its rhythmic pattern and contraction force.
8. Strengthens Bones
Okra is touted as one of the foods highest in vitamin K, which fortifies bones and promotes blood clotting. Although vitamin K is not as significant to bone health as calcium and vitamin D, low levels of circulating vitamin K is linked with low bone density.
One study suggests that women who get at least 110 micrograms of vitamin K a day are 30% less likely to break a hip than women who get less than that. Many researchers also believe that supplementation with vitamin K helps increase bone strength and lower the risk of fractures in people suffering from osteoporosis.
BONUS: How To Make Okra Water
Okra can be added to soups, stews, and salads. But if you don’t really like the taste of okra and still want a quick and effortless way to reap some of the benefits of this vegetable, try making okra water.
All you need are 3 to 5 okra pods and a glass of water. Soak the okra pods overnight, and in the morning, remove them and enjoy some okra water. You may also thinly slice the okra pods to allow the water to extract even more of okra’s beneficial compounds. Doing this will make the water taste slightly bitter, however.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before making any changes to your diet.