This delicacy that has been savoured for years especially in the African continent only made its way to the rest of the world during the transatlantic slave trade.
This green vegetable with its slimy nature is loved by most but some people just don’t like the way it slides down nor do they like the smell or taste. But the vegetable indeed has a very peculiar history and stories attached to it with greats like Cleopatra of Egypt and Yang Guifei of China eating okra often.
It’s seeds have been used as replacement for coffee, especially during the second world war.
I doubt that love for the okra came only from enjoying the taste, texture and flavour. With China being at the forefront of alternative medicine and having used herbs and other non-synthetic products to heal and treat different ailments, I believe they had found something in Okra others where yet to find.
The okra plant.
Okra, or okro from its original Igbo appellation, okuru, is an edible green seed pod. Some even call it a fanciful name, ‘lady’s fingers’ in reference to their beautiful pods. It is an allopolypoid also called Abelmoschus esculentus, originated most likely from West Africa given it is widely used there more than any other region.
It is a plant that grows to about 2m in length bearing an 18 cm long pentagonal cross section pod containing many seeds. It is slimy because it is a mucilaginous plant which contains soluble fibre. It has been used in developing countries to mitigate malnutrition and alleviate food insecurity.
Raw okra is 90% water, 2% protein, 7% carbohydrates and negligible in fat. A 100gram amount of raw okra is rich in dietary fibre, vitamin c and vitamin k with moderate contents of thiamin, folate and magnesium.
It also has some industrial use as bast fibre from the stem of the plant is used as the reinforcement of polymer composites. The mucilage is also used for the removal of turbidity from wastewater due to its very flocculant properties.
Great Health Benefits of Okra.
We have looked at what the okra plant is. It is not just good for the above reasons, it has so many health-related benefits that should not be ignored. Let us look at some of the health benefits.
1. It is loaded with all the nutrients in good quantities.
Protein, fibre, calcium, zinc and iron are found in significant amounts in this vegetable.
In Africa, it is used by the very poor, who cultivate it and use as a staple meal. Therefore it is that food that brings good quality nutrients even for the very poor.
2. It controls hunger making you feel less hungry.
With its soluble fibres, you will feel fuller and for longer. This will reduce your calories intake per meal and help in controlling your weight.
3. It keeps your energy stores replenished
It keeps your energy stores replenished by promoting glycogen storage in the liver. These are antioxidants like polyphenols found in okra which help in glycogen storage and glycogen being the energy store of the body means you will complain less of being tired.
Drink some okra soup during your depressive state and you will complain less of tiredness.
4. It manage diabetes mellitus
It may sound unreal but yes, it is used to manage diabetes mellitus. I read in a journal about Turkish people using an infusion of roasted okra seeds to manage the said condition and they saw results enough to transmit the tradition from generation to generation.
Okra peels and seeds can reduce blood glucose levels it has been proven by increasing insulin sensitivity and ensuring there are sufficient insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
5. It stabilizes blood cholesterol levels.
The more you grind your okra to a fine powder, the more it will absorb cholesterol. It inhibits cholesterol breakdown thus inhibiting fats production in the body.
It thus decreases cholesterol and triglyceride in the blood. By reducing fats in the blood, it prevents deposits of fats in the vessels and also reduces clogging which prevents strokes, high blood pressure and generally keeps the heart healthy.
6. Okra is known to fortify bones and prevent bleeding.
Okra has a very high amount of vitamins K12, which is very vital to reducing the length and amount of bleeding by promoting blood clotting.
7. Improves eyesight and strengthens your immunity.
All this is made possible by vik A. Vitamin A encourages the production of white blood cells which are vital in making the immune system strong.
8. It prevents gastritis and can also reduce the symptoms.
Okra juice prevents the growth of H.pylori thus preventing onset of gastric ulcers or stops it’s getting worse.
9. Prevents diseases in the body’s prime detox centre.
They do so by adhering to and destroying free radicals which very negatively affects the liver.
10. It helps destruction of cancer cells.
A study that isolated lectin from Okra seeds successfully instigated cancer cell suicide.
It will take a very long article to delve into all the wonders of the okra vegetable. The listed health benefits are largely in exhaustive but I have pointed to some of them in this article. We could list some other benefits like ; keeps neurodegenerative disorders at bay and equally helps to prevent asthma symptoms. Okra is great as food and as medicine. Go for this wonderful vegetable and see your health stabilise.