Okra, also known as lady’s finger or ochro, is the only edible seed pod of a flowering plant that belongs to the mallow family (which includes cotton, hibiscus, and hollyhock), native to Ethiopia.
Traditionally, these tasty pods, have been green.
That is, until the 1980s!
In 1983, Leon Robbins at Clemson University in South Carolina successfully bred the ‘red burgundy’, which remains the most prevalent in the red variety. This may be due to the gorgeous burgundy hue that derives from anthocyanins – a natural plant pigment. Other red okra variations include:
- Red Velvet
- Royal Burgundy
- Little Lucy
- Aunt Hettie’s Red
- Hill Country Red
So you’re probably wondering how different red okras are from the green ones you’re used to eating.
Well, there isn’t much difference apart from the colour. Although red okras look more visually appealing and ornamental, they eventually turn brownish green when cooked.
Nevertheless, okras on their own contain a lot of nutritional benefits. Thus, it is advisable to include them in your meals as much as possible regardless of their colour.
Benefits of consuming okra
1. Maintains blood sugar levels
Okra has little calories and almost no fat. It also contains a lot of vitamin C, vitamin A, and zinc. But its high fibre content is perhaps its most important benefit, especially for diabetics.
The fibre in okra fruit (the green, seedy part of the plant) lowers blood sugar by slowing sugar absorption in the intestines.
Many studies have been conducted to demonstrate the effectiveness of okras in lowering blood sugar levels to normal. According to a study conducted by Sarika Davis and Jennifer D’Souza of the Department of Health Nursing, lady finger juice is proven to be an effective method to control blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Another study found that rats given purified okra along with liquid sugar had fewer blood sugar spikes than rats in the control group, further proving the anti-diabetic properties of okras.
Please be aware, however, that okras can interact with metformin, a medication used to treat type 2 diabetes. So, before making major dietary changes, consult with your doctor. You don’t want them to do more harm than good to you.
2. Prevents constipation
Lady finger has a bulk laxative quality that aids in the lubrication of the large intestine. That slimy centre inside okra is actually mucilaginous fibre, which is soluble fibre that has been mixed with water and turns gooey, as all soluble fibre does in your digestive tract.
Unlike other types of fibre, such as harsh wheat bran, which can irritate or harm the intestinal tract or digestion, lady finger mucilage is soothing. Its slippery nature also aids in the comfortable elimination of waste from the body.
3. Fights depression
Have you recently felt exhausted, depressed, or weak? Okras are just what you need to beat the blues.
This underutilised vegetable contains a plethora of neuroprotective and antidepressant compounds. Okras contain both soluble and insoluble fibre that feeds “good” gut bacteria.
This is increasingly believed to influence mood, motivation, higher cognitive functions, and overall brain health. A 2011 study also suggested that gut microbiota may help with stress-related disorders.
The magnesium content in okras also helps to calm your nerves and give you a better feeling in your body and mind. A single serving of lady finger contains 57 mg of magnesium, making okras one of the magnesium-rich vegetables.
4. Caffeine-free alternative
Are you a coffee lover? If yes, you might love okra coffee just as much. Roasted okra seeds are a tasty substitute for coffee, giving hope to those who want to wean themselves off caffeine but are unwilling to drink decaf or give up the coffee flavour.
To make your own okra coffee, make sure the pods are mature. You could also save some okras from your garden that have simply grown too large and woody to be eaten. Give the seeds enough time to dry and you will see the pods turning brown and brittle.
Give the pod a shake. If you hear the seeds rattling inside, then they are ready. Next, remove the seeds from the shells and toast them in a skillet over medium heat. Give it a frequent stir for about 10-15 minutes. The goal is to parch the seeds without burning them.
Allow the seeds to cool and grind them to have your very own caffeine-free coffee powder. All you have to do is to brew (as you would a regular coffee) and enjoy!
5. Reduces sore throat
It is indeed extremely aggravating to have constant soreness and itchiness in the throat. Especially when it becomes difficult to swallow. What if we told you that okras have antiseptic and antibacterial properties that can help you get rid of your aches and pains? All you need is some okra water!
Simply soak the okra pods in water overnight or for up to 24 hours to make okra water. After the okra has soaked, squeeze any remaining sap from the pods into the infused water.
To sum up, okras are highly nutritional with numerous health benefits. It is however, important to note that it is not suitable for everybody. As mentioned previously, if you are consuming medication that includes metformin, it is best to avoid okras. Also, the vitamin K in okras can promote blood clotting too. So people who are taking blood-thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin) should avoid this vegetable as well.
We hope you found this blog informative. Have a wonderful day.