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The health benefits of okra include its ability to improve digestive health and vision, boost skin health, protect infant health, prevent certain cancers, and strengthen bones. It also improves cardiovascular health, balances cholesterol levels, aids the immune system, lowers blood pressure, and protects heart health.
What Is Okra?
Okra is a flowering plant that is known in many parts of the world as ladies’ fingers or bhindi and is most highly prized because of its seed pods. The scientific name of this interesting plant is Abelmoschus esculentus and its origin is still unclear. Contrasting research says that it could have been South Asian, West African, or Ethiopian in origin, but the jury is still out.
Uses Of Okra
Okra is frequently used in dishes from the Caribbean to China, and its popularity is increasing all the time, particularly because of its various uses. This vegetable pod can be used as a pickled vegetable, or an ingredient in soups, and side dishes, and is also utilized for its oil, which can be extracted and used as a vegetable oil.
Health Benefits of Okra
Perhaps, the best part of adding okra to your diet is the significant increase it can have on your total fiber intake. Mucilaginous fiber found in okra can help move food through your digestive tract by adding bulk. This means that bowel movements are more regular and there is a reduction in gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, cramping, constipation, and excess gas. Oddly, it also helps prevent diarrhea, because it adds bulk to watery stools. Further, its fiber content can help clear out excess cholesterol in the body and controls the rate at which sugar is absorbed into the body.
Okra contains a very high content of vitamin A, as well as antioxidant components like beta carotenes, xanthein, and lutein. Antioxidants are powerful compounds that destroy or neutralize free radicals, which are the dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism. Free radicals are responsible for cell degradation in the body, including those responsible for vision. With high levels of okra in your diet, you can protect your eyes against macular degeneration and cataracts.
Vitamin A antioxidants are also able to protect skin health, by promoting quicker healing, reducing the appearance of scars and acne, and eliminating wrinkles. This is because the antioxidants are able to neutralize the free radicals which may have damaged those skin cells.
The various antioxidant components of okra make it very beneficial to fight off free radicals and the high vitamin C content also means that the body’s immunity is boosted. This vitamin can stimulate the immune system to create white blood cells, which can combat foreign pathogens and materials in the body that can weaken the immune system.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Okra is a good source of both vitamins and minerals, including potassium, which is an essential aspect of human health. Potassium is necessary to maintain proper fluid balance in the body because it balances sodium. Furthermore, potassium helps relax the blood vessels and arteries, which reduces blood pressure and lessens the strain on the cardiovascular system. This means that the chances of clotting and atherosclerosis will be greatly reduced.
Word of Caution: One thing you do need to worry about while consuming okra is its high levels of oxalates. Oxalates  bind to existing kidney and gallstones and cause them to grow and may worsen the associated conditions. Frying okra can also increase your cholesterol intake for the day, so cooking it in other ways is wise if you want to maintain a good cholesterol balance.