Okra or Okro, Abelmoschus esculentus, known in many English-speaking countries as ladies' fingers or ochro, is a flowering plant in the mallow family. It is valued for its edible green seed pods. The geographical origin of okra is disputed, with supporters of West African, Ethiopian, and South Asian origins.
Okra is low in calories but packed full of nutrients. The vitamin C in okra helps support healthy immune function. Okra is also rich in vitamin K, which helps blood clot.
Some of the other health benefits of okra include:
Antioxidant are natural compounds that help your body fight off molecules called free radicals that can damage cells. Free radicals are most well known for causing oxidation damage, which can eventually lead to cancer.
Okra contains antioxidants called polyphenols, including vitamins A and C. It also contains a protein called lectin which may inhibit cancer cell growth in humans. Studies using concentrated compounds from okra showed they inhibited the growth of breast cancer cells by up to 63%. Further research is needed for definitive proof of okra’s cancer-blocking properties.
Support Heart and Brain Health
Polyphenols decrease your risk of heart problems and stroke by preventing blood clots and reducing free radical damage. The antioxidants in okra may also benefit your brain by reducing brain inflammation.
Mucilage—a thick, gel-like substance found in okra—can bind with cholesterol during digestion so it is passed from the body. An eight-week study conducted on mice showed lower blood cholesterol level after they were fed a high-fat diet containing okra powder.
Control Blood Sugar
Various studies have shown okra may help control blood sugar levels. Researchers believe okra may help prevent sugar from being absorbed during digestion.
In one study, rats given purified okra and liquid sugar had fewer blood sugar spikes than rats in the control group. More evidence is needed to confirm that okra helps control blood sugar levels in humans.
One cup of okra has 15% of the daily value of folate, a helpful nutrient for pregnant women. Folate helps reduce the risk of neural tube defects, which can affect the brain and spine of developing fetuses.
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