Okra or commonly known as lady’s finger is a widely consumed vegetable in tropical regions. Especially in Ghanaian kitchen okra is one of the most versatile foods, which are loved and consumed by all. It is biologically categorized as a fruit but is generally consumed as a vegetable. For men, there are assertions that men who eat too much of it could affect their waist BUT no studies confirm this. However, okra presents much good news for men and women from a scientific perspective and I examine it in this article.
Rich in nutrients
Okra boasts an impressive nutrient profile.
The US Department of Agriculture reports that one cup (100 grams) of raw okra contains:
- Calories: 33
- Carbs: 7 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Magnesium: 14% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Folate: 15% of the DV
- Vitamin A: 14% of the DV
- Vitamin C: 26% of the DV
- Vitamin K: 26% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 14% of the DV
Two studies(Carr and Maggini, 2017; DiNicolantonio et al. 2015) found that okra isa good source of vitamins C and K1. Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient that aidsholistic immune function, and vitamin K1 is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s known for its role in blood clotting.
Moreover, okra is low in calories and carbs and contains some protein and fiber. Numerous fruits and vegetables lack protein, which makes okra somewhat unique.
Eating enough protein is linked with weight management, blood sugar control, bone structure, and muscle mass(Pasiakos SM, 2015; Devries and Phillips, 2015).
Okra is loaded with numerous antioxidants. One study(Xia et al. 2015) found that the main antioxidants in okra are polyphenols, including flavonoids and isoquercetin, as well as vitamins A and C.
Tressera-Rimbauet al.(2017) note that eating a diet high in polyphenols may improve heart health by lowering the risk of blood clots and oxidative damage. It may also support brain health as it can penetrate the brain and protect against inflammation (Sarubbo et al. 2018), enhance symptoms of aging and improve cognition, learning, and memory.
Decreases heart diseases risk
The thick-gel nature of okra called mucilage plays an important role as it kind binds cholesterol during digestion and this trigger it to get rid of the body with the stool instead of maintaining it in the body.
For instance, Wang et al.(2014) conducted an 8-week duration randomly separated mice into 3 groups and gave them a high-fat diet containing 1% or 2% okra powder or a high-fat diet without okra powder. It was found that themice on the okra diet got rid ofextra cholesterol in their stools and had decreased total blood cholesterol levels than the control group.
Okra also contains polyphenols. For instance, Medina-Remónet al.(2017) conducted a 4-year study on 1,100 people and found that those who ate a diet rich in polyphenols had reduced inflammatory markers linked with heart disease.
Okra also contains a type of protein called lectin, which may inhibit the growth of human cancer cells. These properties have been reported to demonstrate potential in many cancer cells which are adumbrated:
The first study report: Okra kills 72% of human breast cancer cells in vitro
This study was conducted by Monte et al.(2014) and found that the lectin in common okra (Abelmoschusesculentus) was shown to kill up to 72% of human breast cancer cells (MCF7) in vitro, mostly by inducing programmed cell death (apoptosis). The okra lectin was found to reduce the growth of breast cancer cells by 63%. In this study, the lectin is found in okra seeds, and researchers in this study got their lectin by water extraction from okra seed meal. This anti-cancer lectin was found in 2012 and contained anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive (pain relieving) properties which makes it a very interesting compound for future research.
The authors found that the lectin compound is a “potential therapeutic to combat human breast cancer.” Apart from the seeds, other parts of okra also have demonstrated anti-cancer properties, namely pectin.
The second study reports: Okra pectin inhibits 75% of highly metastatic melanoma cells in vitro.
This study was conducted by(Sengkhamparn et al. 2009) and found that okra pectin is found just under the skin of the pods, and it contains special compounds (highly branched rhamnogalacturonans). This is unique as it has never before been found in other pectins. Commentators believed that it is one of the recent compounds that are responsible for the effectiveness of pectin against melanoma.
In another study by Vayssade et al.(2010), pectin inhibited the proliferation of highly metastatic mouse melanoma cells (B16F10) by 75% after 48 hours of treatment and also increased the rate of programmed cell death (apoptosis) by nearly 23-fold. They further discovered that the pectin triggered apoptosis by interacting with G