I recently came across an article in The Guardian describing okra as the ‘most foul thing ever grown’. Many agreed with the opinion, and the conversations on Reddit make the consensus evident. Interestingly enough, some also wanted to learn how to eat it.
This fruit, often consumed as a vegetable dish, is cooked in myriad variations such as kurkuri or crispy bhindi, bhindi masala, bhindi fry, shahi bhindi and tonnes of other recipes under the moniker ‘ladies’ fingers’.
While it is difficult for me to digest that a significant percentage of the population hates okra, diving into a set of interesting historical and scientific facts may motivate some to try the edible green seed pods.
From The Mother Continent
This flowering plant is not native to India but Africa. It is known to be indigenous to a mountainous or plateau region of present-day Ethiopia. From Africa, it moved north towards the Mediterranean and far east towards India around the 12th century.
Okra is an economical and commonly grown crop in tropical and subtropical parts of the world. Many regions use okra leaves, buds and flowers to turn them into tasty soups and stews like Gumbo, okra sauces and salads. The gelatinous pods are boiled, dried or fried crisp.
Additionally, it has earned the recognition of being the ‘powerhouse of nutrients’ in the scientific community for its richness in vital minerals, vitamins, oxidants which help fight lifestyle ailments like cholesterol, diabetes, chronic diseases and even cancer.
Okra contains 3.2 grams of fibre per 100 grams. The fibre in okra helps control blood sugar as it maintains the rate at which the sugar gets absorbed in the intestinal tract. It plays a role in reducing blood sugar levels in the body by slowing the sugar assimilation when it passes through the intestines.
Research shows that diabetic persons who consumed okra daily showed impressive indications of a drop in kidney damage compared to the others who stuck to a ‘diabetic diet’. About 50 per cent of kidney diseases are caused due to diabetes, so consuming okra helps keep both diseases at bay.
Sometimes it can become difficult to control consumption of food with a high cholesterol content. However, okra can help to improve heart health by reducing serum cholesterol and thereby decreases the chances of cardiovascular disease. It is an efficient way to manage body cholesterol. A research paper mentions that okra contains pectin, which reduces high blood cholesterol by modifying bile production within the intestines and lowers the cholesterol in the body.
Okra also consists of a gel-like substance known as mucilage which sticks to cholesterol in the body. The mucilage then exits the body during excretion, carrying the cholesterol along with it. Additionally, as the body absorbs cholesterol it can increase the possibilities of heart disease, and this is just another reason to consume okra.
Studies have proven that okra powder helped eliminate more cholesterol through stools compared to those consuming a high-fat diet without okra.
Watch how to grow Okra in pots.
In recent years, the increase in the intake of plant diets has helped reduce the risks of chronic diseases such as cancer and atherosclerosis. It is mainly because of the antioxidants present in okra that play a vital role in preventing cancer.
Studies show that okra contains significant amounts of flavonoids and phenols in its flowers and has a substantial antitumor effect. It helps to prevent breast cancer cells and gastric cancer cells as well.
This fruit containing polysaccharides lowers cholesterol levels in the blood and may further prevent cancer with its potential to bind bile acids.
The polysaccharides present in okra work to solve digestive ailments. The polysaccharides are carbohydrates and inhibit adhesive properties. It sticks to Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium in the stomach responsible for gastritis and gastric ulcers. Consuming okra regularly helps to clean the stomach and prevents unhealthy bacteria from flourishing inside. Moreover, it helps to keep the colon clean by absorbing all toxins and excess water through the system. The dietary fibre assists in improving the health of the overall digestive system. If all these reasons are not enough to state my case of consuming okra, perhaps this will help.
Vitamin A in okra helps to improve eye-sight, while its vitamin C and E content boost immunity and perform as the first line of defence against oxidative stress. Moreover, it works wonders for those feeling exhausted, weak and undergoing depression or other issues such as sore throat, ulcers and lung inflammation.
You may also grow okra at home. To find out, click here.
Edited by Yoshita Rao