Okra, also known as lady finger, is most commonly seen in Southern cooking, as these green pods are cultivated in the warmer regions of the globe. Like most vegetables, okra is high in fiber and chock full of a variety of vitamins and minerals.
However, just as each fruit and vegetable is unique in what it brings to the table, so are the many health benefits associated with these vibrant green pods. Here are a few things you may not know about okra.
Aids in a healthy pregnancy. As it is high in folate, pregnant women should look to include a healthy helping of these pods and their greens. Folate helps protect against birth defects, and okra’s high vitamin C content aids in the proper development of the fetus.
Antioxidant rich. According to the African Journal of Biotechnology, the antioxidant concentration of okra exceeds that of any other vegetable and most of the antioxidant-rich fruits. Antioxidants help protect against diseases that are associated with free radical damage, like cancer and alzheimer’s disease.
Treatment for kidney disease. A Chinese study found that combining okra with traditional treatments for kidney disease yielded better results than traditional treatments alone. Furthermore, according to the Jilin Medical Journal, consuming the vegetable regularly can also help prevent kidney disease and reduce clinical signs of kidney damage.
Vitamin C powerhouse. The benefits of vitamin C are seemingly never-ending. This mighty vitamin protects against coughs and colds, aids in skin health, is a powerful antioxidant and offers protection against macular degeneration, cancer, heart disease and more. Okra is a potent source of this powerful health-booster, providing between 15 and 17 percent of the RDA in each ½ cup, cooked serving.
Diabetes protection. Okra aids in diabetes protection thanks to its ability to regulate glucose levels. The high fiber content slows digestion and sugar uptake, which protects against dangerous spikes in blood glucose.
Wondering what to do with it?
Always purchase organic okra, and look for vibrant green pods and leaves. Okra is usually a main ingredient in the gumbos famous in the South, but can also be incorporated into a number of other dishes. Clean and slice the pods, saute, steam, boil or fry them to your liking, and add to soups, stews or veggie medleys.
Depending on preparation, okra can have a somewhat gummy texture when steamed or boiled, but crisps right up when lightly fried. The leaves should always be cleaned and can be eaten raw in salads, or added to sandwiches and wraps in place of other greens.
-The Alternative Daily