Okra is a tradition on many dinner tables, but did you know it’s packed with great health benefits, too?

2nd January 2019


It’s true: studies show nutrient-rich okra can make you look and feel great. And if you’re looking for a good vitamin A supplement, there’s good news. Okra is high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C and a very special type of fiber that can really boost your health.

New research is revealing more and more about this traditional dinner side. Okra can lower your blood sugar, regulate your digestive system and support a healthy pregnancy, scientists say. How about pairing roasted okra with a glass of Champagne, not only a tasty combination, but the bubbly also has health benefits as well.

Here are 8 great benefits of okra.

1. Helps Prevent Type II Diabetes

Diabetes isn’t a recent phenomenon. In fact, it has a long history. Written reports from Greece and Turkey listing symptoms date back as far as two thousand years ago.

The word “diabetes” is Greek for “a siphon,” as sufferers were seen to pass urine “like a siphon” (in other words, excessively).

The seeds of the okra plant have been used for centuries in Turkish folk medicine to treat diabetes. And interestingly, current science is backing this age-old wisdom.

Studies show that okra seeds can lower blood glucose, a component in treating diabetes and in controlling pre-diabetes as well. Diabetes develops when the body’s insulin is no longer able to keep up with glucose in the blood.

This may be due to the body making too little insulin, or to the body beginning to resist insulin’s efforts.

Lowering blood glucose can go a long way toward increasing insulin sensitivity– in other words, allowing insulin to do its job. By adding okra to their health regimen, some individuals may be able to keep a full-blown diabetic condition from developing.

And, while it’s important that you follow your doctor’s instructions, natural methods such as eating okra could help you feel better, experts say.

2. … and Gestational Diabetes, Too

There’s no doubt that diabetes is a serious condition that requires management. But potentially even more dangerous is gestational diabetes, a condition that can arise during pregnancy.

If you’ve been pregnant or know someone who has, you’re probably aware of the “sugar-drinking test.” Approximately mid-pregnancy (18-20 weeks), you will be asked to fast, then drink a high-sugar medical beverage.

Your blood glucose level will then be tested between one and three times, at intervals.

It’s called the glucose tolerance test (GTT), and it’s critical to your and your baby’s health. Gestational diabetes can impact your pregnancy even if you didn’t think you were at risk.

The good news is that usually, gestational diabetes goes away shortly after childbirth. But proper management of the issue is critical. Untreated gestational diabetes may result in a baby who’s unhealthily above his/her expected birthweight, preterm birth or respiratory issues in your newborn.

You knew we were going to mention okra, didn’t you?

Here’s the great news you’ve been waiting for: a 2015 study has shown that okra can prevent gestational diabetes.

Pregnant laboratory rats had less excess weight gain and more controlled blood sugar levels when given okra extract.

Though gestational diabetes is classified as Type II diabetes, management during pregnancy is usually different.

For instance, your doctor may be hesitant to prescribe drugs unless absolutely necessary. And your hormonal cocktail and other factors may mean it’s harder to keep your weight under control.

Natural, food-based treatments can offer a safer alternative, especially in combination with a careful, doctor-approved regimen of nutritious food and exercise.

Foods such as okra, which appear to have a glucose-controlling element, can be a healthy addition to your diet. Be sure to ask your doctor’s approval before changing your diet during pregnancy.

3. Cleanses the Digestive System

As anyone who has overcooked okra knows, the vegetable contains an element that feels slippery or “slimy.” (Don’t worry, we’ll get to proper okra cooking later in this article.)

That’s because okra contains a type of fiber called mucilaginous fiber. Mucilaginous fiber is also present in plants such as chia seeds and flax. As its name suggests, it is viscous (thick and runny).

If you’re ready to swear off okra just reading that sentence, bear this in mind: mucilaginous fiber is a superior way to lose weight and keep your digestive system healthy.

Mucilaginous edible plants move food through the intestines and help bulk up stools, according to research. Because of this factor, eating such plant foods may help alleviate two conditions that appear to be opposites: diarrhea and constipation.

However, they both tie into how the colon bulks and moves waste, making okra and similar foods perfect for a variety of digestive issues.

Because waste is swept more quickly and completely from the digestive system, such plants are often considered “cleansing.” In other words, they sweep waste away. If you’re considering a natural cleanse but don’t want to do a liquid fast, consider stool-moving foods such as okra.

4. May Fight Some Forms of Blindness

In addition to the above superior benefits, here’s a surprise: okra helps your eyes, too!

Okra contains Vitamin A (retinol), a fat-soluble nutrient that is known to have eye healing properties.

And among the most amazing benefits of Vitamin A is that it can help slow the progression of a class of inherited eye conditions, known collectively as retinitis pigmentosa (RP).

RP causes degradation of certain eye tissues and can result in blindness, according to blindness.org. The organization focuses on finding cures and management of vision-threatening diseases.

It’s possible to supplement with Vitamin A, but food sources are usually best, as they also contain important benefits such as fiber and minerals. One cup of okra contains 14% of the RDA of Vitamin A for the average adult, making it an ideal eye-health food.

5. Effectively Treats Dry Eye

Vitamin A is well-known for its overall vision-supporting qualities. In fact, it’s essential for good vision even if your eyes are healthy. But did you know it can also fight dry eye?

In a remarkable 2009 clinical study, Vitamin A improve dry eye on par with the pharmaceutical treatment cyclosporine.

In the study, 150 Dry Eye Syndrome patients were split into three groups – Vitamin A only, cyclosporine only, and a placebo. The study revealed that Vitamin A treated dry eye on par with cyclosporine, an immunosuppressant.

Immunosuppressants may be used for issues such as Dry Eye Syndrome which appear to have an inflammatory component. However, they can come with unwanted side effects.

Eating okra to obtain Vitamin A can be a tasty and easy way to help boost your current Dry Eye regimen. The bonus is that it doesn’t come with pharmaceutical side effects.

6. Clears Up Irksome Skin Conditions

Okra is chock-full of antioxidants, some of which have been shown to have positive effects on skin conditions.

Oregon State University researchers say skin is particularly responsive to retinol, present in okra as Vitamin A. Topical prescriptions of retinoids can have side effects, though. They may produce skin irritation, burning, itching and rash.

They can also make skin overly sensitive to the sun, increasing your chance of sunburn and sun damage.

Retinol can help the skin by decreasing “sun spots” and pigmentation, helping clear up acne, and making skin look firmer and younger.

While studies showing that retinol-containing foods are still in the works, eating high-vitamin A foods may help you stay more beautiful…from the inside out.

7. Contains a Healthy Helping of Vitamin C

Another antioxidant present in okra is Vitamin C. Amazingly, a one-cup serving of okra contains 38% of the adult RDA of this important vitamin.

Vitamin C has a hand in all of the following:

  • Preventing oxidation within the body that might otherwise lead to the growth of certain cancers
  • Reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, stroke and arteriosclerosis (“hardening” of the arteries)
  • Slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a serious condition that can result in blindness if left untreated
  • Preventing the common cold, or decreasing problematic symptoms if you already have a cold
  • Increasing your immunity against common forms of influenza (the “flu”)
  • Slowing the appearance of aging in your skin

Vitamin C is a wonder nutrient, experts say, since it addresses so many of the body’s issues.

Eating foods rich in Vitamin C, including okra, can produce superior health benefits so you feel and look better.

8. Supports a Healthy Pregnancy

Here’s a secret ingredient in okra that science supports for your pregnancy: folate! If you’ve been prescribed a prenatal vitamin that contains folate or folic acid, you’re already familiar with this nutrient. Folate is the natural form of folic acid, which as been shown to help prevent certain birth defects.

A one-cup serving of okra contains 88mcg of folate. Ask your obstetrician how much folate you need each day and whether eating okra is safe for your pregnancy. If so, okra can be a wonderful way to get a bit of extra folate in your diet.

All About Okra

You may be familiar with okra as a famous American side dish. Okra, also known as lady’s finger, is a member of the mallow family. It grows in “fingerlike” pods which are usually sliced and lightly sautéed for eating.

Okra grows in temperate climates. It is believed that it originated in either South Asia or Africa, but today it’s most commonly consumed in the U.S. and the UK. In the U.S., okra is most commonly associated with southern cooking. However, it’s taken off in recent years throughout the nation and around the globe.

Because of its mucilaginous fiber, okra can become “gooey” when cooked. For this reason, lightly sautéing, pickling or eating raw are recommended.

Quick Okra Cooking Tips

Okra is delicious, but it may become slimy or gooey when cooked. Here are some ways to prevent the slime while keeping the super-healthy deliciousness:

  • Cook okra in small batches. Don’t crowd the pods in your cooking pan.
  • Look for small pods. In general, the smaller the pod, the firmer the finished, cooked product.
  • Roast at high heat for short periods of time.
  • Wash and DRY okra very thoroughly. Wetness causes steam, which can cause the fiber to become more slippery.
  • Add an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, when cooking. Just a squeeze or a sprinkle will do.
  • If you cook okra, serve it immediately. Don’t let it sit.

Why not try out this recipe for fried okra salad pair it with pan-seared fish and a glass of Champagne and you’ll all set for an amazing food pairing experience loaded with health benefits!

Vitamins and Minerals in Okra

We know we’ve already mentioned this, but it bears repeating: okra is amazingly nutritious!

Here’s what you’ll find in okra:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A
  • Fiber
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin B-6
  • Protein
  • Iron

Okra is low in calories (33 per cup), fat (0.2 g) and carbohydrates (7 g). This makes it perfect for nearly any eating plan, but ask your doctor if you’re under a medically-supervised diet.

Where to Find Okra

You may be able to find okra in your local grocery store. If not, ask the store manager whether the store plans to carry okra in the future.

Okra may also be found at farmers markets. It may be freshest this way, as local farmers often pick and sell within days.

Be sure the okra is ripe but not over-ripe when you purchase it. The pods should be light green and firm. If your okra is a very dark green, it may be over-ripe and won’t taste or feel its best after cooking.


Okra, a traditional staple in the American south and the UK, is a delicious way to get in some AMAZING health benefits.

It’s growing in popularity, so look for it at your favorite grocery or health food store.

Munch okra raw, pickled or sauté it with herbs for a tasty side dish.

Along with a healthy diet and exercise program, the benefits of okra can help you achieve better health. It’s easy to incorporate okra into your eating plan, so start today. Good health to you!


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