Okra – what it is, properties, health benefits


The Abelmoschus esculentus or okra is a plant belonging to the mucilaginous family. It is native to the African continent, which makes its cultivation requirements relatively high. It enjoys high temperatures and plenty of sunlight. In other parts of the world, it is cultivated under covers in greenhouses or tunnels. In these conditions, it is an annual plant. It usually grows up to 1-1.5 m high. It prefers well-drained soil with pH 6,0-6,5. It has distinctive creamy beige flowers with a burgundy centre. The edible part of ketmia is its fruits. They are elongated in shape, green in colour and angular in cross-section. They resemble chilli peppers. Inside the fruits, there are seeds, which can also be consumed.

What is okra?

Okra is one of the oldest known edible plants. It was probably already cultivated in ancient Egypt. It is a popular component of Asian, African and Arabic cuisine.

However, it deserves attention not only because of its possible use in gastronomy but also because of the mineral compounds, vitamins and other biologically active substances present in it, which can have a beneficial effect on health.

Okra fruits isolated
Okra fruits isolated

Okra - properties

Speaking about the properties of okra, it should be noted that this vegetable is low in calories - in 100 g it provides only about 30 kcal. All this is due to the high water content, which is 90% of this product. The main macronutrients in okra are proteins and carbohydrates. It is also worth noting the high content of fibre, which is important, in the soluble fraction.

Dietary fibre is an important element of the diet in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. It decreases the absorption of cholesterol, has a beneficial effect on intestinal bacterial flora, and increases the level of satiety. It also regulates the rhythm of bowel movements.

Okra seeds on the other hand are a treasury of among others, omega-9 and omega-6 fatty acids. They are rich in insoluble fibre.

It is also worth mentioning the contained in okra:

  • Folates - important not only for future mothers but also in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases
  • Citamin C - a powerful antioxidant
  • Magnesium, potassium, manganese
  • Carotenoids - including lutein, beta carotene and xanthine
  • Vitamin K - important for blood clotting processes

Okra – health benefits

Thanks to a high content of fibre and antioxidants, okra can become a dietary element in the prevention of atherosclerosis, ischemic heart disease, heart attacks or strokes. It is also recommended in the diet of people with diabetes and insulin resistance. It is a kind of natural prebiotic, i.e. food for beneficial bacteria living in the intestine. It facilitates the functioning of the digestive tract, regulating the rhythm of bowel movements.

It can be considered a source of folic acid, especially important for women planning a pregnancy or already expecting a child. The carotenoids present in it also have a chemopreventive effect. This vegetable can be a component of a varied anti-cancer diet. It will also have a beneficial effect on eyesight and the condition of hair, skin and nails.

The numerous antioxidants present in it will slow down the body's ageing processes. Due to the numerous health-promoting properties, it is worth treating okra as another superfood, with the help of which you can diversify the range of vegetables in the daily menu.

Tags: Abelmoschus esculentus, antoxidants, okra, superfoods

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