Okra, better known as ‘lady finger’, is a green edible pod vegetable. It is a perennial plant and is cultivated throughout the tropical and warm temperate regions of the world. The immature pods are best to be eaten as a vegetable.
The plant bears numerous green colored pods about 5-15 cm in length. Internally the pods contain small, round, mucilaginous white colored seeds lined up in vertical rows.
Okra is one of the most popular vegetable and generally favourite amongst the children. The rich fiber and antioxidants present in it have given numerous benefits to the human race. Fresh and immature pods are readily available al throughout the year in the market. Easy to digest, easy on pocket and easy to store.
Some of the benefits are listed below after a good research on this vegetable. They are well worth going through.
1. The vitamin A content in okra is good, which is required for healthy mucus membranes and skin and vision.
2. It is also rich in antioxidants like beta-carotene, xanthin and lutein. This helps in protection against lung and oral cavity cancers.
3. It helps in developing immunity and protects against various infections. The rich content of Vitamin C in this vegetable also helps to get relief from recurrent attacks of common cold and flu.
4. It is one of the few vegetables that are found to be good sources of Vitamin K. This Vitamin K is one of the important factors required in clotting of blood and also for the strengthening of bones.
5. The fiber present in okra lowers the sugar absorption rate in our body, this property helps to maintain the blood sugar levels. Thus, quite beneficial for the diabetics too.
6. Again, the fiber reduces the causes of constipation and facilitates the smooth peristalsis for the elimination of wastes from the body without causing injury to the intestinal tract. The slimy nature of this vegetable also helps in this use.
7. Not only the wastes but the toxins (in bile) thrown into the intestines by the liver after filtering following digestion and excess cholesterol are also evacuated. This ensures prevention of various health problems that may arise due to toxicity and obesity.
8. Okra fiber is excellent for feeding the good bacteria (probiotics), adding good heath to the intestinal tract.
9. Okra is an excellent source of Vitamin B6, calcium and folic acid. These are very important for the developing fetus. It prevents neural tube defects. Also the fiber helps to prevent constipation, one of the common problems in pregnancy.
10. It is also useful in fighting against weakness, exhaustion and depression.
11. The alkaline nature neutralizes acids and provides a soothing coating to the digestive tract.
12 It also helps in curing ulcers.
13. Okra also treats lung inflammation, and irritable bowel syndrome.
14. It gives good relief in summer.
15. The antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties help in prevention of asthma symptoms.
16. It is also beneficial for artherosclerosis.
17. Some studies have shown that consuming okra helps in preventing cataracts.
18. Though the tender and immature pods are good for consumption, the ripe pods have their own benefits. The seeds of ripe okra pods are used instead of coffee. Studies have revealed that African slaves in 1800’s used ripe okra seeds grounded to powder as a coffee substitute.
19. Not only the pods but the leaves of okra are also edible.
20. Due to the low caloric value, okra is a healthy option for the obese and calorie conscious group.
21. It is also used in paper industry.
22. The slimy sticky juice is sometimes used in preparation of dyes.
So, you know now that those slender lady’s fingers are strong enough to secure good health of your family in their firm grip.
The author of this article, Rashmi Nandgaonkar, is a registered nurse and midwife and manages her own hospital. She is pursuing a diploma in counseling, and attends workshops on special education for special kids, and Ayurvedic cooking. She is an avid reader, and loves traveling, music, cooking, spending spare time with her kids. She has won many awards during her nursing education including the Mayors award.