The healing power of Okra PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 8 March 2013 01:22

Okra, known in many English-speaking countries as lady's fingers, bhindi or gumbo, is a flowering plant in the mallow family.

Okra is found in its wild state on the alluvial banks of the Nile, and the Egyptians were the first to cultivate it in the basin of the Nile (12'th century BC). It was propagated then through North Africa to the Mediterranean, the Balkans and India. In 1658 this plant arrived in the Americas at Brazil, Dutch Guinea and New Orleans before extending in the United States in 1781.

Although okra is not commonly eaten in the United States, it is an important vegetable in the South, used in soups and stews and often eaten breaded and fried.

Okra is a powerhouse of valuable nutrients, nearly half of which is soluble fiber in the form of gums and pectins. Soluble fiber helps to lower serum cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease. The other half is insoluble fiber, which helps to keep the intestinal tract healthy, decreasing the risk of some forms of cancer, especially colo-rectal cancer.

The okra fiber helps prevent constipation, by absorbing water and ensuring bulk in stools. Unlike harsh wheat bran, which can irritate or injure the intestinal tract, okra's mucilage soothes, and okra facilitates elimination more comfortably by its slippery characteristic that many people dislike.

Okra is the ideal vegetable for weight loss, and there are a number of reasons for this. Low calorie count and high fiber are the main ones. First of all it is a low calorie food (i.e. 30 cal per 100 g). Or, half a cup of cooked okra has just 18 calories. Also, okra does not contain any kind of saturated fats and cholesterol. Half a cup of raw okra has about two grams of fiber.

Okra pods are a good source of vitamin A and antioxidants. Compounds known to have antioxidants properties are essential for vision. Also, vitamin A helps in maintaining mucous membrane and skin.

In the Caribbean islands, okra is eaten in soup. In Curaçao the soup is known as jambo which primarily is made out of the okra's mucilage. It is often prepared with fish and funchi, a dish made out of cornflower and boiling water.

Jambo soup made of okra