“Humans live on one-quarter of what they eat; on the other three-quarters lives their doctor.” – Egyptian pyramid inscription, 3800 B.C.
Abelmoschus esculentus or Hibiscus esculentus, also known as Okra, is a widely used vegetable all over the world. Not many people like it because of its ‘slimy’ texture, but this vegetable is loaded with a number of health benefits that will probably have you considering adding it into your diet if you are passionate about your health.
Okra originated in Egypt, and people have been growing it since the 12th century. It can be consumed in a variety of different ways, such as stewed, fried, or even fermented. It’s usually served with other vegetables and rice or put into soups.
The Many Health Benefits of Okra
According to a study published in 2005 in the Jilin Medical Journal, okra showed positive effects on nephropathy, or kidney disease. For the study, participants were put into two different groups — one was treated with okra, and the other was treated with traditional medical therapy. The study lasted 6 months, and while there were no changes for the group who used traditional therapy, those who took their treatment with the okra saw a reduction in uric acid and urine protein.
A study published in the Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal outlined okra’s ability to protect against liver disease. Because of its strong antioxidant activities, okra was found to protect against chemically induced liver damage. The study also found okra to have strong antioxidant and hepaprotective properties, comparable to milk thistle or silymarin.
A study published in the Journal of Pharmacy & Bioallied Sciences found that okra extracts could protect against diabetes. When rats with diabetes were given okra, they saw a decrease in their blood sugar levels and a normalization of their lipid profile levels. Multiple in vitro and in vivo studies have found okra to be a major blood glucose-lowering food — it contains large amounts of soluble dietary fibre — which is why it has been used traditionally as an alternative treatment for diabetes.
Okra has also demonstrated its ability to be a cancer fighter, having shown action against chest cancer cells, but only in preliminary lab studies. Researchers have discovered that a newly discovered lectin (a type of protein that can bind to cell membranes) in okra, Abelmoschus esculentus (AEL), actually induces cell death in human chest cancer cells, in vitro – 72 percent to be exact.
Research has also shown okra to possess the ability to fight depression. Although some fruits and vegetables have been shown to have various effects on mood, and the ability to elevate one’s mood (favonoids and quercertin), Okra had not made the list until recently, when researchers from Mazandaran University of Medical Science decided to examine its effect on mood. Their results showed that okra seed extracts acted as as strong agent for elevating mood, in some cases performing just as well as common antidepressants. Apparently, the positive mood effect of okra can be attributed to its high total phenol and flavonoid content.