7 Nutrition and Health Benefits of Okra
By Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD
Okra is a flowering plant known for its edible seed pods. It's cultivated in warm and tropical climates, such as those in Africa and South Asia.
Sometimes referred to as "lady's finger," okra comes in two colors — red and green. Both varieties taste the same, and the red one turns green when cooked.
Biologically classified as a fruit, okra is generally utilized like a vegetable in cooking.
It's frequently used in Southern American cuisine and a popular addition to gumbo. Yet, it can have a slimy texture, which some people find unappealing.
Though it's not one of the most common foods, okra is packed with nutrition.
Here are 7 nutrition and health benefits of okra.
1. Rich in Nutrients
Okra boasts an impressive nutrient profile.
One cup (100 grams) of raw okra contains (1):
- Calories: 33
- Carbs: 7 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Magnesium: 14% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Folate: 15% of the DV
- Vitamin A: 14% of the DV
- Vitamin C: 26% of the DV
- Vitamin K: 26% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 14% of the DV
Okra is an excellent source of vitamins C and K1. Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient that contributes to your overall immune function, while vitamin K1 is a fat-soluble vitamin that's known for its role in blood clotting (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
Additionally, okra is low in calories and carbs and contains some protein and fiber. Many fruits and vegetables lack protein, which makes okra somewhat unique.
Okra is rich in many nutrients and particularly high in vitamins C and K. This fruit is unique, as it provides protein, a nutrient that many other fruits and vegetables lack.
2. Contains Beneficial Antioxidants
Okra packs many antioxidants that benefit your health.
Research shows that eating a diet high in polyphenols may improve heart health by lowering your risk of blood clots and oxidative damage (8Trusted Source).
Polyphenols may also benefit brain health due to their unique ability to enter your brain and protect against inflammation (9Trusted Source).
These defense mechanisms may help protect your brain from symptoms of aging and improve cognition, learning, and memory (9Trusted Source).
Okra is rich in antioxidants that may reduce your risk of serious diseases, prevent inflammation, and contribute to overall health. Most notably, it contains polyphenols that may contribute to heart and brain health.
3. May Lower Heart Disease Risk
High cholesterol levels are associated with a greater risk of heart disease.
Okra contains a thick gel-like substance called mucilage, which can bind to cholesterol during digestion, causing it to be excreted with stools rather than absorbed into your body.
One 8-week study randomly divided mice into 3 groups and fed them a high-fat diet containing 1% or 2% okra powder or a high-fat diet without okra powder.
The mice on the okra diet eliminated more cholesterol in their stools and had lower total blood cholesterol levels than the control group (10Trusted Source).
Another possible heart benefit of okra is its polyphenol content. One 4-year study in 1,100 people showed that those who ate a diet rich in polyphenols had lower inflammatory markers associated with heart disease (11Trusted Source).
Animal research suggests that okra may bind to cholesterol in your gut and lower blood cholesterol levels. It's also rich in polyphenols, which fight harmful inflammation and protect your heart.
4. May Have Anticancer Properties
Okra contains a type of protein called lectin, which may inhibit the growth of human cancer cells.
One test-tube study in breast cancer cells found that the lectin in okra may prevent cancer cell growth by up to 63% (12Trusted Source).
Keep in mind that these studies were performed in test tubes with concentrated and extracted components of okra. More human research is needed before any conclusions can be drawn.
Okra contains a protein called lectin, which is being studied for its role in cancer prevention and treatment. More human research is needed.
5. May Lower Blood Sugar
Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is very important for your overall health. Consistently high blood sugar can lead to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Research in mice indicates that eating okra or okra extract may help decrease blood sugar levels (14Trusted Source).
Researchers suggested that the okra decreased sugar absorption in the digestive tract, leading to a more stable blood sugar response (15Trusted Source).
That said, okra may interfere with metformin, a common diabetes medication. Therefore, eating okra is not recommended for those taking this drug (15Trusted Source).
Eating okra has been linked to blood sugar control. Yet, some research suggests that it may interfere with common diabetes medications.
6. Beneficial for Pregnant Women
It's recommended that all women of childbearing age consume 400 mcg of folate every day.
A review that included 12,000 healthy adult women found that most consumed just 245 mcg of folate per day, on average (17Trusted Source).
Another study that followed 6,000 non-pregnant women over 5 years discovered that 23% of participants had inadequate folate concentrations in their blood (18Trusted Source).
Okra is a good source of folate, with 1 cup (100 grams) providing 15% of a woman's daily needs for this nutrient.
Eating okra may help pregnant women meet their daily folate needs. Folate is important for preventing neural tube defects.
7. Easy to Add to Your Diet
Though okra may not be a staple in your kitchen, it's quite easy to cook.
When purchasing okra, look for smooth and tender green pods without brown spots or dried ends. Store them in the fridge for up to four days before cooking.
Usually, okra is used in soups and stews like gumbo. It contains mucilage, a thick substance that becomes gummy when heated. To avoid slimy okra, follow these simple cooking techniques:
- Cook okra at high heat.
- Avoid crowding your pan or skillet, as this will reduce the heat and cause sliminess.
- Pickling okra may reduce the slime factor.
- Cooking it in an acid-like tomato sauce reduces the gumminess.
- Simply slice and roast okra in your oven.
- Grill it until it's slightly charred.
Okra can become slimy when cooked. To prevent this, follow the simple cooking methods above.
The Bottom Line
Okra is a nutritious food with many health benefits.
It's rich in magnesium, folate, fiber, antioxidants, and vitamin C, K1, and A.
Okra may benefit pregnant women, heart health, and blood sugar control. It may even have anticancer properties.
Cooking okra can be simple. Add it to your grocery list to try a new ingredient with powerful health effects.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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