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Lady finger or lady’s finger, called so because of its shape and length, is a commonly grown and widely loved vegetable in India. It is one of the few green vegetables which is even adorned by children because of its delectable taste. If you are tired of cooking this vegetable over and over for them, you’ll not fret again after reading what it does for your health. Yes, you got that right. Everyone’s favourite okra is loaded with a number of vitamins and minerals and also has sufficient antioxidants, which protect you from a number of health disorders. Before coming to these benefits, let us introduce you to some basic facts and nutritional values of this vegetable.

  1. Some basic facts about lady finger: Scientific name of lady finger
  2. Okra (Lady finger) nutrition
  3. Lady finger (Okra) benefits
  4. Uses of lady finger plant
  5. Okra (lady finger) side effects

Lady finger or okra is known by a variety of names and is grown as a vegetable crop in tropical and subtropical regions. It is commonly used in a number of Asian delicacies like stews, vegetables and soups and is eaten fresh, boiled or fried depending on the cuisine. Here is what you must know about this plant:

  • Scientific name: Abelmoschus esculentus
  • Family:‎ Malvaceae
  • Common names: Bhindi, okra, ochro, lady’s finger
  • Native region and geographical distribution: Okra is grown as a flowering plant and all over the world. It is majorly cultivated in South Asian and African countries, which happen to introduce it to the Western world. Lady finger is widely grown in India with it being the top producer of this vegetable. Okra is a seasonal crop and is well-grown in the warm seasons since it cannot survive the cold. The crop is tender, which provides it with a soft taste when consumed.
  • Interesting fact: When grown, okra is usually green in colour and has a bright, even shade. However, red and burgundy varieties of the crop are also available.

Okra is quite low in calories and fats but is a rich source of several important vitamins, minerals and macronutrients. These are:

The above values are for 100 grams of raw okra as per USDA database. According to this, a bowl of okra provides you with 33 kcal.

The various health benefits of okra can be attributed to its rich antioxidant and water content, which make it a nutritious food. Here is why you must include okra in your diet:

  1. Lady finger provides you with essential nutrition
  2. Lady finger for weight loss
  3. Okra prevents fatigue
  4. Lady finger vegetable for better digestion
  5. Okra for high cholesterol
  6. Okra for diabetes
  7. Okra for heart health
  8. Lady finger for the skin
  9. Okra prevents breast cancer

Lady finger provides you with essential nutrition

Lady finger has been called a perfect vegetable because of its rich fibre and protein content. It is not only rich in proteins but also possesses essential amino acids like tryptophan and lysine. These amino acids are very important for your body, yet, cannot be synthesised and need to be consumed in your diet. While there may be other alternatives sources of proteins in your diet, the inclusion of essential amino acids is what gives okra a definite perk.

It has been found that the protein content of okra is equivalent to that of soybeans and has better efficacy than the protein derived from soybeans. The amino acid content of okra is also equivalent to that of soybean. So, if you are a vegetarian and do not enjoy the taste of soy or feel bloated after its consumption, it is a great idea to include okra in your diet. It will help to provide you with the desired nourishment.

Since proteins form a part of macronutrients and play an important role in providing you with energy, it is important to consume proteins each day.

The seeds of lady finger are what contain proteins, which is why they are considered to be the powerhouse and are responsible for providing you with the required amounts of energy to function throughout the day.

Lady finger for weight loss

What is even healthy about a food item if it causes you to gain weight? While being rich in nutrients, lady finger also assists in weight loss, which makes it a perfect inclusion to your diet. What gives it these weight loss benefits are the very same nutrients discussed above, that is, proteins and fibres.

Fibres have been known to improve the process of digestion and are often recommended to be included in the diet of those aiming for weight loss. This is because they possess a good satiety index, which helps in keeping you full for longer. This allows you to eat lesser throughout the day and prevents you from binging on unhealthy snacks.

So, if you are looking forward to losing weight, you can consider replacing your bowl of chips for an okra snack or soup and you won’t be disappointed. Needless to mention, okra is very low in calories and has high water content. As you may already know, water is quintessential to the process of weight loss.

Further, the admirable protein content of this vegetable also makes it ideal for weight loss as proteins help in the oxidation of fats. They also help to keep your body in a good shape as you lose weight. They cater to provide you with a desirable muscle mass giving your body a more toned look.

As it is evident, including okra in your diet will help you trim down those extra pounds in more than one possible ways.

Furthermore, eating okra will help to boost your energy levels, which will enable to exercise better, enhancing the process of weight loss. So, what are you waiting for? Go and devour a big bowl.

(Read more: Diet chart for weight loss)

Okra prevents fatigue

Feeling tired after a long day is normal but a prolonged feeling of fatigue reduces daily performance and negatively affects the quality of life. Studies have found that the inclusion of okra in your diet helps to maintain the energy levels of your body, which abolishes fatigue. This is enabled by a reduction in blood lactic acid levels and urea levels responsible for muscle fatigue.

Further, its antioxidant levels help to combat fatigue and tiredness and thus are a perfect addition to the diet of individuals who exercise regularly.

Lady finger vegetable for better digestion

Digestion of food inadvertently depends on the type of diet you consume, in that, some foods help in better digestion while others hinder the process. It is a well-established notion that fibres aid in the digestion of food, particularly insoluble fibres like the ones present in okra. Not only are they conducive to your gut health, but also they help to improve the bulk of faeces in your body, which facilitates their easy elimination.

Since fibres digest slowly, they keep you satiated for long. This prevents you from overeating, which is obviously bad for your digestive health.

So, in order to improve digestion and to get rid of digestive issues like constipation, it is recommended to include lady finger in your diet.

(Read more: How to improve digestion)

Okra for high cholesterol

Cholesterol is an important component of body cells and is essential for the synthesis of several hormones in the body but high cholesterol levels hold the risk of cardiovascular disorders and are thus undesirable. As grave high cholesterol levels may be, they are easily manageable by dietary modifications, which is why it is important to eat healthily.

It has been ascertained that a diet rich in fibres aids in the management of cholesterol levels. Studies suggest that most of the nutritional content of okra is due to the presence of soluble fibres. These include gums and pectins, which help to lower cholesterol levels in the body. Researches on animal models have confirmed that the ingestion of okra aids in the reduction of triglycerides and free fatty acids in the body. So, they can be a helpful addition to your diet if you are troubled by your cholesterol levels.

Okra for diabetes

Diet is a very important aspect for diabetics since they constantly need to keep a check on blood sugar levels to ensure the avoidance of health problems. While most diet plans for diabetics are focused on the elimination of sugary and fried foods, the inclusion of healthy food items which help in lowering blood glucose levels is often ignored.

Lady finger is one such vegetable, which has been proven to have antihyperglycaemic effects. that is, it helps in lowering blood glucose levels and thus makes for an excellent addition to the diet of diabetics. In fact, it has even been suggested to be included as adjuvant therapy for diabetes.

While these fractions are still being studied, you can surely enjoy a delectable bowl of nutrition.

Okra for heart health

Diabetes and high cholesterol levels increase the risk of cardiovascular disorders, especially when present in addition to excessive weight and an unhealthy lifestyle. Okra helps to reduce your risk of these disorders by having an effect against all these risk factors, as studied above. In addition to this, okra is also rich in antioxidants, which makes it conducive for your heart health.

It has been acknowledged that the activity of free radicals increases the risk of cardiovascular disorders by contributing to oxidative stress and damage. Antioxidants help in reducing this activity and have a protective effect on your body. Confirming this fact, studies have proven that okra has beneficial effects on your heart and helps in reducing your risk of cardiovascular disorders. So, it can be beneficial to use okra in your diet for its cardioprotective effects.

(Read more: Heart disease causes and treatment)

Lady finger for the skin

Studies have found that seeds of okra are loaded with a variety of antioxidants that have scavenging actions on free radicals. These include several polyphenols and flavonoids, which are responsible for antioxidant actions. Not only do these antioxidants help in reducing organ damage due to the activity of free radicals but also they help to maintain good health of your skin

But what exactly it does for your skin? By reducing oxidative stress it delays the process of ageing, preventing signs of premature ageing including fine lines, wrinkles, age spots. Thus, including okra in your diet would make you look younger.

Okra prevents breast cancer

Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among women, the risk of which is mildly modifiable by dietary factors. Studies have found that extracts from okra have anti-tumour effects on breast cancer cells, which suggests that it can help in the prevention of breast cancer in women by inhibiting the growth of cancerous cells at an initial stage.

This is enabled by causing cell death of these abnormal cells. In fact, lady finger has been suggested to be included as a therapy for breast cancer. Its antioxidant effects may also have an effect on the growth of other types of cancer. So, it is beneficial to include okra in your diet to keep cancer at bay.

In addition to its health benefits, okra also has some important medicinal and culinary uses, which include-

  • The mucilaginous substance derived from okra have medicinal properties and are used as blood volume expanders or plasma replacement agent. It would be useful for patients with severe haemorrhage like trauma patients.
  • Okra is used to increase the consistency of soups and gravies and is thus added to sauces and stews.
  • Okra seeds are used to derive oils. These oils contain essential fatty acids that play an important part in nutrition.
  • Okra is otherwise a healthy food and a great addition to your diet. However, it is recommended to avoid its consumption if you are suffering from kidney or gallstones or have been determined to have their risk.
  • Other than this, excessive consumption of okra can sometimes lead to bloating due to its high fibre content. So, it is better to include it in your diet in moderation and cook it healthily.
  • Cooking in excessive oil can lead to counterintuitive effects manifested in the form of raised cholesterol levels.
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References

  1. Scientific India Magazine. Health Benefits Of Okra (lady’s Finger). Dehradun India.
  2. United States Department of Agriculture. Basic Report: 11278, Okra, raw. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release; Agricultural Research Service
  3. Xia F, Zhong Y, Li M, Chang Q, Liao Y, Liu X, Pan R. Antioxidant and Anti-Fatigue Constituents of Okra. 2015 Oct 26;7(10):8846-58. PMID: 26516905
  4. Habtamu Fekadu Gemede, Negussie Ratta, Gulelat Desse Haki, Ashagrie Z Woldegiorgis4and Fekadu Beyene. Review Article Open Access Nutritional Quality and Health Benefits of Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus): A Review. J Food Process Technol 6:458. doi:10.4172/2157-7110.1000458
  5. Huang CN, Wang CJ, Lin CL, Lin HT, Peng CH. The nutraceutical benefits of subfractions of Abelmoschus esculentus in treating type 2 diabetes mellitus. 2017 Dec 7;12(12):e0189065. PMID: 29216237
  6. Monte LG, Santi-Gadelha T, Reis LB, Braganhol E, Prietsch RF, Dellagostin OA, E Lacerda RR, Gadelha CA, Conceição FR, Pinto LS.Lectin of Abelmoschus esculentus (okra) promotes selective antitumor effects in human breast cancer cells. 2014 Mar;36(3):461-9.PMID: 24129958
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