Okra is a pod vegetable that can be used in salads, soups or stews, fresh or dried, and fried or boiled. It has a mild taste and a unique texture, with a peach-like fuzz on the outside. Inside an okra pod are small, edible seeds and a good amount of mucilage, a gelatinous substance (consists of exopolysaccharides and glycoproteins) that makes it a great addition to recipes that we want to thicken such as soups and stew.
Though it’s not one of the most common foods, this vegetable is known as a powerhouse of valuable nutrients and high in antioxidants. It has abundant vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin B6, riboflavin/vitamin B2, thiamin, folic acid, zinc, and dietary fiber. It is also a good source of calcium, protein, and beta-carotene.
Why Is Okra Good For The Heart?
Being rich in polyphenols, okra may possibly benefit our hearts. It helps in preventing blood clots and reducing free radical damage (1). In a study involving 1,100 people, results showed that those who ate a diet rich in polyphenols had lowered inflammatory markers associated with heart disease (2).
Moreover, this warm-season vegetable has a thick gel-like substance called mucilage, which binds to excess cholesterol during digestion causing it to be excreted with stools rather than absorbed into our body. We must know that high cholesterol levels are associated with a greater risk of heart diseases (3).
Additionally, a scientific review published in 2018 in the International Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences showed that nearly half of the contents of the okra pod is soluble fiber in the form of gums and pectins (4).
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a high intake of fiber-rich foods can reduce harmful cholesterol levels in the blood, lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and diabetes, and also slow heart disease in people who already have it (5).
We can incorporate fiber into our diet by choosing fibrous foods, such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains.
In an animal study, experts found that mice treated with okra extract have experienced a decrease in cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and triglycerides levels (6).