Home LifestylesHealth & Fitness Okro: An African Wonder Vegetable Promises Cure for Cancer, Diabetes & Heart Disease

Okro: An African Wonder Vegetable Promises Cure for Cancer, Diabetes & Heart Disease


If you are from the tropics, you are probably quite familiar with okro. Okro (Abelmoschus esculentus) is actually native to West Africa. The word (Okro) came from the Igbo Language (Eastern Nigeria) word “Okworo” The name adulteration began as the British colonialists came to Southern Nigeria and discovered its great health benefits. The problem was they could not pronounce the Igbo word “Okworo”, so they called it “Okro/Okra” and later, helped export and popularise the vegetable in Europe and in many warm regions across the globe.

In other countries, okro is also known as lady’s finger – (England), gumbo (U.S.), guino-gombo (Spain), guibeiro (Portugal), Kacang bendi (Malaysia), and bhindi, gombo, and bendakai (India)., and belongs to the mallow family. This plant is mainly grown in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions.  Okro plant is somewhat related to cotton and hollyhock and can grow up to 3 metre high with heart-shaped leaves that is palmate with 5 to 7 lobes. Okro flowers are large with five petals coloured white or yellow and sometimes with a reddish-purple base.

It is a good low-calorie, fat-free, nutrient-dense addition to any diet. Okro fruit is valued as a vegetable, harvested while young and has mucus-like juice that is used to thicken stews (gumbo). Okro is also known for its nutritional value and offers varieties of health benefits.

A powerhouse of valuable nutrients, okro provides numerous health benefits. Known as a high-antioxidant food, okro may support improvement in cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, digestive diseases, and even some cancers. Okro is also abundant in several vitamins and minerals, including thiamine, vitamin B6, folic acid, riboflavin/ vitamin B2, zinc and dietary fibre.

Okro soup is a fascinating dish because of its many permutations across West Africa and its reinvention in the Americas as gumbo. Creole gumbo usually features a roux (a thickening agent made with a fat such as butter, mixed with flour) and is typically served over hot rice.

Okro soup is predominantly eaten amongst the Ibo, Efik, Ibibio, Bini and Yoruba tribe in Nigeria. Okro has high fibre, vitamins C and K, and folate content as well as calcium and potassium. It also contains niacin (vitamin B3), thiamine (vitamin B1), vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, beta-carotene and lutein. Also, it has powerful antioxidant properties. Okro contains insulin-like properties that help reduce blood sugar levels. It also has a low glycaemic index of about 20, making it a good choice for people with diabetes or obesity.

The health benefits of okro include:
Along with being tasty, okra offers a wide array of health benefits. Recent research investigating the anti-cancer properties of okra has discovered that it may be a powerful ally in fighting this dreaded disease.

A recent Brazilian study in the journal Biology Letters found that a lectin found in okra killed up to 72 percent of human breast cancer cells in an in vitro setting, primarily by the induction of apoptosis – the programmed cell death of tumour cells. The researchers also found that this particular lectin, found in the seeds of the okra, slowed the growth of the breast cancer cells by 63 percent.

Another important benefit of okra is its high fiber content, which benefits the digestive system and helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Okra pods are a great source of mucilage, a type of fiber that greatly helps the digestive system to break down food, and can soothe digestive disturbances such as constipation. Along with its exciting potential to fight cancer, okra may aid us in combating other serious health conditions, as well.

This African vegetable has the ability to improve digestive health and vision, boost skin health, protect infant health, prevent certain cancers, and strengthen bones. It also improves cardiovascular health, lowers total cholesterol levels, aids the immune system, lowers blood pressure, and protects heart health.

Prevents Osteoporosis and Excessive Bleeding:
The most abundant vitamin in okra is vitamin K.  This vitamin helps strengthen bones and promotes clotting of blood. Okra, thus, helps prevent osteoporosis, fractures, and excessive bleeding (due to injury or bleeding disorders).

Prevents Gastritis:
H. pylori bacteria infect the stomach lining and cause inflammation called gastritis. Okra juice contains anti-adhesive compounds that bind to the surface of free-floating bacteria in the gut. This unanticipated binding blocks sites on the bacteria responsible for docking to the stomach lining. In effect, okra juice prevents H. Pylori infections and gastritis

Keeps Asthma Symptoms In Check:
Okra seems to be beneficial for asthma patients. How exactly it does so is not yet known. Some postulate that okra’s high vitamin C content is responsible for its respiratory benefits, however, no clear correlation between vitamin C and asthma exists.

It also contains vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and polyphenols, potent antioxidants components involved in the health of blood vessels, which makes okro to be very healthy for people with hypertension and arteriosclerosis. Being low in fat and calories, it is suitable for slimming plans, and for overweight or obese control diets. For the health-conscious, okro is a rich source of dietary fibre, minerals, and vitamins and a low-calorie vegetable.

Okro’s essential minerals and vitamins are great for the prevention of certain pregnancy-associated disorders. One of such foetal developmental disorders can result from complications related to lack of folate or folic acid in a woman’s diet. This can cause Neutral Tube Defects such as Hydrocephalus and Spina Bifida. These are not common congenital disabilities but children with these conditions exist. Okro contains a reasonable amount of folate which helps in reducing the chances of a pregnant woman producing a baby with these conditions.

Another study was published in the Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal outlining okra’s ability to protect against liver disease. Okra was found to protect against chemically induced liver damage because okro contains vitamin A and antioxidants which helps to protect skin-health, by enhancing quicker healing, reducing the appearance of scars and acne, and eliminating wrinkles. This is because the antioxidants can neutralise the free radicals which may have damaged those skin cells.

According to a study published in the Jilin Medical Journal in the year 2005, people who consumed okra showed improvement in nephropathy or kidney disease. For the study, there were two groups. One was treated with okra, and the other was treated with traditional medical therapy for six months. At the end of the study, there were no changes in the group that participated in traditional therapy. However, the people who took okra saw a reduction in urine protein and uric acid.

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