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Vegetable That Heals
Health Benefits of Okra (Hibiscus esculentus)
The man had suffered from constipation for the past 20 years and recently acid reflux. He didn’t realize the cure could be so simple — OKRA! He started eating okra in the last 2 months and has never taken medication since then. All he did was eat 6 pieces of OKRA every day. He is now regular and his blood sugar has dropped from 135 to 98 and his cholesterol and acid reflux are also under control. Here are some facts about okra (from research by Ms. Sylvia Zook, PH.D (Nutrition), University of Illinois.
“Okra is a powerhouse of valuable nutrients, almost half of which is soluble fiber in the form of gums and pectins. Soluble fiber helps lower serum cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease. The other half is insoluble fiber, which helps keep the intestinal tract healthy, reducing the risk some forms of cancer, especially colon and rectal cancer Almost 10% of the recommended level of vitamin B6 and folic acid is also present in half a cup of cooked okra.
Okra is a rich source of many nutrients, including fiber, vitamin B6 and folic acid. Here are the following numbers from the University of Illinois Extension Okra Page. [Please check there for more details.]
Okra Nutrition (half cup cooked okra)
* Calories = 25
* Dietary fiber = 2 grams
* Protein = 1.5 grams
* Carbohydrates = 5.8 grams
* Vitamin A = 460 IU
* Vitamin C = 13 mg
* Folic acid = 36.5 micrograms
* Calcium = 50 mg
* Iron = 0.4 mg
* Potassium = 256 mg
* Magnesium = 46 mg
These numbers should be used as a guide only, and if you are on a medically restricted diet, consult your doctor and/or dietitian.
Ms. Sylvia W. Zook, Ph.D. (nutritionist) very kindly provided the following stimulating comments on the many benefits of this versatile vegetable. Worth a read.
1. The excellent fiber contained in okra helps to stabilize blood sugar levels by limiting the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract.
2. Okra slime binds not only cholesterol, but also bile acids carrying toxins that the filtering liver releases into it. But it doesn’t end there…
3. Many alternative doctors believe that all disease begins in the colon. Okra’s fiber, which absorbs water and provides bulk to the stool, helps prevent constipation. Fiber in general is helpful for this, but okra is one of the best, along with ground flaxseed and psyllium. Unlike hard wheat bran, which can irritate or injure the intestinal tract, okra mucilage is soothing and okra facilitates elimination due to its slippery properties, which many people hate. In other words, this incredibly valuable vegetable not only binds excess cholesterol and toxins (in bile acids) that cause numerous health problems if not evacuated, but also ensures their easy exit from the body.
4. It also contributes to the health of the intestinal tract, the fiber of okra (as well as flax and psyllium) has no analogues among fibers for the nutrition of good bacteria (probiotics).
5. In order for okra to retain most of its nutrients and self-digesting enzymes, it should be cooked as little as possible, e.g. over low heat or lightly steamed. Some eat it raw.
Cholesterol-lowering effects of OKRA
Okra, a fruit high in water-soluble fiber (WSF) and widely consumed in Africa, has been investigated as a potential cholesterol-lowering candidate. The water-soluble fiber in some fruits and vegetables has been the subject of scientific research in relation to potential health benefits for cardiovascular disease (CVD). A 3-week randomized placebo crossover study conducted among 30 healthy subjects concluded that Okra is an effective cholesterol-lowering dietary supplement. Okra could therefore be an interesting approach in the prevention of CVD risk factors as well as an opportunity for a commercial okra challenge.
Source: Bangana, A., N. Dossou, et al. (2005). “Cholesterol-lowering effects of okra (Hibiscus esculentus) in Senegalese male adults.” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 18 (Suppl. 1): 199
Okra against heart disease
For a triple whammy against heart disease, eat some okra. First, it strikes with antioxidant work on atherosclerosis, which is the dangerous hardening and clogging of your arteries. The best antioxidant in okra’s arsenal is vitamin C, which the World Health Organization has linked to a reduced risk of fatal heart disease. One cup of chopped okra has more vitamin C than a whole tomato. Although you can’t rely on okra as your only source of this important vitamin, it is an interesting and nutritious addition to your diet.
With a healthy dose of folate, about 40 percent of your daily requirement in each cup of okra, it puts a left hook on heart disease. Without this B vitamin, your body leaves free amino acids, called homocysteine, when it metabolizes protein. Too much homocysteine built up in your blood damages your arteries and can lead to heart disease and stroke.
Okra delivers the final punch with its wealth of minerals, especially potassium and magnesium. Experts say eating potassium-rich foods may be just as important as losing weight and limiting salt to lower blood pressure. And the right amount of magnesium is especially important for the elderly, who may not absorb it as well as before and may excrete more of it as waste. Magnesium helps control cholesterol and blood pressure, regulates your heart rhythm, and may even improve your chances of surviving heart disease and heart attacks.
Arm against osteoporosis
Don’t forget okra when planning your bone-building diet. It’s full of the four osteoporosis-fighting nutrients potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. People who eat foods high in these nutrients can slow the loss of bone mass that can lead to osteoporosis, according to research from the UK. To top it off, a cup of okra provides you with more than 10 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of the most famous bone-building mineral of all, calcium.
Some doctors used to think that osteoarthritis (OA), the most common type of joint disease, was unstoppable, but now natural alternatives are giving new hope. Foods like okra contain both vitamin C and manganese, nutrients your body needs to build joints and cartilage. Experts who have followed various researches suggest that a diet high in vitamin C may slow the development of OA. They also remind us that manganese is an essential part of cartilage.
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