Is Okra A Super Food? 8 amazing Health Benefits Of Okra

okra health benefits

Okra scientifically know as Abelmoschus esculentusis a plant indigenous to west Africa and its believed that the word okra actually comes form the Nigerian Igbo word for okra, "Okuru." Okra spread to the Americas during the slave trade and is still commonly eaten in the southern parts of the United States, the Caribbean, and South America. In the United States it is eaten in the form of gumbo or stews similar to the way Okra is traditionally eaten to this day in west Africa. Unbeknownst to many, okra is one of the healthiest foods on the planet with several health benefits. One of the most researched health benefits of okra is diabetes prevention and treatment. Keep reading to find out how eating okra can help with diabetes and to find out okra's other health benefits.

Nutrients In Okra (1): There is roughly only 33 calories in 1 cup of okra. Okra is virtually fat free with only 0.2 grams of fat. It is a good source of protein for a vegetable with 2 grams. 1 cup Okra has 7.5 grams of carbohydrate providing a great source of fiber with 3.2 grams. 

Okra is rich in vitamin K and vitamin C providing almost 40% of our daily needs of these vitamins in just 1 cup. It is a great source of B vitamins folate, B6, and thiamin. Okra is also mineral rich providing you with good amount of magnesium, potassium, and calcium.

Health Benefits Of Okra

1. Okra Has Anti-Diabetic Effects (2)(3)

Of all the medicinal effects of eating okra, okra's effect on diabetes is the most well researched. Diabetes is a condition where the regulation of insulin and blood glucose is out of wack. Insulin is the hormone produced in our body that signals our tissues to absorb blood glucose. People with diabetes typically have decreased sensitivity to insulin receptors and later develop decreased production of insulin requiring insulin medication.

There are numerous studies that show that consumption of an okra rich diet may significantly reduce your blood sugar. Its believed that the okra mucilage and fiber can help inhibit enzymes in our body that breakdown glycogen to from glucose. This inhibition delays carbohydrate digestion, there by slowing down the rise of blood sugar typically seen after eating. In doing this okra is able to provide better glucose homeostasis for the management and prevention of type 2 diabetes. 

Some studies also suggest that okra may even increase secretion of insulin production to further aid in lowering blood sugar. Another study suggested that okra can potentially increase the utilization of blood glucose uptake in the tissues. 

Due to these medicinal effects of okra on blood sugar people have long used okra extracts or whole okra to help manage and treat diabetes in Eastern medicine and Africa. In conclusion the exact mechanism of how okra decreases blood sugar still needs further research, but okra can potentially help in 3 ways.

1. Delay breakdown of carbohydrates in body 

2. Increase secretion of insulin from the pancreas

3. Increase tissue uptake of blood sugar by increasing insulin sensitivity in muscles

All 3 of these actions would decrease blood sugar there by potentially preventing, managing, and treating Diabetes.

2. Okra works As An Antioxidant To Provide Immune Support (2)(3)

Okra seeds are composed of about 30% antioxidants in the form of polyphenols. Polyphenols can be grouped into flavanoids and phenolic acids, which okra has both. There is numerous research on the antioxidant effects of polyphenols. Antioxidants essentially decrease oxidative stress in the body created by free radicles. This decrease in oxidative stress is what improves the immune system. The major flavonoids that okra is composed of are quercertin, isoquercetin, rutin, and catechin

3. Okra Has Anti-Ulcer And Gastro Protective Effects (2)(3)(4)(5)

Research suggest that the okra fiber and mucilaginous  (slimy) portion of okra can help to relieve and prevent constipation by binding to toxins and lubricating the large intestines.  Also the fiber is largely insoluble fiber which turns into a gel the helps soften stool making them easier to pass. 

Research also suggest that the slimy portion of okra helps to neutralize stomach acids providing a protective coating to the digestive track which may speed up healing of ulcers as well as protect against them.

In a study(4) on mice with aspirin induce gastric ulcers, okra extracts were able to significantly decrease ulcer size and acidity levels similar to results of the drug omeprazole. 

A few articles have also found okra to protective and inhibitory of the H.Pylori bacteria responsible for food poisoning by limiting the bacterias binding ability to the gastric mucosa.

4. Okra Has Anti-Fatigue Effects (1)(2)(3)

As mentioned before, okra has strong antioxidant activity due to heavy concentration of polysaccharides, polyphenols and flavonoids. It is believed that this antioxidant activity may be the anti-fatiguing property okra. One research article found that the okra polysaccharides, polyphenols and flavonoids can prolong swimming time and promote recovery of mice after fatigue. The study suggested that the okra extract reduced the levels of serum urea nitrogen, blood lactic acid and MDA, increasing the storage of hepatic glycogen (HG) and muscle glycogen, and inducing the activity of antioxidant enzymes.

It is also important to note that okra is a great source of most B vitamins and magnesium, which help modulate energy metabolism. Many people supplement B vitamins and magnesium to increase energy, but you can get more than enough in your diet by eating foods like okra.

5. Okra Lowers Blood Cholesterol and Fat Decreasing Cardiovascular Disease Risk (2)(3)

Hyperlipidemia is one of the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease especially heart disease. Hyperlipidemia is indicated by high cholesterol and high blood lipid(fat) levels.

Research studies in mice fed an okra diet had significantly lower blood cholesterol and blood lipid levels. The mice excreted more cholesterol in their stools which contributed to the lower cholesterol levels. The research suggest that the fiber as well as flavonoids in okra can help reduce blood lipids by promoting increased binding of cholesterol to bile acid. There is much research on fiber rich diets ability to decrease cholesterol levels. Bile acid is closely related to blood lipid levels, in that the bile acid when combined with cholesterol in the food decreases the reabsorption of the cholesterol back into the blood. This thereby lowers blood cholesterol. one research study found that okra's bile acid binding ability to fats and cholesterol was significantly higher than other vegetables that are also high in fiber.

6. Okra Has Antibacterial Effects (2)(3

The antibacterial property of okra has been attributed to mainly the oil and flavonoids found in okra seeds. Okra seeds are made of of about 50% lenoleic acid which can inhibit the synthesis of fatty acids in bacteria needed to replicate.

One research study found found that okra seed extracts had significant antibacterial effects, and fungicidal properties that were better than the antibiotic drug ketoconazole

Also the palmitic and steric acid fat content of okra pods have been reported to inhibit e coli, staph, and pseudomonas.

The flavonoids extracted from the okra flower has also been shown to have antibacterial activity equivalent to the drug chloramphenicol and anti-fungal activity equivalent to the drug fluconazole. 

Essentially the research suggest that the oil and flavonoids in okra can be used as antimicrobial substances, and even can replace some antibiotics.

7. Okra Has Anti Cancer Effects (2)(3)(7)(8)(9)

Different parts of okra extracts have been shown to be effective in stoping cancerous tumor cell growth. One research study (7) found that okra extracts inhibited breast cancer cell growth by 63% and induced dell death in 72% of cells. Some other research studies have found that okra extracts may be effective in inhibiting and inducing cancer cell death in liver cancer, cervical cancer, and colorectal cancer. The anticancer properties of okra are attributed to the high flavonoid content of okra as well as lectin found in okra in regards to breast cancer inhibition.

8. Okra Can Aid Weight Loss

Incorporating low calorie, nutrient dense high fiber foods can help with one's weight loss attempts. When you consume foods high in fiber, you have a tendency to remain fuller longer, allowing you to eat less food in the day. Also because okra is low in calories you can eat large amount of it, but still keep the total calories you are consuming in a day quite low. This is the key to sustainable weight loss. You don't have to eat less to lose weight. You just need to replace calorie dense junk and process food with more foods like okra and other vegetables.

How To Select and Store Okra (1)

When selecting fresh okra be sure to choose pods that are bright green and firm. Avoid pods that are very hard because the will be bitter and difficult to eat.  fresh okra should be stored in the fridge in a plastic produce bag no more than 2-3 days. They should be unwashed and dry. If the pods become to soft or begin to turn brown throw them away.

As a busy individual sometimes its hard to find time to cook fresh vegetables before they spoil. For this reason I often choose frozen vegetables which have the same nutrient profile as fresh ones. If you are unable to find fresh okra, sliced frozen okra is a good alternative. With frozen okra there is no washing, or cutting required which will reduce preparation time. Checkout my okra soup recipe HERE using frozen okra.


Okra is in fact a super food with may well researched health benefits. The most well researched health benefit for Okra is diabetes prevention treatment. Other health benefits include decreased cholesterol, improved heart health, treat ulcers, anti bacterial, anti cancer, and antioxidant for an improved immune system. So If you've never eaten okra you should definitely give it a try. I personally always recommend using whole foods over supplementation, but if you can't find okra in a store near you, or simply don't like the taste of okra, buying okra capsules may be a good alternative for your. 

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