Medicinal Value of Okra

Garlic, onion, malunggay, ampalaya, and carrot. These are just some of the vegetables that are known for their therapeutic qualities. Okra is another one that should be taken into consideration by those who are heeding away from drugs.

Recently, I got this e-mail that was forwarded to me. The original author was a diabetic who saw a television program that featured okra. The vegetable, which he called as lady finger, is good for those who have the debilitating disease. He wrote: “Since I am diabetic, I tried it and it was very useful. My sugar now in control. In fact I have already reduced my medicine intake.”

Here is what he did: ‘Take two pieces of lady finger and cut both ends of each piece. In addition, put a small cut in the middle and put these two pieces in a glass of water. Cover the glass and keep it at room temperature during night time. Early morning, before breakfast, simply remove the two pieces of lady finger from the glass and drink the water. Keep doing it on a daily basis. Within two weeks, you will see remarkable results in your blood sugar level.”

His sister also got rid of her diabetes by following the same treatment. “She was on insulin for a few years,” he wrote. “But after taking the lady fingers every morning for a few months, she has stopped taking insulin but continues to take the lady fingers every day.” The only difference his sister made recently was that she chops the lady fingers into fine pieces at night, adds the water and drinks it all up the next morning.

At the end of bis e-mail, he urged, “Please try it as it will not do you any harm even if it does not do much good to you. But you have to keep taking it for a few months before you see results.”

The Philippines is home to about four million diabetics, with more than three million not knowing they have the disease.

“Many Filipinos simply don’t know they have diabetes,” says Dr. Augusto Litonjua, one of the country’s leading experts on diabetes. The Department of Health listed diabetes as the 9th leading cause of death among Filipinos today.

One out of every five Filipino adults is diabetic. This figure comes from the latest national survey conducted on the prevalence of diabetes in the country. In addition, as many as three out of five adults are already diabetics or on the verge of developing diabetes unless they change their lifestyles.

Aside from the famous ampalaya, okra can be touted as another nature’s answer to diabetes. Okra is a rich source of many nutrients, including fiber, vitamin B6 and folic acid. Dr. Sylvia W. Zook, an American nutritionist, said that the superior fiber found in okra helps to stabilize blood sugar as it curbs the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract.

Filipino farmers and gardeners should take a closer look at this crop known in the science world as Hibiscus esculentus. Why? “The plant could have a future in serving the booming markets for health foods. Given an aging global population increasingly concerned over sickness prevention, mucilage (that sticky substance with thickening properties) is big business these days,” the source said.

In addition, okra could also function as one of the ingredients in the making of commercial laxative. Its gelatinous substances absorb water, swell, and ensure the bulky stools that obviate and overcome constipation. Any and all dietary fiber is helpful but okra seems to rank with two crops now commanding multimillion-dollar markets: flaxseed and psyllium. In other words, this vegetable may not only bind excess cholesterol and toxins but assure their quick and easy passage out of the body.

Okra apparently originated in the Ethiopian highlands (although the manner of distribution from there is undocumented. The routes by which okra was taken from Ethiopia to North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean, Arabia, and India, and when, are by no means certain. Although it has been commonly cultivated in Egypt for many hundreds of years, no sign of it has ever been found in any of the ancient monuments or relics of old Egypt. One of the earliest accounts was by a Spanish Moor who visited Egypt in 1216, and described the plant (which was under cultivation by the locals who ate the tender) as young pods with meat.

Today, okra is widely used in a thick stew made with vegetables and meat in Egypt, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Yemen and other parts of the Mediterranean. In Indian cooking, okra is sauteed or added to gravy-based preparations and is very popular in South India. In the Caribbean islands, okra is cooked up and eaten as soup, often with fish.

Okra became a popular vegetable in Japanese cuisine. It is served with soy sauce and katsuobushi or as tempura. Breaded, deep fried okra is served in the southern United States, The immature pods may also be pickled.

Okra forms part of several regional “signature” dishes. Frango com quiabo (chicken with okra) is a Brazilian dish that is especially famous in the region of Minas Gerais. Gumbo, a hearty stew whose key ingredient is okra, is found throughout the Gulf Coast of the United States. It is also an expected ingredient in c alia loo, a Caribbean dish and the national dish of Trinidad and Tobago. In the Philippines, okra is the important ingredient in the Ilocano dish pinakbet.

In some countries okra seeds are of most interest rather than the whole young pods. When ripe, the seeds yield edible oil that is the equal of many other cooking oils, including olive oil. The greenish yellow edible oil of okra has a pleasant taste and odor, and is high in unsaturated fats such as oleic add and linoleic acid. The oil content of the seed is quite high at about 40%. Oil yields from okra crops are also high. At 794 kilograms per hectare, the yield was exceeded only by that of sunflower oil in one trial.

Like soybean, the seed provides excellent vegetable protein for uses including full- and fat-free meals, flours, protein concentrates and isolates, cooking oils, lecithin, and nutraceuticals (foods with functional health benefits). Okra protein is both rich in tryptophan and adequate in the sulfur-containing amino acids, a rare combination that should give it exceptional power to reduce human malnutrition.

The ripe seeds of okra are sometimes roasted and ground as a substitute for coffee. In the 1800s, slaves from Africa used ground okra as part of their diet, and this apparently ted to the use of ground okra seeds as a coffee substitute by other southerners during the American Civil War blockades of the 1860s. The Austin State Gazette noted: “An acre of okra will produce seed enough to furnish a plantation of 50 Negroes with coffee in every way equal to that imported from Rio.”

In Turkey, the leaves are used in preparing a medicament to soothe or reduce inflammation.

author: Henrylito D. Tacio, Marid Digest, photo from

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