Today I wanted to talk to you about one of my most favorite vegetables… okra. Whist, it isn’t a staple vegetable in many people’s refrigerators, if you or a loved one have been diagnosed with kidney disease then adding okra to your diet may have many amazing health benefits. Read on to find out more.
What is okra?
Okra, also known as lady’s fingers is a short, green pod flowering plant that contains an abundance of seeds. Each pod can reach lengths of 3 to 10 inches and has a sweet taste and a distinct texture depending on how you choose to prepare it. Its scientific name is Abelmoschus esculentus, and if you type that into any search engine with the words kidney disease you will get a plethora of studies into the benefits of adding this great vegetable to your diet. Okra belongs to the same plant family as hibiscus and cotton.
Okra is used all around the world and enjoyed in many different forms including:
- As a picked vegetable
- Added to soups and stews (This is how I use it mostly)
- As a vegetable oil
- Drinking okra water is a traditional remedy used to treat diabetes
Okra has a rich content of vitamins and minerals including:
- B vitamins
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
It is also very high in a nutritious mucilaginous fiber commonly known as okra slime. If you have ever cooked with this vegetable you will know the slimy texture it gets if you leave it in your refrigerator for too long!
This fiber has many health benefits including improving digestion, reduce hunger cravings while keeping you feeling fuller for longer. This fiber has also been shown to help support those diagnosed with diabetes, but more about that in a moment.
Not only is okra delicious, but it is great for your body and mind! Keep reading to discover the amazing health benefits of okra.
Blood Sugar regulation
In a very recent study rats with diabetes fed a diet of pure okra were shown to have insulin-sensitizing potentials as well as the potential to reverse alterations in the carbohydrate metabolizing enzymes. What does that mean in English? Okra was able to increase the effectiveness of insulin in the rat’s body leading to better uptake and regulation of blood sugar. Okra was also able to reverse metabolism changes to the carbohydrate enzyme pathway that were injured or damaged due to diabetes.
okra water has been used as a traditional remedy for years in the management of blood glucose levels. A study conducted in Turkey found that drinking water infused with roasted okra seeds had beneficial effects on regulating blood sugar levels.
Okra is high in something called soluble fiber. Fiber is known to improve fat absorption in the diet by binding to cholesterol in the small intestines. Once inside the small intestine, the fiber attaches to the cholesterol particles and prevents them from entering your bloodstream. Several studies have shown the benefits of adding okra to a diet and its effects on total cholesterol, making it another great reason to add this vegetable to your diet.
A 2016 study found that the fiber content of okra supported the digestive tract. The fiber helped to improve the absorption process in the large intestines as well as stimulating a process called peristalsis which is the rhythmical contraction and relaxation of the muscles of the intestines. Improving peristalsis helps to relieve symptoms of constipation.
Anti Depressant and Brain Cognition
Several studies have pointed to the potential of okra’s ability to reduce stress-induced depression in people who have previously suffered from a stroke as well as the antidepressant-like effect of a polysaccharide found in okra. Both studies concluded that okra reduced the impacts of stress on the brain by upregulating a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which was thought to be one of the mechanisms behind okra’s anti-depressant effects. Okra was also shown to have a positive impact on the microbiome, presumably through its high fiber content, this, in turn, promotes a healthier microbiome diversity which helps supports the healthy production of neurochemicals produced in the gut. Happy gut, happy brain chemistry as us naturopaths would say.
There has also been promising research that correlated eating okra with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. This mechanism is achieved through its antioxidant content.
Animal studies found that the antioxidants, that are naturally found in okra and specifically the okra seeds, were also helpful in reducing muscle weakness and lactic acid build-up in mice who were subjected to prolonged swimming. The study suggested the okra consumption could improve metabolic capacity and improved the stress adaptation process in mice which leads to better recovery from exercise.
It’s pretty amazing to read about all the things that okra can do, but what does it have to do with anyone diagnosed with Kidney Disease?
Okra & Kidney Disease
As I mentioned previously okra has a beneficial role on blood sugar metabolism, so anyone diagnosed with CKD as a result of diabetes will benefit from adding this amazing vegetable to their diet. But apart from blood sugar metabolism how else can okra support those diagnosed with CKD?
A 2005 study published in the Jilin Medical Journal indicated that okra was useful in preventing kidney disease, the results of the study showed that patients who ate okra every day have reduced signs of kidney damage compared to those who were just put onto a diabetic diet.
Rats with diabetic neuropathy-induced renal damage showed great improvements with the addition of a plant closely related to okra. The study showed a reduction in urinary albumin, improved renal function, decreases in BUN and serum uric acid levels. The addition of the plant also alleviated kidney fibrosis and reversed the increased markers of oxidative stress caused by kidney damage.
So now that you have read about all the wonderful health benefits of okra, I hope you are thinking… How do I add this vegetable to my diet? Well, I am glad you asked.
The first way is to start drinking okra water.
Okra water is made by putting okra pods in water and soaking them overnight. Soaking the pods allows valuable nutrients from the skin, seeds, and pods to be absorbed into the water.
- 4-5 okra pods
- 1 cup of water
- Salt & pepper – optional
- Take 4-5 medium-sized okra pods and wash them thoroughly.
- Cut both ends of the pods, and slice them in half. You can also use a knife and pierce each side of the pods.
- Now, take a cup filled with water and immerse the pods in it
- Soak the pods overnight for 8 – 12 hours.
- Squeeze the leftover sap into the water from the okra pods by squeezing them. Once you have squeezed out the sap throw the pods away.
- Your drink is now ready! Season with salt and pepper if you find the taste of the plain okra too bland.
Now if drinking okra water doesn’t sound delicious, then why not try this yummy okra and carrot stew from our Kidney Disease Solution Program bonus cookbook
Okra & Carrot Stew
- 1 lb frozen okra
- 1/3 cup of olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 chopped green onion
- 2 clove of garlic mashed finely sliced
- 1 cup of mushrooms cut into small pieces
- 2 carrots cut into cubes
- 1 zucchini in cubes
- 1 grated tomato
- 1 1/2 cup of lukewarm water
- 4 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
- 1 Tbsp fresh thyme finely chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Rinse and drain okra without thawing.
- Heat oil over in a large and deep pot over medium-high heat.
- Sauté the onion, spring onions, and garlic for two to three minutes.
- Add the mushrooms and stir only for one minute.
- Add the carrots, zucchini, and grated tomato; stir and cook for two minutes.
- Finely add okra and all remaining ingredients; give a good stir.
- Cover and cook for 30 minutes over medium-low heat.
- Adjust salt and pepper and serve.
Serves 5 people
If you are using metformin to control diabetes then consuming excessive amounts of okra might not be for you. A study found that consuming okra improved glycemic control but may interact with the body’s ability to absorb metformin. Always speak to your doctor or health care provider if you have any concerns.
I hope this article has convinced you of the many amazing benefits of the humble okra. Whether you decide to start drinking okra water or adding it to your diet, okra offers so many amazing health benefits that you would be crazy not to give it a try.
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