By Nelly Favis-Villafuerte
Okra is one of the few locally grown vegetables that has been exported abroad. I was then the Undersecretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) when the export of okra to Japan was escalating. The Japanese who are known for their health-consciousness are very strict with the quality of products exported to their country… the sizes, color, texture, etc. Our exports including okra were likewise processed and screened carefully to meet Japanese standards.
As I mentioned in my article last week (Part I), okra is very rich in vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting compounds. It is indeed amazing that the health-nutrients of okra which is one of the cheapest locally-grown vegetable – is not well publicized. However, there are likewise risks and precautions for eating okra that many people do not know.
Let me share with you other health benefits as well as risks and precautions for eating okra – a vegetable that has been cultivated as early as the 12th century BC (before the Cleopatra era): (Reference: publications on vegetables and internet reports)
- Do you know that according to a study (by the University of Illinois program), freezing okra in its prime state is the best way to preserve okra – and also aids in retaining its health nutrient and maintains its fresh colorful and firm condition.
This is how it’s done: Place the fresh okra that has not softened or has not begun to turn brown in boiling water for four (4) minutes, then immerse in cold water for five (5) minutes. Then drain the okra and place the okra packed in airtight plastic bags in the freezer.
This process (blanching) preserves the flavor, color, and texture of okra; (http://www.livestrong.com/article/462519-is-okra-good-for-you/)
- Do you know that fresh okra does not last for more than 3-4 days. It is advisable that users should not wash the okra until it is ready to be used;
- Do you know that okra contains lectin, a type of protein also found in peanuts, beans, and grains. In a study on whether or not lectin from okra treats human breast cancer cells, it was found out that the treatment reduced cancer cell growth by 63 percent and killed 72 percent of the human cancer cells.
More studies are still being conducted to confirm to this initial finding; (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/311977.php)
- Do you know that okra is rich in vitamin K which helps the bones to absorb calcium. Those who have osteoporosis should take foods rich in vitamin K as healthy bones are a protection against fractures. Studies show that just one cup of okra has 66 percent of an adult’s daily need for vitamin K.
A word of caution though – eating foods rich in vitamin K like okra which helps blood to clot should not be taken by people taking blood-thinning drugs like warfarin. Blood thinners are used to prevent blood clots that can block blood from getting to the brain or the heart. It is best to consult your doctor first;
- Do you know that while okra is good for the bones, it contains a compound called solanine that may cause sensitivity to some people suffering from joint pain, arthritis, and long-lasting inflammation. Solanine is also found in other fruits and vegetables including potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, blueberries and artichokes.
This is the reason why people suffering from osteoporosis and other types of arthritis should not eat fruits or vegetables rich in solanine like okra, tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes;
- Do you know that while okra cures and prevents diabetes, one who is taking the drug metformin (for diabetics, metformin is used to help manage blood sugar level) – should first consult his doctor before eating okra or drinking okra juice/water because there is a study showing that okra blocks the absorption of metformin.
Also, okra is not an insulin replacement. There is also no conclusive study that shows that okra is a natural cure of diabetes.
The risk notwithstanding, many people in different countries have still been using okra as a natural treatment for diabetes and other diseases since ancient times; (http://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes/okra#6)
- Do you know that there is a risk for those having or suspected of having kidney stones to eat okra as well as other foods high in oxalates like spinach. Why? Because the most common type of kidney stone is made of calcium oxalates;
- Do you know that okra is also rich in fructans – a type of carbohydrate that can cause diarrhea, gas, cramping and bloating in people with irritable bowel syndrome and other gut conditions to people who are sensitive to foods rich in fructans;
- Do you know that okra is used by food aficionados as a thickener for many dishes. Cutting the okra and cooking it in moisture, releases the slimy juice that increases the thickness of soup. However, there are those who prefer cooking the okra as a whole (as roasted, pickled, sautéed, fried, stewed or boiled) – than chop or cut the okra into pieces because they do not enjoy the “gummy” texture of okra released when okra is cut into pieces;
- Do you know that okra which tastes like eggplant, is used in China in their glazed products (It’s the gelatinous mucilage that is used);
- Do you know that in ancient times, okra leaves were used for pain relief and urinary problems. In Malaya, it is reported that the okra root has been applied as a treatment for syphilis. Even without research studies to confirm these health uses of okra.
Due to lack of space, I cannot write more information about okra. But I guess, what I have shared with you is enough to encourage you to know more about okra and its effect on our health being.
Have a joyful day! (For comments/reactions please send to Ms. Villafuerte’s email: email@example.com)