Okra, also known as Ladies Fingers, Gombo, Bendi or Gumbo, appears to have originated from West Africa, probably somewhere around Ethiopia, and was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians as far back as the 12th century B.C.
Okra is a member of the Mallow family, related to cotton, hibiscus, rose of Sharon, and hollyhock. Okra or ladies finger is an important vegetable of the tropical countries and most popular in India, Nigeria, Sudan, Iraq, Pakistan, etc. Though virtually not grown in Europe and North America, lots of people in these countries have started liking this vegetable due to the presence of good amount of vitamins.
The plant can be grown throughout the year and resembles cotton in its habit. It is an annual vegetable crop grown in the tropics of the world. It can be grown on all kinds of soils. However, to get the best results, it requires a friable well-manure soil. Okra used in countries like India in huge amount, okra accounts for 60 per cent of the export of fresh vegetables. India exports okra mainly to West Asia, Western Europe and the US. The demand for fresh okra is more in the overseas markets.
Okra pods are available year round. Okra is a very healthy green vegetable that contains many important minerals, vitamins, electrolytes and antioxidants which are essential to good health. Read on, to learn various okra health benefits.
Nutritional value of okra, scientific evidence
Okra is low in calories and is a good source of many nutrients including vitamin B6 and C, fiber, calcium, and folic acid.
Okra is a powerhouse of valuable nutrients. Nearly half of which is soluble fiber in the form of gums and pectin’s. Soluble fiber helps to lower serum cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease. The other half is insoluble fiber which helps to keep the intestinal tract healthy decreasing the risk of some forms of cancer, especially colorectal cancer. Nearly 10% of the recommended levels of vitamin B6 and folic acid are also present in a half cup of cooked okra. Like soybean oil, okra seed oil is rich (60 to 70%) in unsaturated fatty acids. Okra mucilage refers to the thick and slimy substance found in fresh as well as dried pods. Mucilaginous substances are usually concentrated in the pod walls.
|Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus), Fresh, raw pods:
Nutrition value per 100 g. (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.1 g||0.5%|
|Dietary Fiber||9%||3.2 g|
|Pantothenic acid||0.245 mg||5%|
|Vitamin C||21.1 mg||36%|
|Vitamin A||375 IU||12.5%|
|Vitamin E||0.36 mg||2.5%|
|Vitamin K||53 mcg||44%|
Health and Medicinal Value: Scientific Evidence
- The fiber content of okra has many high qualities; it helps in maintaining the health of the gastrointestinal tract.
- Okra helps to reabsorb water and traps excess cholesterol, metabolic toxins and excess bile in its mucilage and slips it out through stool. Because of the greater percentage of water in the bulk, it prevents constipation, gas and bloating stomach problems.
- This is a very good vegetable for weight loss, as it is a storehouse of health benefits, provided it is cooked on low flame, so that the okra health benefits are retained. This way the invaluable mucilage obtained from okra, is not lost due to high heat.
- To add volume and bounce to your hair, you can use this hair care tip. Boil horizontally sliced okra, till the brew becomes slimy. Then let it cool, add few drops of lemon to it and use it as a last rinse. This will bring bounce and volume to your hair.
- The mucilage and fiber present in okra, helps in maintaining blood sugar levels and regulating their absorption in small intestine.
- Okra facilitates in propagation of good bacteria known as probiotics. These bacteria are similar to the ones proliferated by yogurt in the small intestine, and helps in biosynthesis of vitamin B complex.
- Protein and oil found in the seeds of okra serves as a good source of high quality vegetable protein. It is rich in amino acids like tryptophan, cysteine and other sulfur amino acids.
- Okra is a very good laxative, as it helps in treating irritable bowels, healing ulcers and soothing the gastrointestinal track.
- Okra is good for summer heat and sun stroke treatment.
- Okra is good for atherosclerosis, and is good for asthma.
- It can help in prevention of diabetes.
- Okra Is High In Foliate (Folic Acid) an Important Vitamin for Preventing Birth Defects
Okra in ETHIOPIA: Berta Community
Berta is one of the five local ethnic groups found in Benishangulumuz regional state. According to 2007 national census survey (CSA, 2007) report around 173,743 Berta communities found in the region. This local community resides along the Ethiopia Sudan border and they shared same ethnic group in the other side (Sudan) of Ethiopia-Sudan border. Berta community use some special local foods like ocra ( kenkase) , hibiscus (kerkada)and bamboo shoot as a stable food recipe in the area.
The Berta community usually uses okra as a wet to eat food prepared from sorghum and maize, sorghum and maize are the two main stable crops cultivated in the area.
Besides using okra for household consumption, there is a great demand for the plant in the local market to be used for the town communities like in Asosa and also substantial amount of it is cross to Sudan with rewarding price.
The Berta community proudly reported that the reason behind resisting from the high risk of malaria case in the area, for their digestive system and general healthy condition is their food habit of using okra in their food.
As we can see Okra is very important crop for the local Berta community and research papers show that okra is become known in western and North American dishes. However there is no significant promotion and research done in Ethiopia to promote and enhance the food value and market of okra. Future research strategies should give emphasis on promoting local food like okra that have play significant role in improving nutritional content of the Ethiopian dish.
Research and development focuses on traditional food plants and on essential oils shall be one of the Ethiopian national agriculture research systems program in addressing the national calorie deficit , malnutrition and for the treatment of life style diseases that are recently become prevalent in urban parts of the community.
Since processed food items derived from traditional crops like have a potential export market value, on the quest of developing traditional and indigenous plants that have a great medicinal value for fighting diabetes, nutritional dense in micronutrients and treating the case of different cancer cells could be a source of generating additional income if they are properly researched, developed and marketed.
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