From the United States to Ethiopia, there aren’t many places that you won’t find people eating okra, or “ladies’ fingers.”
The small, green pods are found in cultural dishes across the globe, used to serve up as side dishes and accent pastas and casseroles. They can be grilled, fried, sautéed, or baked. They can be breaded, seasoned, ground into a curry, or simply consumed raw.
Despite a starkly different texture, okra tastes quite a bit like eggplant—which make it a fairly mild and non-offensive fruit that everyone from kids to adults can enjoy eating.
It’s not just the taste that makes okra a great addition to your shopping list, though. The fruit comes loaded with nutrients, and it has an impressive variety of nutritional benefits that can make it a health-enhancing food to consume.
Whether you’re looking to stay a little spryer or manage a health condition, these are five of the biggest benefits that you can get from adding okra to your diet when you can.
1. Helps Manage Diabetes
Diabetes is one of the riskiest conditions in the world to develop; whether you’re born with it or develop it later in life, it can pose long-term health risks and absolutely devastate your body.
The scientific community is still searching for a cure for diabetes, but they have found increasing instances of certain foods and diets helping to assist with the management of the varying types of diabetes—and okra is one of those.
According to a study conducted in 2015, okra water can have a therapeutic effect on women suffering from gestational diabetes, improving the blood sugar in a study conducted on pregnant rats. Another study, conducted in 2013, took a look at why the Turkish community has long preached the benefits of okra consumption—and found promising evidence that it can lower blood sugar as well.
Part of the benefit may be simply from eating a healthier diet when you consume okra, but the studies have shown that the fruit itself may be more beneficial than just a healthy mealtime.
2. Lower Fatigue
For people who let their sweet tooth guide their culinary endeavors, it may seem surprising to consider that okra will help lower their fatigue levels. The thought of picking up a sweet treat instead of an eggplant-flavored green fruit may seem like the way to go if you’re looking for a pick-me-up.
In actuality, though, okra seeds possess certain chemical properties that can help both reduce fatigue and improve cardiovascular health, which can both keep you alert for longer during the day and help you benefit from an exercise routine more often.
The reasoning? Okra has been shown in studies to decrease the amount of lactic acid in the bloodstream, which is a key factor in muscle soreness and fatigue. By eliminating the lactic acid build-up, okra re-energizes your body faster and helps you feel refreshed without having to worry about the fatigue compounding over time.
It also helps improve your cardiovascular health due to the presence of flavonoids or flavanols, which work to help your blood vessels stay health and improve your circulation.