The Ethiopians and Egyptians knew about the many health benefits of okra and used it millennia ago. Okra, also known as gombo or lady’s finger, is one of the plants used as a vegetable for the longest time throughout history. Today, it is grown primarily in tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and America.
Okra Scientific Facts
- Scientific name – Hibiscus esculentus L.
- Other names – Lady’s finger, Gombo, Okro, Ochro, Quiabo, Vendakai.
- French – Bonnet grec, gombo, calalou.
- Spanish – Okra, gombo, dedos de dama.
- German – Okra.
- Description – Fruit of the okra, an annual herbaceous plant of the botanical family Malvaceae, reaches a height of two meters. The fruit is green or yellowish and is covered by fine hairlike structures. It has an elongated shape, and its size is usually between eight and fifteen centimeters.
- Environment – Okra is originally from Ethiopia, where its cultivation has extended throughout the hotter regions of the entire world. It is highly valued in the Middle East, India, Thailand, East Africa, and the southeastern United States.
Health Benefits of Okra
Okra is a highly nutritious vegetable with numerous medicinal properties. It is notable for its protein content (two percent), which is high for a vegetable. It is also rich in provitamin A (66 ug RE/100 grams); B group vitamins (particularly B1 with 0.2 mg/100 grams, almost double that of white wheat flour); vitamin C, and vitamin E. Few vegetables surpass okra in calcium (81 mg/100 grams), magnesium (57 mg/100 grams), and iron (0.8 mg/100 grams).
In addition to its richness in vitamins and minerals, okra is rich in soluble mucilage fiber that exercises a protective and emollient function within the digestive tract. When using okra for its therapeutic properties, it is best to include the juice released when cooked. It is particularly recommended for the following conditions:
ALL TYPES OF COLITIS, including ulcerative colitis.
How to use and Prepare Okra
- COOKED with lemon – It forms part of a wide variety of dishes. The cooking liquid containing the mucilage should not be discarded since it is medicinal. Okra combines well with eggs, potatoes, and other vegetables.
- ROASTED – Some prefer okra prepared in this way to avoid the mucilage that results when boiled in water, although roasted okra lacks some medicinal properties retained when cooked.
Okra is very soothing when eaten, but contact with the skin may cause allergic dermatitis.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Foods and Their Healing Power.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Foods and Their Healing Power. Trans. Annette Melgosa. Vol. 2. Chai Wan: Editorial Safeliz, 2005. 200. Print.[health benefits of okra]