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Is Okra Good for Diabetes?
Diabetes

Is Okra Good for Diabetes?

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on 2022 August 29
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5 min

Okra is popular among Creole and Cajun dishes, but is it a miracle food for those with diabetes? We’ll review the nutritional value of okra and whether it can help lower blood sugar.

Is okra good for diabetes
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Diabetes is a pandemic. With 1 in 10 Americans suffering from diabetes, we must do more to prevent or manage the disease. Has the answer been sitting under our noses all this time?

Okra is a green flowering plant from the same plant family as hibiscus and cotton. Since arriving in the US with the slave trade in the 1700s, okra has become a staple of Creole and Cajun cuisine. You’ll find it in much-loved recipes, like gumbo.

Recent studies suggest that okra might be the new health food. More than a regional delicacy, okra might help reduce blood sugar and help those with diabetes. This article will review whether you should use okra to treat diabetes.

Is Okra Good for Diabetes?

Okra contains myricetin, which helps muscles absorb sugar, resulting in lower blood glucose levels. While okra/diabetes relationship studies are incomplete, okra has many other health benefits regardless. It’s low in fat and calories but loaded with vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc, and fiber, which is ideal for weight loss. 

One of the best treatments for diabetes mellitus is weight loss and reduced sugar intake. Introducing okra pods into your diet might help you control diabetes.

While we cannot draw solid conclusions about the relationship between okra and blood sugar levels, the other health benefits of the okra plant are numerous. For instance, okra is an excellent source of dietary fiber intake. People with diabetes should eat a high-fiber diet to help them lose weight, which is good for managing the condition.

However, adding okra pods to your diet won’t cure diabetes. The way you cook and prepare okra will impact the positive effects of the fruit. For instance, eating roasted okra seeds slathered in olive oil will contribute to a high-fat diet. It’s best to eat fresh okra or add powdered okra seeds to your foods – stay away from fried foods and saturated fats.

Does Okra Lower Blood Sugar?

People with diabetes mellitus struggle with blood sugar spikes. Their bodies cannot produce insulin and cannot metabolize glucose. Unfortunately, lots of foods are laced with sugar, so people with diabetes find blood sugar control particularly hard.

A study in 2011 found a link between okra and decreased blood sugar levels. The researchers fed liquid sugar and purified okra to streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats and saw lower blood sugar levels. The study concluded that the okra extract blocked the intestines from absorbing sugar.

Still, if you have diabetes, consult a medical professional before adding okra to your diet. The same 2011 study found that the absorption blocking properties of okra may also stop metformin hydrochloride (a drug used to treat diabetes).

More recent studies suggest that the myricetin in okra encourages muscles to absorb sugar and reduce blood glucose levels. However, we need further research to understand all the properties of okra and myricetin.

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Other potential health benefits of okra include treating and preventing:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cataracts
  • Sore throat
  • Macular degeneration
  • Heart and blood vessel diseases
  • Cancer

Nutritional Value of Okra

Okra is rich in nutrients and has long been a staple for health-conscious cooks. A serving of 100g contains only 33 calories and no saturated fats or cholesterol. Moreover, it contains 9% of your daily recommended fiber intake.

Okra is also a good source of calcium, manganese, iron, copper, and vitamin K.

Net CarbsTotal CarbsFatsProtein
7g10.2g0.2g1.9g
CaloriesFiberSugarsGlycemic Index
333.2g1.5g20

Glycemic Index of Okra

The glycemic index of okra is around 20, depending on how you prepare it. For example, eating okra seed pods raw or drinking okra water has a relatively lower glycemic index (GI) score and helps with better glycemic control. In contrast, fried okra will have a higher GI score, which may impact blood glucose control adversely.

The glycemic index indicates the effect food has on your blood glucose levels. A higher score (above 55) means the food is likely less good for people with diabetes mellitus. Raw okra has a relatively low score of 20, which will impact your blood sugar levels less.

The way you prepare okra will affect its GI score. Avoid oils and fats when cooking; choose steaming or boiling okra to retain the nutritional benefits.

How to Use Okra for Diabetes?

If you want to control cholesterol abnormalities and manage diabetes, consider adding okra into your diet. The best way to enjoy okra is to buy it fresh. Look for bright green okra pods about 4 inches long or less. They should be firm to touch and avoid bruised pods.

When you cut okra, it releases a sticky substance. This is great for thickening soups, adding to gumbo, or bulking out a stew. Avoid eating okra as the fried delicacy popular in the Southern United States.

You could also try raw, roasted, steamed, or pickled okra. Additionally, okra water might help people with diabetes lower blood sugar levels. If you have type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes, okra could help manage your condition.

4 Benefits of Okra for Diabetes

Okra has many nutritional elements that could help improve your diabetes diet. It’s high in fiber and low in sugar – the perfect combination for anyone battling diabetes. What are the benefits of okra for diabetes mellitus?

#1 Improves digestion

Fiber is excellent for digestion. Whether you have digestive issues or just want to clear up your diet, eating okra will undoubtedly help. This is because fiber increases the size and weight of your stool and softens it. Not only are softer, bulky stools easier to pass, but they also reduce the risks of constipation. Fiber also maintains a healthier bowel.

Better digestion will lubricate the gastrointestinal tract and lower your chances of bowel cancer.

#2 Lowers blood sugar

Soluble fibers can help slow sugar absorption and improve blood sugar control. Slowly absorbed sugar will help control existing diabetes and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

In addition, okra contains very little sugar. Therefore, it won’t raise sugar levels (as long as you cook it with a healthy recipe).

#3 Strengthens immunity

Okra is a rich source of vitamins C and K, as well as antioxidants that boost the immune system. Many people with diabetes suffer from chronic kidney disease, among other health conditions. With a more robust immune system, okra can help prevent it.

#4 Balances cholesterol levels

Fiber may lower blood cholesterol by lowering low-density lipoprotein, known as bad cholesterol, which may help reduce cardiovascular risk factors. In addition, high-fiber foods are more filling than those with low or no fiber. Therefore, you’re not likely to eat as much and will stay satisfied longer, aiding with weight loss.

FAQs

Is okra water good for diabetes?

Soaking okra seeds in water overnight and drinking okra water is an excellent way to get the fruit into your diet. While studies are inconclusive, research suggests that okra extract helps prevent sugar from entering your bloodstream.

How to make okra water for diabetes?

Drinking okra water is very popular, and there are suggestions that it helps with diabetes. To make okra water, put pods in water overnight to soak them. The water should absorb some of the nutritional benefits of the okra peel. Drinking okra water is a good way to include it in your diet.

Is fried okra good for diabetes?

Frying foods removes their nutritional value. Oil and butter are high in fat and pose a risk to those with insulin sensitivity. To control diabetes, it’s good to lose weight. Fried foods and saturated fats make this challenging.

A Word From Our MD

Okra is high in fiber and low in calories, which is suitable for people looking to eat a healthier diet. Opting for more nutritious foods is non-negotiable when you have diabetes. Moreover, foods high in fiber may slow sugar absorption and reduce glucose levels.

Try to steam or boil to ensure the fruit retains its health benefits and nutritional value. Alternatively, you could eat raw okra or try okra water. Fried and roasted foods may do more harm than good as you increase your saturated fat intake.

One thing to note is that you should speak to a healthcare professional about introducing okra to your diet. Some research might suggest that okra has an adverse impact on people with diabetes taking metformin. Always consult a nutrition professional before changing your diet.

Conclusion

Is okra the miracle food we’ve been waiting for? Yes and no. 

While many don’t like the taste of okra unless it’s deep fried and served with bacon, it may help people with diabetes control their symptoms in its raw form.

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed byRosmy Barrios, MD
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