If you are like me, you are frequently on the lookout for the many ways to get even more out of a glass of water. And if it helps you naturally manage an underlying condition, then that is all the better!
If you have recently heard about infusing okra pods in water and are looking to learn more, then you have come to the right place. Here’s everything you need to know about okra infused water, including how to reap its health benefits and how to make your own.
What is Okra and What Are The Benefits
Okra is a green, slightly fuzzy plant grown mostly in warm regions such as the Middle East, the Caribbean, and South America. It is also known as ladies’ fingers or gumbo and, as a member of the mallow plant family, is related to cotton and hibiscus. It is a very nutrient-dense and low-calorie fruit, containing only 30 calories per 100 grams (which is well above the amount you need to make okra water). It is free from saturated fat and cholesterol but is high in fiber.
It is also rich in vitamins and minerals such as calcium, folic acid, potassium, vitamin C, and several B vitamins.
The whole flowering plant, including the seeds, can be consumed.
Why Are People Infusing Okra In Your Water?
Choosing to infuse it in water is a quick and easy way of increasing your consumption of antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber. Okra pods and seeds are rich in antioxidants such as catechins and quercetin. Antioxidants are naturally occurring substances found in food; they are most frequently found in plant-based foods. Antioxidants play a role in protecting cells against free radicals caused by oxidative stress.
As a rich source of folate, okra water is believed to lower the risk of certain types of cancer. Folate, also known as Vitamin B9, helps repair DNA and create red blood cells. A high Vitamin B9 intake may help protect against cancers such as breast, gut, pancreatic, and lung cancer. On the other hand, low levels of folate may be a risk factor for cancer due to the role this nutrient plays in controlling gene expression and the making and repair of DNA. With low folate levels, accumulation of unstable, fragile DNA strands can occur. Okra's anti-cancer properties have been studied. In 2014, a study found that lectin from okra reduced breast cancer cell growth by 63%! However, this tests were conducted on human cells and not human subjects themselves so more studies are needed to increase confidence levels/
Another benefit of okra is its high vitamin C content, a nutrient that reduces the risk of stroke. A study found that those with higher vitamin C levels in their blood were less likely to have a stroke as vitamin C helps lower blood pressure and keep blood vessels healthy.
Okra Water and Diabetes
Okra water is most associated as a natural diabetes treatment and prevention remedy because:
- Okra has minimal effect on blood sugar. 100 grams of okra only contains only 7.45 grams of carbohydrates. Additionally, okra has a low glycemic index, making it ideal for blood sugar control.
- Okra doesn’t just keep blood sugar from rising undesirably; it can lower and control blood glucose levels, which is especially important in patients that have diabetes.
- Eating high fiber foods is recommended for those with diabetes, as fiber helps control blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity. Fiber also helps to keep you fuller for longer, which helps ward off between-meal snacking on foods that can spike blood glucose levels. As one serving of okra contains between 3-4 grams of fiber, it is considered a good source of this nutrient.
- Not only are diabetics advised to eat a healthy diet to manage their condition, but an active lifestyle is also recommended. The anti-fatigue properties of okra can help give those who drink this infusion more energy to be active and allow them to recover more quickly from strenuous physical activity.
- As people with diabetes are more likely to experience high cholesterol, keeping blood vessels and blood pressure in a healthy range is pivotal in patients with this condition. Okra is one of many foods that can help get cholesterol levels under better control because of its high fiber content and strong antioxidant properties.
- Inflammation can be a concern for diabetics as it can cause insulin resistance and further complicate the condition. Inflammation is a natural response within our body to protect us from germs and bacteria. However, some people experience chronic inflammation, which means that the body becomes inflamed even when there isn’t a threat warranting the response. High blood sugar levels are a trigger for inflammation, which ends up damaging blood vessels. The damaged blood vessels are then covered by plaques, but if the inflammation is chronic, they also break down and move around the body and damage organs.
How To Make Okra Water
Okra water is made with young, immature green okra pods. You can soak 3 to 5 pods in a glass of water overnight and then remove the pods in the morning before drinking. Make sure to cut the ends off of the pods so some of the juices can seep into the water. Remember, you can also infuse additional flavors such as mint, lemon, or berries to hide the bitter taste while still reaping the benefits.
Alternatively, you can slice the okra prior to putting it in your water as a means of extracting a higher amount of its beneficial properties. While this will allow more of the juices to infuse into your water, it can affect the taste. If you do not like the taste, it is probably wise not to prepare it this way.
If you prefer not to use okra in water, you can stick to just adding it in soup and salads.
Infusing it in water is not the only way to reap the health benefits. Okra peel was consumed long before okra water became popular. Okra peel can safely be eaten raw by itself; there isn’t a dose you should stick to. However, you don’t have to eat much to reap the benefits. Even just half a teaspoon can be beneficial. This also means that you don’t need to drink more than one glass of okra water a day.
The sticky juice inside the plant is a popular ingredient in soups, often used as a means of thickening them. This is also helpful for vegans making soup as they aren’t able to use dairy cream as a thickener; the added calcium in okra would be an added benefit in this instance.
Powdered okra seeds are another method of consuming the plant. These can be made at home by grinding the seeds in a pepper grinder but can also be found in a variety of health shops.
Is Okra Water Safe?
While okra water for diabetes looks promising, do not stop taking medication and other treatments without first getting explicit permission from your health practitioner. If anything, consider this a supplement that can be used in conjunction with your other therapies/medications for optimal control of your diabetes.
If you’re taking metformin, then you need to consult your doctor before trying okra water for diabetes. One study on rats found that okra can inhibit the absorption of metformin. Interestingly, blood sugar levels remained lower with okra supplementation despite the malabsorption of the medication. Nonetheless, those looking to supplement okra, either through the addition of okra water or another route, should consult their physician first to discuss this potential interaction.
Vitamin toxicities caused by consuming too much of a particular vitamin can be potentially dangerous depending on the vitamin and the extent of the toxicity.
Vitamins B and C, which are among the most prevalent vitamins in okra water, are water-soluble; this means that excess amounts of these vitamins are excreted in the urine rather than accumulating in the body; as a result, toxicity is unlikely to occur. However, it is essential to consult your GP or Registered Dietitian before adding okra water to your daily routine if you are already taking any additional supplements.
The Bottom Line
Okra has a plethora of benefits that make okra-infused water a worthwhile addition to your diet, especially if you want to drink it for the extra vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. As a drink, this infusion is just one of the many healthy ways to keep hydrated and not drink your calories.
There is a lot of excellent research on okra fruit and its impact on the effective management of diabetes. Should okra water replace your doctor-prescribed regimen? The answer to that is a resounding no! Nonetheless, it is worth a try as a supplemental strategy.