If you are like me, you are constantly on the look out for the many ways to get even more out of a glass of water. Whether you think the pricey Fiji water is worth it, or like the trendy practice of infusing water with lemon juice, if you have heard about okra water, you might be wondering what it is all about.
Here’s everything you need to know about okra infused water, from how to reap the health benefits of okra water to making your own:
What is Okra Water
Okra water is quite simply water infused with okra.
Okra is a green slightly fuzzy plant grown mostly in warm regions such as the Middle East, the Caribbean, and South America. It’s also known as ladies’ fingers or gumbo and is related to cotton and hibiscus.
The whole flowering plant, including the seeds, can be consumed. However, okra infused water is becoming the preferred way to add the healthy plant to people’s diets.
There are so many benefits of okra water that it might just become your new favorite drink.
What are the health benefits of Okra Water?
Okra is a very nutrient dense vegetable.
The vegetable contains only 30 calories per 100 grams which is well above the amount you need to make okra water. It’s also free from saturated fat and cholesterol but is high in fiber. It’s also rich in vitamins and minerals such as calcium, folic acid, potassium, vitamin B and vitamin C.
Okra water is also a way of consuming more antioxidants. Okra pods and seeds are rich in antioxidants such as catechins and quercetin. Vitamin B which is found in okra is also an antioxidant.
Antioxidants are naturally occurring substances found in food; in particular, they’re found in plant-based foods. Antioxidants play a role in protecting cells against free radicals which are caused by oxidative stress. When this happens, oxygen molecules split up into single atoms with unpaired electrons. As electrons come in pairs they travel through the body looking for electrons to pair up with. This process can cause damage to DNA, cells, and protein.
Oxidative stress is caused by digesting food, and exposure to radiation, pollution, and smoke. Not only can free-radicals raise the risk of developing cancer and illness such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. They can also accelerate the aging process.
As a source of folate, okra water is believed to lower the risk of cancer. Folate, also known as Vitamin B9, helps repair DNA and create red blood cells. A high Vitamin B9 intake can help protect against cancers such as breast, gut, and lung cancer.
Low levels of folate can be a risk factor for cancer due to its ability to control gene expression and the fact that folate prevents DNA from breaking down and building up. Folate, which is known as folic acid in it’s supplemented form, is often associated with pregnancy. However, as folate is important for cell division and DNA formation, it’s not just pregnant women who should be consuming folate.
Okra’s anti-cancer properties have been studied. In 2014, a study found that lectin from okra reduced breast cancer cell growth by 63%! It also killed 72% of human cancer cells! However, as these tests were conducted on human cells, and not humans themselves, more studies are needed for more definitive answers. That said, okra infused water is looking promising for cancer prevention and even treatment.
Cancer prevention isn’t the only benefit of okra water as the vitamin C content can help reduce the risk of stroke. A study found that those with higher levels of vitamin C in their blood were less likely to have a stroke as vitamin C helps lower blood pressure and keep blood vessels healthy.
Can Okra Water treat diabetes?
What okra water is associated with the most is with diabetes, as a possible treatment option.
There are several reasons why okra water is good for people with diabetes.
Firstly, it has a minimal effect on blood sugar, as 100 grams of okra only contains 7.45 grams of carbohydrates. As it ranks low on the glycemic index, plain okra water won’t have much of an effect on blood glucose levels. Okra water doesn’t just keep blood sugar from rising, it can also lower and control blood glucose levels.
Diabetics are advised to eat high fiber foods, as fiber helps control blood sugar levels and helps with insulin sensitivity. Fiber also helps to keep you fuller for longer, which can ward off snacking on foods that can spike blood glucose levels. As one serving of okra contains between 3-4 grams of fiber, it can help with colon health, and by extension, ward off colon cancer. Fiber slows down how quickly we digest food, which in turn, slows down how much sugar enters our bloodstream at once. This keeps blood sugar from rising rapidly.
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 okra water more energy to be active and allow them to recover quicker 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 to treating the condition. Okra is one of many foods diabetics should consume to keep their cholesterol under control.
Inflammation can be a concern for diabetics as it can cause insulin resistance and complicate the condition. Inflammation is a natural response in our body to protect us from germs and bacteria. However, some people experience chronic inflammation, which means that the body becomes inflamed 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 can damage organs. Okra pods’ and seeds’ antioxidants, flavonoids such as catechins and quercetin, and phenolic compounds are believed to have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. This means that for diabetics, okra water can help reduce and prevent inflammation.
How to make Okra Water
Okra infused water is simple to make.
Okra water is made with young immature green okra pods. You can soak 3 to 5 pods of okra in water overnight, and then remove them in the morning before drinking. Make sure to cut the ends off the pods so some of the juices can become infused with the water. Alternatively, you can slice some okra and put it into a glass of water. While this will get more of the okra juices out, it can affect the taste.
If you don’t like the taste of plain okra water you can add okra to soup and salads, or you can infuse okra with flavors such as mint, lemon, or berries to hide the bitter taste while still reaping the benefits.
Okra water isn’t the only way to consume the vegetable. Okra peel was consumed long before okra water became popular. Okra peel can safely be eaten raw by itself, so there isn’t a dose you should stick to, however, you don’t have to eat much. 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 to benefit.
The sticky juice inside the plant is a popular ingredient in soups, as it thickens them. This is also helpful for vegans making soup, who can’t use dairy cream as a thickener, and the added calcium in okra won’t go to waste.
Powdered okra seeds are also another method of consuming the plant. These can be made at home by grounding the seeds in a pepper grinder, but can also be found in health shops.
Is Okra Water safe?
While okra may seem like the hot new superfood, consult your doctor before adding okra water to your diet if you’re looking to use it to control diabetes and other health problems. While okra water for diabetes looks promising, don’t stop taking medication and treatment for the condition without explicit permission from your health practitioner first.
If you’re taking metformin, then you absolutely need to consult your doctor before trying okra water for diabetes. One study on rats found that okra can inhibit the absorption of metformin. While the study maintained that okra reduced the absorption of glucose in the gut of fasting rats, and by extension, can potentially do the same for humans, metformin should not be taken with a meal that contains okra or with okra infused water.
Although hypervitaminosis rarely occurs from natural sources of vitamins from foods, (such as the vitamin B and C in okra), if you’re already taking supplements, consult your GP or dietician before drinking okra water to ensure you’re not as risk of experiencing hypervitaminosis B or C. Hypervitaminosis is a dangerous condition caused by consuming too much of a vitamin; it’s also known as vitamin toxicity. Although it’s less likely to occur with water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins B and C, as they’re excreted in the urine, it’s not impossible, which is why it’s important to err on the side of caution if you’re already taking supplements for these vitamins.
The Bottom Line
Overall, okra has a plethora of benefits that make okra infused water a worthwhile addition to your diet.
If you want to drink it for the extra vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, then you have nothing to worry about. You can safely drink okra water every day. It’s also a way to keep yourself hydrated if you find plain water boring.