Lady finger is also known as Okra and it is mostly found and cultivated in places like Africa and south Asia. It is mostly found in warm region and extremely common in many parts of India (1).
Okra or lady finger is an edible flowering plant known for its edible seed pods (2).
While Lady Finger is technically categorized as a fruit, it is consumed as a vegetable in many parts of the world.
Furthermore, Lady Finger plant is extremely durable and can withstand harsh environment. In fact it can grow even on soils with heavy clay and places with inconsistent moisture, thereby making it drought tolerant. Having said that Lady finger gets easily affected in freezing temperatures (3).
Lady Finger is extremely popular and common in India and packs a lot of nutritional benefits.
Health Benefits of Lady Finger
1.) Aids Weight Loss
Lady finger contains high quality fiber and is low in calories (Roughly 33 kcal per 100 grams in raw form). Consuming lady finger even in cooked form will keep both calories as well as hunger in check, thereby promoting weight loss.
Another factor why Lady Finger contributes to weight loss is that it is low in carbs and contains good quality protein and fiber which makes you feel for long duration.
So food items that are high in fiber and low in carbs will always have the weight loss properties. Studies too show that eating food that is high in protein helps to manage weight, blood sugar and muscle mass (4, 5).
2.) Keeps Heart Healthy
Lady finger or Okra contains decent amount of soluble fiber known as pectin.
In a study conducted on Pectin, it was found that those who consumed Pectin for 3 weeks led to almost 5% reduction in total cholesterol levels. Furthermore, Pectins also have the unique ability to prevent and treat life threatening diseases such atherosclerosis (6).
Regular consumption of lady finger helps to eliminate deposit of cholesterol and clots naturally, especially due to the presence of thick gel like substance known as mucilage.
Mucilage in Lady Finger helps to reduce cholesterol as it sticks to cholesterol during digestion, thereby excreting cholesterol through stools rather than getting absorbed in to your body.
Studies conducted on mice, to study the correlation of Okra Diet and the impact on cholesterol level, shows that group of mice on Okra diet managed to excrete more cholesterol from their stools as compared to mice on the other group (7).
Lady finger (Okra) is loaded with anti-oxidants that scavenge free radicals and has anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties.
The Pectins in Okra, also has strong anti-cancer properties. Studies conducted on rats, shows that consumption of adequate amount of pectins decreases the tumorous growth and cancerous cell migration (6).
Furthermore, Lady Finger also contains a type of protein known as lectin, which also stops the growth of cancerous cells.
Studies conducted on Lectin shows that it may be helpful in preventing the cancer cell growth by up to 63% (8).
While other studies conducted on mice, shows that Okra extract manages to kill cancer cells (9).
With all the research and findings we can conclude that, if you want to stay away from cancer consume more anti-cancer foods.
4.) Control Blood Sugar
Lady finger contains a key compound known as Eugenol.
It is a type of compound mostly found in various types of plants including Lady Finger. It is believed that Eugenol in Okra helps to slow down the digestion, thereby slowing down the release of sugar into the blood stream.
The laboratory studies conducted on effectiveness of Eugenol, shows that rats treated orally with Eugenol for 45 days produced significant anti-diabetic effect (10).
Also, In the Year 2011 there was a study conducted on Okra and its effects on diabetes by Journal of Pharmacy & BioAllied Sciences in India. The Study found that mice that were given dried and grounded okra seeds, experienced noticeable drop in the blood glucose levels (11).
In another Study conducted to understand the effectiveness of Okra on diabetes, Mice were fed liquid Sugar and Purified Okra. The study concluded that Mice that were fed Okra experience less sugar spikes as compared to mice that were not given Okra (12).
In India, it is a common practice amongst diabetics to soak the okra in water overnight and drink the liquid early in the morning to control the sugar levels.
While in India many individuals drink Okra infused water, in Turkey it is a common practice amongst diabetics to consume roasted Okra seeds to control diabetes.
5.) Enhances Digestion
The High fiber content in Lady Finger helps to improve digestion and regularize the bowel movement. The benefits of high fiber content in Okra is actually multi-fold.
- It Improves the digestion
- Cuts the Hunger cravings
- Promotes better glycemic control
- Improves Insulin sensitivity
- Cleanses the colon due to presence of Pectin
- Excellent for those who suffer from chronic constipation.
6.) Keeps Anemia away
Regular consumption of Ladyfinger helps to keep anemia away, especially due to presence of Iron, Folates and Vitamin K.
Consuming Lady Finger seeds OR Okra seeds in roasted form helps to keep anemia away as it contains many essentials vitamins and minerals. Some of them are Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Magnesium, Potassium etc.
Ladyfinger contains approx. 60 mcg of folates and 0.6 mg of iron per 100 grams, which helps to nourish your body and plays a vital role in boosting the immune system and treating anemia.
Studies done to understand the importance of Iron on Human health shows that deficiency of iron causes Anemia and it’s important to consume adequate amount of iron through normal diet (14).
There are various causes of Anemia and study shows that, out of all the causes nearly 50% of anemia is due to Iron deficiency (14).
So the bottom line is include foods that are rich in iron and folates to fight anemia efficiently.
Note: Even though Lady Finger contains 0.6 mg of Iron, it’s not enough to fulfil the daily recommended dosage of 8 – 11 mg for Males and 18 – 27 mg for females (15). Therefore it’s important that you include varieties of food in your diet to fulfill the daily nutritional intake.
7.) Protects Eye Sight
Lady finger contains high amount of Vitamin A and Beta-carotene, which plays a vital role in maintaining healthy eye sight. In Fact, there are studies that support the fact that deficiency of Vitamin A causes many eye related disorders including blindness (16).
Lastly, Lady Finger contains key compound such as Zeaxanthin and Lutein, a type of carotenoid which plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy vision.
Studies conducted on Lutein and Zeaxanthin shows that, consuming adequate amount of these two powerful carotenoids help to reduce the discomfort associated with glare and improve the overall vision (17).
8.) Keeps Stress Away
Regular consumption of Lady Finger helps to keep the stress levels in check.
In one of the Studies conducted on laboratory rats, it was found that Okra seed extracts not only managed to reduce the stress levels but it also managed to reduce the blood glucose levels, Triglyceride, corticosterone and cholesterol levels that gets elevated by stress (18).
Even though the studies done on mice shows promising results, more human trials are needed to support this claim. Having said that laboratory studies on rats are promising and in many cultures Okra seeds are already being used to treat many ailments including stress.
Apart from stress, Okra is also helpful in fighting depression, anxiety, Dementia and Neuro-degenerative disorders (18).
9.) Boosts Immune System
Lady Finger contains high amount of Vitamin C, anti-oxidants and other essential amino acids that supports our immune system. The intake of adequate amount of Vitamin C helps to create more White Blood Cells, thereby boosting our body’s capacity to heal and fight foreign pathogens.
Deficiency of Vitamin C can have a direct impact to our immune system and may make our body vulnerable to infections (19). Therefore, to have a healthy immune system one should have adequate amount of Vitamin C from regular diet.
While Okra is rich in Vitamin C and Anti-Oxidants, it alone may not be able to fulfill the daily recommended dosage of Vitamin C, it’s important that we include food of different kinds to meet the daily nutritional requirement.
10.) Helps to Conceive and During pregnancy
Lady Finger contains high amounts on folates, approx. 60 mcg per 100 grams in raw form.
For pregnant women and for women trying to conceive it’s recommended to have 600 mcg folates on daily basis, which is 10 times more than what Okra has to offer (20).
Since Okra manages to provide 60 mcg folates per 100 grams it is obvious that you need to supplement your diet with other green vegetables. It is the combination of multiple veggies that helps to achieve daily folate intake and not a single food.
While Okra offers decent amount of Folate’s try to supplement it with green vegetables such as spinach and fresh fruits like Avocado in your daily diet.
Consuming Okra during pregnancy reduces the risk of congenital defects, miscarriage and neural tube defects.
11.) Protects Liver
Okra possess Hepatoprotective properties.
In a research conducted to study the effectiveness of Okra extracts on Liver it was found that mice that were fed Okra extracts saw significant hepatoprotective ability (21).
Furthermore, mice that were on Okra extract dosage saw significant reduction in SGOT, SGPT, ALP, GGT, Triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
The Study further concluded that the ability of Okra extracts to fight chemically induced Liver damage is mostly due to it potent Anti-oxidant properties (21).
Lastly, The Mucilage in Lady Finger plays a vital role in collecting the toxins from Liver and flushes it out through stools.
Uses of Lady Finger
Now that we know how beneficial lady finger can be, let’s take a quick look at some of the popular ways the Okra is used (It’s used as a Medicine as well food).
Okra or Lady Finger is often used as a main course food in South Asia and is extremely common across India. In India Lady Finger Sabji along with Indian Wheat Bread is a common site.
In many cultures, soup has it’s own importance and when it comes to vegetable soup addition of Lady Finger in Soup is a common citing in southern part of India. Having said that, it’s not only India that makes use of Lady Finger in soup but there are few others in south asia as well.
Okra is also used to prepare sambhar, another popular south Indian side dish.
Basically Sambhar is similar to soup but has vibrant taste as it includes lots of spices. This tasty side dish is consumed along with Idli or vada (another popular south Indian dish).
Okra Seed Powder as well as Okra Decoction is used as an ayurvedic remedy to relief muscle spasms and Stomach related disorders. Lady finger gets this quality due to powerful antioxidant activity and high Polyphenolic content.
Lady Finger is Diuretic in nature and is considered as a Laxative. Lady Finger Extracts can be used as a medication to treat constipation and cleanse colon due to its diuretic properties. One of the making advantage of natural diuretics is that, it helps to relieve fluid retention through urine.
Lastly, natural diuretics helps to reduce blood pressure and detox Kidneys up to certain extent.
In Ayurvedic Medicines, Okra is viewed as an excellent Emollient (Softening and Soothing Effect on Skin). Consumption of Okra Seeds Powder OR Okra Extracts internally as well as externally helps to provide softening effect on the skin.
In some studies it has also been proven to protect the skin from UV damage (22).
7.) Therapy for Diabetes
Consuming Okra Water Or Roasted Okra seed is a common practice in many cultures to treat diabetes.
Research conducted to study the effectiveness of Okra on pregnant mice with diabetes, have shown positive results. Okra water actually managed to improve the blood sugar levels of pregnant rats (23).
Even though more Human trials are needed, this traditional method has found to be working well across many cultures.
8.) Potential UV Protection Qualities
In a study conducted on effectiveness of Flavonoids from Okra it was found that, Flavonoids from Okra actually helps to reduce the Oxidative stress and may be considered as potential UV-B Protective agents (22).
Side Effects of Lady Finger
Just like any other super foods, Okra too have some cons especially when over consumed.
While consuming Lady Finger is absolutely safe when overconsumed, it may lead to below side effects.
1.) Kidney Stones
Lady Finger is high in oxalates, therefore over consumption of Lady Finger may lead to Kidney Stones.
According to NIDDK (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases) foods that are high in Oxalates can increase the risk of developing Kidney stones, especially those who have the history of Kidney stones (24).
So consume Okra in limited quantity if you have a history of Kidney stones and try to stay away from foods that are high in Oxalates.
2.) Blood Clot
Lady Finger is loaded with Vitamin K that helps the blood to clot. So if you are on blood thinning medicine then it’s important that you talk to your doctor before consuming lady finger in form of medicine or even food for that matter.
While Blood clotting ability of Okra is good, it may not be suitable for those who are on blood thinning medication such as Coumadin, Warfarin, Rivaroxaban, Edoxaban and so on.
Since Okra is loaded with High amount of Vitamin C, Anti-oxidants and Anti-Inflammatory properties it is actually good for asthma. When Okra is over consumed, it may have negative side effects, therefore it may increase the asthma symptoms.
So consume Okra in optimal dosage and stay healthy.
4.) Gastro Intestinal Problems
Over consumption of Lady Finger may lead to gastro-intestinal problems as it contains high amount of fructans.
Fructan is a type of carbohydrate that may trigger Gas, bloating, Nausea, Diarrhea and Irritable Bowel.
While Okra is good for health, it’s advisable to not to overconsume (especially in raw form).
5.) Reduced Sugar Levels
If you are on high doses of Insulin and diabetic medication, talk to your doctor before using Okra as an alternative medicine for diabetes. Okra’s are known to reduce the sugar levels, therefore it may end up reducing the sugar levels below the safety limits.
Nutritional Content of Lady Finger
Lady Finger is loaded with nutrients and contains high amount of fiber.
Let’s take a quick look at the nutrition profile of 100 grams Raw Lady Finger OR Okra (25):
- Calories: 33 kcal
- Protein: 2 Grams
- Carbohydrates: 7.45 grams
- Fiber: 3.2 Grams
- Fat: 0 Grams
- Ash: 0.86 Grams
- Sucrose: 0.6 grams
- Glucose: 0.32 grams
- Fructose: 0.57 Grams
- Starch: 0.34 Grams
- Calcium: 82 mg
- Magnesium: 57 mg
- Iron: 0.62 mg
- Phosphorus: 61 mg
- Potassium: 299 mg
- Sodium: 7 mg
- Folate: 15% of Daily Value
- Vitamin A: 14% of the Daily Value
- Vitamin C: 26% of the DV
- Vitamin K: 26% of the Daily Value
- Vitamin B6: 14% of the Daily Value
4 Best Lady finger recipes for optimal Nutrition
Now that you know the benefits, side effects and Nutritional content of Lady Finger, let’s take a quick look at some of the best Lady Finger Recipes that is easy to make and implement in your daily diet.
1.) Lady Finger Masala (Bhindi Masala – Gravy Version)
Image Courtesy: Flickr
To make this tasty Bhindi masala, you will need below ingredients:
- Cooking Oil
- 100 grams Bhindi
- Half cup Curd
- 1 teaspoon Coriander powder
- Pinch of Hing (Asafoetida)
- 1 Teaspoon cumin seeds
- Half a teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 Chopped onion
- 1 Teaspoon Red chilli powder
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- 1 tomato (Puree)
- Half teaspoon Garam masala
- Salt as per taste
- Start by heating the oil in a cooking vessel (preferably a non-stick version)
- Once the Oil is hot and good enough to be cooked, add the lady finger (Cut lady finger into bit size pieces).
- Since Lady Finger contains high water content, it will crackle for few seconds.
- Stir the Lady finger for 3 – 4 minutes and make sure you are not over frying it.
- After you have fried the lady finger, keep it aside in a bowl or a container.
Now start preparing the masalas.
- Start by adding cumin seeds to already heated oil (Cook it for 20 seconds or so).
- Now add hing and cook the cumin seeds until it turn mild brown (Make sure you don’t overcook it).
- Add chopped onions and cook it until the color turns mild brown (Takes roughly 3 – 4 minutes).
- Put Ginger garlic paste after the onions are well cooked and stir it thoroughly.
- Cook it under slow flame for 2 – 3 minutes (Keep Sauting it).
- Now add the spices i.e. Turmeric, red chilli, coriander powder and salt to taste.
- Keep sauting this mixture for a minute or two (Make sure you don’t end up overcooking the spices).
- It’s time for you to add some tomato puree.
- Mix it well and simmer the flame, cook this for next 2 – 3 minutes (by sauting it).
- Add curd when the flame is at its lowest and mix it thoroughly.
- Keep stirring the mixture until you see the gravy boiling.
- Now add half a cup water to the gravy, mix it well.
- Let the gravy cook for 3 minutes (Don’t forget to put the lid).
- Add the fried lady finger to the gravy, mix it well and let it cook for 1 minute.
- Pour the garam masala and stir it well.
- Cook it for 2 more minutes
- Garnish it with coriander and your Lady Finger masala OR Bhindi Masala is ready.
You can have this tasty gravy with Indian wheat bread OR Whole grain bread for best results.
2.) Lady Finger Sabji (Bhindi Sabji)
Image Courtesy: Flickr
This is an extremely common dish in India as it is easy to make and no special ingredients are needed.
To make this dish you will need:
- 250 grams chopped Lady finger
- 1 Finely chopped onion
- 2 Tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 Teaspoon Coriander powder
- 1 Teaspoon red chilli powder
- Half a teaspoon turmeric powder
- Half a teaspoon mango powder (Aamchoor powder)
- Half a teaspoon Roasted cumin powder
- 2 pinch Garam Masala
Procedure to make Lady Finger Sabji:
- Start by heating the oil in a pan.
- Put Hing followed by chopped onion.
- Keep sauting it and cook until onions turn mild brown/pink.
- Now add the lady finger and stir it well.
- Now start adding the spices one after the other.
- Let the lady finger cook for 10 mins (keep sauting it at an appropriate gap so that it does not overcook).
- Your lady finger sabji is ready.
3.) Lady Finger Masala (Bhindi Masala dry)
Image Courtesy: Wiki
This is a dried version of actual Lady Finger masala and tastes awesome.
To make this dish you will need below ingredients:
- 250 grams bite sized lady finger
- 2 Tablespoon cooking Oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- A pinch of hing
- 1 Onion (Chopped in small pieces)
- 1 tbsp Ginger garlic paste
- Half tbsp. turmeric powder
- Half tbsp red chili powder
- Half tbsp. garam masala
- Half tbsp coriander powder
- Tomato Puree made from 2 tomato’s
- 2 Green chillies (optional)
- Salt as per taste
- Coriander leaves for garnishing
To make dry version of bhindi masala simply follow the below steps.
- Start by heating the oil in a pan
- Put the bhindi (Lady finger) and fry it according to your preference (It’s preferred to not do deep fry).
- Extract your fried lady finger and keep it aside.
- Now, add half a teaspoon cumin seeds and let it cook for 20 – 30 seconds.
- Add some hing and onions to the same oil and cook until the color of onion changes to mild brown.
- Add the ginger garlic paste, mix it well and let it cook for a minute (Keep sauting it, so it doesn’t stick)
- Start adding dry spices (Coriander powder, red chilli, garam masala and turmeric) and mix it thoroughly.
- Add some water so that spices doesn’t over cook or stick.
- Pour the tomato puree and mix it well keep sauting it for next 30 seconds.
- Add ¼ cup water and cover the lid, let the tomato cook for 2 – 3 minutes
- Open the lid and now stir the tomatoes well so that tomatoes are cooked well.
- Add green chilies and ¼ cup water and cook until you see the mixture boiling.
- Lower the flame and add lady finger, mix it well.
- Close the lid and cook it for 3 minutes on low flame.
- Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves on lady finger and serve.
You can have this dish with Indian wheat bread or whole grain bread for best results.
4.) Bharwa Bhindi (Stuffed Lady Finger)
Image Courtesy: Flickr
As the name suggests, this dish is made by stuffing the spices in the lady finger and is extremely tasty.
To make this Stuffed lady finger you will need below ingredients.
- 250 grams Lady finger (Only cut the heads and the other end)
- 1 tbsp red chili powder
- 1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp besan
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- Salt to taste
- 1 Teaspoon Turmeric powder
- 1 Teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon aamchoor powder (Mango powder)
- Start by putting a cut in all the lady finger (Cut should be in such a way that you can stuff the spices into the lady finger).
- Now prepare the stuffing by mixing all the above ingredients (Spices and besan) in a bowl.
- Put the stuffing into the cuts made to the lady finger.
- Now heat the pan, add the oil and let the oil heat.
- Start putting the stuffed lady finger on the heated pan and cook all the sides well.
- You bharwa lady finger is ready to be consumed.
Lady Finger makes an excellent fit for people from all age groups and contains medicinal properties that protects you from many ailments.
But just like any other food, over consumption of Lady Finger may not be good and never rely on a diet plan circling on one food item.
It’s recommended you eat balanced meal with varieties of fruits and vegetables for prolonging your life and staying fit.
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