Okra is a powerful source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. The soluble fiber, in the forms of gums and pectins, lowers total cholesterol, mainly LDL (the bad form). It also helps regulate digestion, which moderates spikes in blood sugar levels. Soluble fiber puts less stress on insulin producing cells and could help prevent Type II diabetes. Insoluble fibers in okra help maintain intestinal health. They bind to wastes (some of which are toxic or contain cholesterol), absorb water and keep things flowing smoothly in the intestines. They also delay absorption of glucose and promote colon health by balancing pH levels. Okra’s high quality fiber helps feed beneficial bacteria in the intestines, contributing to more efficient breakdown of food and nutrient absorption. Okra’s vitamin K contributes to blood clotting and strong, healthy bones. Also low in calories, which makes it ideal for eating healthy while losing weight.
Vitamin and Mineral Content
Vitamins – C, A, B1 (Thiamin), B2 (Riboflavin), B9 (Folate), and B3 (Niacin)
Minerals – Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Manganese, Iron, Phosphorus, Zinc and Copper
Okra may help suppress or prevent the symptoms or onset of colon cancer, heart disease, diabetes, ulcers, and mouth and lung cancers. Vitamin C in okra is an antioxidant that helps ward off potential carcinogens and blocks cholesterol buildup. It is also anti-inflammatory and works to help prevent cataracts, atherosclerosis, asthma and arthritic conditions. Vitamin A, an antioxidant with other flavanoids, wards off carcinogens. They help the eyes, too, aiding night vision and slowing macular degeneration.
How to Grow
Okra is an annual originating in the tropics. Popular in the South for thickening gumbos or stews. It grows as an upright bush that produces hibiscus-like flowers followed by five-sided pods used for eating. Okra wants full sun in moisture retaining soil with good drainage. It grows best outdoors in warmer temperatures, but you can start indoors and transplant in warm weather. Sow the seeds when temperature reaches the mid-60’s. Soak for 24 hours and plant in highly fertile soil amended well with compost or planting mix. Place seeds ½ to ¾ inches deep and 3 inches apart. Thin out later to 2 feet apart. Keep about 3 feet between each row. Mulch when it is 4 inches tall to prevent weeds and hold moisture. Water okra well during dry times. Reapply organic fertilizer every month. Pods will appear 50-60 days after planting. Harvest when they are young and soft, no bigger than finger size, as they harden during maturation.
Pests not a big problem for very resilient okra. Stinkbugs, corn earworms, flea beetles, aphids, or cabbage loopers may be a nuisance. Pick off stinkbugs or worms when you see them. Remove aphids with a strong spray of water or introduce predators such as lady beetles, lacewings or midges. If they do not work, use garlic spray, insecticidal soap or rotenone. For flea beetles, introduce parasitic nematodes or spray with rotenone. If attacks are severe, use rotenone for all as a last resort.
Harvest daily to stimulate more pod growth and discard the firm pods that were missed or did not get harvested on time. Cook okra over low heat to maintain nutritional value.