Health benefits of okra and a curry recipe to heal inflammation

By Julie Daniluk RHN
okra in a bowl Getty Images

Botanically, okra belongs to the mallow family. Much like real marshmallow, the mucilage, a sticky substance containing polysaccharides, helps improve digestion and may be used in the treatment of gastritis, gastric ulcer and liver/gallbladder cleansing. Okra’s mucilage helps to lubricate and soothe the bowel, protecting it from chronic inflammation that can lead to irritable bowel syndrome.

Try adding okra to your next soup, stew, or stir-fry to experience these five incredible benefits:

1. Eating okra helps to rid the body of toxins and excess cholesterol. During the process of digestion, bile which is largely made up of cholesterol soaks up acids and toxins from the body. The soluble pectin-based mucilaginous fibre in okra binds with this toxic bile and allows it to be eliminated quickly. If these toxic materials sit in the bowel too long they can be reabsorbed causing inflammation, leading to bowel disease. This same process eliminates excess cholesterol from the body thereby lowering serum cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease.


Compared to over-the-counter constipation medications, okra is much cheaper and has none of the side effects associated with this type of medication. The insoluble fibre in okra absorbs water and ensures bulk in the stool, while the soothing and lubricating quality of the mucilage found in okra can aid in elimination and reduce colorectal cancer.

2. Okra helps to control blood sugar. Regulating blood sugar is a key factor in the prevention of diabetes and heart disease. The fibre in okra controls the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the small intestine into the blood stream.

3. Okra can boost your immunity. The fibre found in okra also feeds the good bacteria in your gut. Maintaining a healthy ratio of good to bad bacteria is crucial to keeping the immune system functioning. Okra is also a great source of vitamin C, which can reduce episodes of cold and cough and protect the body from harmful free radicals.


4. Eating okra can protect you from developing stomach ulcers. The bacteria heliobacter pylori (or h. pylori) is known to cause stomach ulcers. Okra contains glycosylated compounds which have been shown to inhibit h. pylori from attacking the lining of the stomach.

5. Okra reduces birth defects. Enjoy okra during the pre-conception period because it's high in folic acid, which is important for women trying to conceive. Okra’s also a good source of vitamin B6 and calcium. A half cup of okra provides you with 10 percent of the daily recommended levels of B6 and folic acid. Beyond making babies, B6 and folic acid helps reduce depression and PMS symptoms as well!  

Okra stirfry from julie daniluk   Okra stirfry from julie daniluk

Coconut Curried Okra
Okra is a very low-calorie vegetable, only 30 calories per 100 gram serving. The pods contain healthy amounts of the antioxidants beta carotene, xanthin and lutein. These compounds are essential for vision, healthy lungs and skin. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in flavonoids also helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 medium onion chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp ginger powder and/or 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
3 cups fresh okra washed and chopped
1 tsp of honey
Unrefined pink or grey sea salt to taste
1 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp of apple cider vinegar (optional)
1/2 cup of tomato sauce or broth
1/3 cup of coconut milk
Optional: 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1. To avoid okra from getting slimy, keep it completely dry when cutting. Consider washing the okra the day before and allowed it to completely air-dry.
2. Add coconut oil into a pan over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and spices, and sauté until onions begin to soften.
3. Add the okra, honey, salt and mustard seed. Cook for another 2 minutes.
4. Add vinegar, tomato sauce or broth. Cover and bring to a simmer for 4 to 5 minutes.
5. When the okra is almost tender, add the coconut milk and simmer for another 3-4 minutes.
6. Taste the curry and see if it needs any more seasoning. If time allows, let the dish rest for 10 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken. Fold in cherry tomatoes if desired, and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutritionist Julie Daniluk hosts Healthy Gourmet, a reality cooking show that looks at the ongoing battle between taste and nutrition. She is the author of Meals That Heal Inflammation.


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