Lady finger or known as okra is green edible pod vegetable which contain high nutrition. Lady finger is commonly used in south Asian countries and America also in Africa. It is one of most important vegetable crop in India and commonly use by Indian people in making many dish. Its a natural thickening agent which mostly used in curry or other dish with gravy. Its also cut and sliced to be stirred fry, steamed or sauted. Even in Japanese lady finger also used as sushi ingredients and tempura. All parts of lady finger plant is edible and the leaves used to be eaten in salad.
The okra name is derived from Nigeria word okwuru then later became ochra and okra. British people used to called okra as lady finger and it has many other names in different parts of the world. Some of them are gumbo in Unites States of America, guini-gumbo in Spain, guibeiro in Portuguese, bhindi in India and banya in Egypt. India is country who produce the most number of okra. About 3.5 million tonnes or 70% of total production of okra in world is cultivated in India from over 0.35 milllion ha land.
Lady finger is believed to be originated from south part of Africa especially Ethipia. From Ethiopia it spread to North Africa, Eastern Mediterranian, Arabian and India. It is believed that Egyptian has cultivated lady finger in 12 century BC or before cleopatra era. It reached Brazil on 1658 and Dutch Guiana by 1686. It is brought to America in 1700’s probably through slaves which came from West Africa.
It is mentioned in many source that due to the shortage of coffee beans, during World War II or since 1860’s people used okra or lady finger seeds as coffee subtitute. For your information, roasted okra or lady finger seed has almost same flavor with coffee. This incident later lead to a term of the word “okra fever”. Since that time, lady finger is popular around the world and its never disappeared from local markets throughout the world and it is available whole the year.
Lady finger or in Scientific name Abelmoschus esculentus L. is annual plant which need a year to complete growing phase but it grows as perrenial plant in Tropical climate. Based on Linnaeus taxonomy, it is included in genus Hibiscus and family malvaceae. It belongs to same family with other plant such as cocoa, cotton, durian, hibiscus and balsawood.
It is self pollinating plant which the stem can reached 1 – 2 meters tall. The leaves are 10-20 cm long with broad heart shaped and they have plamately lobed with 5-7 lobes. Flowers of lady finger have five white or yellow petals with 4-8 cm in diameter and have 5 white/yellow petals. Often there is a red or purple spot at the base of the petals of flower.The fruit of lady finger can be up to 18 cm long and contains numerous round white seeds or it can varies in color green, yellow, and red.
It is easy to grow lady fingers anywhere even it can grow during summer season in cold countries and throughout the year in tropical areas. It also can be planted inside a container in your garden and do not need large space. It can be planted in most type of soil and best grown in soil which rich in organic matter. The fruit of lady finger plant can be harvested after 10 weeks planting and for regular picking every 2 to 3 days is essential for maximum yields.
Lady finger is one vegetable which is rich in nutrients. Below is the list of all nutrients which contained in one single serving of lady fingers
Nutrition value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 31 Kcal 1.5%
Carbohydrates 7.03 g 5.4%
Protein 2.0 g 4%
Total Fat 0.1 g 0.5%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 3.2 g 9%
Folates 88 mcg 22%
Niacin 1.000 mg 6%
Pantothenic acid 0.245 mg 5%
Pyridoxine 0.215 mg 16.5%
Riboflavin 0.060 mg 4.5%
Thiamin 0.200 mg 17%
Vitamin C 21.1 mg 36%
Vitamin A 375 IU 12.5%
Vitamin E 0.36 mg 2.5%
Vitamin K 53 mcg 44%
Sodium 8 mg 0.5%
Potassium 303 mg 6%
Calcium 81 mg 8%
Copper 0.094 mg 10%
Iron 0.80 mg 10%
Magnesium 57 mg 14%
Manganese 0.990 mg 43%
Phosphorus 63 mg 9%
Selenium 0.7 mcg 1%
Zinc 0.60 mg 5.5%
Carotene-ß 225 mcg —
Crypto-xanthin-ß 0 mcg —
Lutein-zeaxanthin 516 mcg —
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Healths benefits of Okra
Lady finger serves many benefits to health and its one of super food which should be consumed by people who suffer from diabetes. Beside the great effects of lady finger in prevent and cure diabetes, it has long list of other benefits. Check below explanation to know further
1. Stabilize blood sugar and prevent diabetes
Many research has been established to prove the health benefits of lady fingers and most of them reported that lady fingers has great effect to lowering blood sugar level into normal level. A study by Subrahmanyam which published in International Journal of Research in Pharmacy and Chemistry shown that lady finger fruit extract has anti-diabetic activity and it has significant effect in lowering blood sugar.
According to another study by Sarika Davis and jennifer D’souza from Department of Community Health Nursing, Laxmi Memorial College Of Nursing published in International Journal of Scientific Research proves that lady finger juice is effective in reducing the blood glucose level thus acting as a simple but effective method for diabetes control especially in people which suffer from type 2 diabetes.
2. Get rid of cholesterol
Lady finger contains mucilage which can bind excessive cholesterol and bile acid in effort to carrying toxins dumped into it by the filtering liver. Okra binds excess cholesterol and toxins (in bile acids). Cholesterol is one of unhealthy substance which can cause numerous problems. It has been proved by a study which published harvard health Publication journal that lady finger can lowering blood cholesterol if consumed regularly and it is suggested to replace high fat food with lady finger vegetable.
Lady fingers fiber also assures an easy passage out of waste from the body. It is completely non-toxic, non-habit forming, and has no adverse side effects.
3. Improving capilaries function
With the elimination of cholesterol by the fiber contained in lady finger, it gives good effect to the capilaries and blood vessel function. Fiber throw the cholesterol out of the body and prevent it to stick in capilaries wall which can cause atheroskleresis.
4. Maintain healthy heart and prevent heart disease
Cholesterol removal and the improvement of capilaries function, the heart will at least save from disease. Consuming lady finger give out lots of benefits in keeping healthy heart. Potassium which contained in lady finger is crucial in maintain heart function and it keeps smooth muscle work inside the body
5. Prevent constipation
Lady finger has bulk laxative quality which helps lubricate the large intestines. The fiber contained in lady finger can absorbs water and ensures bulk in stools. This helps prevent constipation. Unlike other kind of fiber such as harsh wheat bran, which can irritate or injure the intestinal tract or digestion, the mucilage of lady finger is soothing. It also facilitates elimination of waste from the body comfortably by its slippery characteristic.
6. Promote health digestion
Lady fingers contain high fiber which is excellent to feed the good bacteria or probiotics in gut. Probiotic effect has been proved by some research in improving the health of digestion. The good bacteria in gut promotes can inhibit the growth of pathogen bacteria in body that can cause several health problem.
7. Prevent Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition or diorders which affects the large intestines. Irritable bowl syndrome or IBS can cause cramping, bloating, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and bloating. The fiber and mucilage which contained in lady finger can promotes healthy bowel movement and prevent irritable bowel syndrome.
8. Fight depression
If you feel exhausted, depressed or feeling weak you can try to consume lady finger. The magnesium which contain in lady finger can calming the nerves and give more good feeling to your body and mind. In single serving of lady finger or 100 gr contain 57 mg of magnesium. This made lady finger as one vegetable that rich in magnesium
9. Heal gastric ulcer
In ayurvedic medication in India, lady finger or okra is used for healing ulcers. The phytochemicals, fiber and other nutrients in lady finger can helps to neutralize strong acids which produced by gastric. Lady finger can turn the pH of gastric into very alkaline which provides a temporary protective coating for the digestive system.
10. Treat lung inflammation
Lady finger contains high amount of phytochemical or nutrients which are known as antioxidant. The antioxidant in lady finger can help the body to prevent inflammation especially in the lung.
11. Reduce sore throat
Sore throat is a condition which the throat get infection and hard to swallow. It is also an early symptom of cold. The antiseptic and antibacterial effect of lady finger can reduce sore throat. Drinking lady finger’s infused water can be an effective way to cure sore throat.
12. Treat for asthma
Again the strong effect of Vitamin C makes up lady finger as asthma treatment. Vitamin C who can fight inflammation can reduce the symptom of asthmatic attacks and it is one of best home remedy to treat ashtma. Adding lady finger into the food will be suggested to people who suffer from asthma.
13. Treat summer heat
The moisturizer effect of lady finger”s mucilage can be used to treat sunburn and other summer heat stroke. The soothing component in lady finger slime can reduce the effect of sun and relaxing skin to cool down.
14. Protect from cancer
Lady finger is not only tasty but it is one of green vegetable with highest level of anti-oxidant that you must know. The high level of antioxidant in lady finger can protect the body from free radical and inhibit the proliferation also the spreading of cancer cells inside the body.
15. Keeping beauty skin
Everyone want to have beauty skin and lady finger serves the components which can help the body to keep healthy skin. The vitamin C and othe nutrients play role in fighting free radical that become one cause of aging and dull skin. Lady finger mucilage or slime also can used to moisturizing skin just like aloe vera. The vitamin A in lady finger also vital in keeping healthy skin.
16. Remove pimples and acne
Since the era of cleopatra in egypt, lady finger has been used to maintain healthy skin. The antibacterial effect in lady finger mucilage can reduce the growth of acne bacterias and help to reduce the inflammation on skin face. Applying mucilage on area with acne can be alternative to cure acne.
17. Improve healthy vision
The pods of lady fingers contain great amounts of vitamin A, and flavonoid such as beta carotene which largely known as anti-oxidant. Beta caroten along with xanthin and lutein ( other phytochemical and flavonoid content ) are very important to keep healthy vision.
18. Lowering risk of cataract
It has been mentioned before that beta caroten and other substance which contained in lady fingers can improve healthy vision. Due to this reason, lady finger can also prevent from cataract development which usually build in old age and keep healthy mucula of eyes.
19. Prevent cough and cold
As it can cure sore throat, lady finger anti-septic agent also can help to prevent cough and cold. Antioxidant and phytochemical components in lady finger is effective in prevent cold and other symptom that may appear together with the cold.
20. Maintain strong bones
Calcium and Vitamin K help the body to keep strong bones. Vitamin K allow the absorbtion of calcium in its effective amount that can help to trigger the regeneration of bones cell and we all know that calcium is one important mineral to keep the dense of bone and prebent osteoporosis.
21. Prevent scurvy
Not only high in Vitamin A, lady finger also contain high amount of Vitamin C which can prevent inflammation and infection in oral health. Same as other fruits or vegetable which contain Vitamin C, lady finger consumption can also prevent from scurvy.
22. Support normal metabolism
This vegetable are rich in B-complex group of vitamins like from niacin, vitamin B-6
(pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid. These all Vitamin B group are play role in maintaining enzymatic function and the production of energy by metabolism process.
23. Help to lose weight
Lady finger is very low in calories. It provides only 30 cal per 100 g and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol. Due to low calories and rich in other nutrients such as f dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, it is recommended to be consumed during weight lost programs. The fiber in lady finger also promotes satiety and it allow slow absorption of nutrient to blood which cause full feeling last longer.
24. Promotes healthy pregnancy
The fresh pods of lady finger contain some amount of folate. It provides about 22% of RDA per 100 g of serving of okra.Regular consumption of folate during pregnancy can help the development of fetus and prevent neural tube defects and other abnormalities in newborn baby.
25. Keeping healthy kidney
According to a study which published in Jilin Medical journal, 2005 it is known that lady finger can reduce the risk of kidney damage. Kidney damage usually happen to people who suffer from diabetes. So regular consumption of lady finger help diabetes people to keep their kidney health.
26. Boost Immune system
Vitamin C is one of immune booster which naturally contained in most fruit and vegetable including lady finger. Vitamin C acts as supplement which can promote white blood cells production and it strengthen the white blood cells to fight against pathogen and infection.
27. Prevent Anemia
Lady finger contains some amount of Iron and copper. Those minerals are important in keeping healthy red blood cells and required in the production of new red blood cells. To produce haemoglobin, a protein in red blood cell, body needs iron and other mineral. Haemoglobin is important to deliver oxygen throughout the body.
28. Treat involuntary discharge of semen
Some sources has been mentioned the benefits of lady finger is also contributes in treating the involutary discharge of semen.
29. Prevent muscle spasm, cure headache and fever
Nutrients which are contained in lady finger can help to prevent and cure muscle spasm, headache and fever since long. It is one vegetable which used in ayurvedic medication to treat such problems.
30. Replacing blood plasma
The idea to create false blood plasma from lady finger began during World war II. Some researcher from Merquette University has been succeed to create blood replacement to dog in laboratory. This function has not been tested on human but this may lead to the next level of health science which can provide more blood plasma in future.
Even it is save to consume lady finger, there is some point that we should pay attention to avoid the side effect of this veggie.`
- Even it has been proved that lady finger can lowering glucose in diabetes people but it is not suggested to consume it together with metformin hydrocholyde. Metformin is medicine that usually use in diabetes treatment.
- If you suffer from diabetes, dont think that eating more lady finger can make your blood sugar into lowest level but in opposite, consuming excessive lady finger can increase the sugar blood level and can create problem
- Lady finger also contain Vitamin K which can promotes blood clotting. It is not suggested to be consumed by people who is under medication and taking some medicine which is blood-thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin).
How to purchase and storage
Before you purchase and store lady finger, better check this tips so you do it better
- Choose only fresh lady finger pods with green color skin
- Avoid purchasing moldy fruits and watery
- If you purchase it from store look for crispy, immature pods. Fresh pods has natural plain flavor
- Avoid those with over-ripen color with spot and too soft structure
- When you reached home directly store the vegetable inside refrigerator
- Lady finger can also be stored in freezer for longer time saving
Preparing and cooking lady finger
- Before cooking, wash it with flowing water and make sure it clean from soil, dust and other pesticide residues
- Cut it into slices before adding to the dish
- Just simply add to gravy if you want it to be thick
- If you wanna stir fry the lady finger, remove the mucilage using some lemon juice then stir it with little bit oil. Too much oil wont be good for serving lady finger
- Lady finger can also cook as soup and can be combined with meat, poultry and fish
- The leaves can also be served as salad or cooked like other leavy vegetable
There are so many health benefits of lady finger so no wonder people loves to consume it. Start to enjoy the vegetable and gets the benefits.