Okra and diabetes: Okra, commonly referred to as lady’s finger, has been found by multiple in vitro and in vivo studies to be a potent blood glucose-lowering (anti-diabetic) food.
Okra has been used traditionally as an alternative treatment for diabetes and it is thought that this effect of okra is due to the presence of a large amount of soluble dietary fiber, which retards glucose absorption from the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract).
Okra and cancer: More great news from the world of anti-cancer research today: okra has also demonstrated action against breast cancer cells in preliminary lab studies.
In a new study (Oct. 2013) published in Biotechnology letters (a peer-reviewed journal) researchers have discovered that lectin, a newly discovered ingredient in okra (Abelmoschus esculentus), induces apoptosis (cell death) in human breast cancer cells in vitro. The term “in vitro” means in a laboratory Petri dish (literally “in glassware”).
The abstract from the scientific paper claims that the anti-tumor effects of the okra were selective, which means that healthy cells were not killed. This selectivity indicates a potential for an anti-cancer agent to be developed.
There are many substances that will kill all cells – cancerous or not – but these are often lethal to humans: The “holy grail” of this kind of research is to find agents that are powerful against cancer cells yet leave healthy cells intact!
Please note that this report does not mean that okra is now to be considered a proven anti-cancer medicine. The fact that okra kills some cancer cells selectively in a Petri dish does not necessarily mean it will cure your cancer.
Also, we certainly do NOT wish to advise people to ignore the expert advice of their physician / oncologist on this matter. It will require many more trials – starting with further in vitro studies in order to better understand the mechanism of action of lectin against these cancer cells, then in vivo studies (“in living creatures”) and then studies on humans subjects.
Even those of us who do not have cancer, have some cancer cells in our bodies all the time and to quote Paul Stamets, “Cancer is a numbers game.” Our body does have natural defenses against cancer cells as part of the immune system.
However, it stands to reason that the immune system needs all the help it can get so that it doesn’t become overwhelmed, leading to sickness. So, it is possible that okra, along with many other fruits and vegetables, has a role to play in cancer prevention.
Until this is established by more science, it seems that it would simply be beneficial to include such healthy items in the diet on a regular basis.
You will also probably gain the best nutritional benefits either consuming such foods raw or with minimal cooking. A few other studies have indicated anti-cancer potential for okra as well.
Okra is also popular with people with type 2 diabetes and great claims are made for its efficacy in this regard.
The way it is used is to wash it, then cut the tops and bottoms off 3 or 4 okra, soak them in a glass of water overnight and then drink the water first thing in the morning.
Okra and depression: Amazing new research has proved that okra may also have the ability to fight one of the chronic illnesses of our time – the gloomy depression.
It has been known that healthy diet improves mood since some fruits and vegetables were reported to have mood-elevating antioxidants such as flavonoids and quercetin.
Because of okra’s high antioxidant content, yet no known records of antidepressant ability, the researchers from Mazandaran University of Medical Science examined its effect in elevating mood.
The researchers drew extracts from the seeds and leaves as they often contain the highest concentrations of antioxidants.
As expected, the extracts were found to contain 58 – 68 mg of gallic acid equivalents per gram, the same levels of antioxidants as extracts of blackberry and blueberry, the most powerful of all fruits and berries.
After standard tests on diabetic mice had been done, the results showed that okra seed extracts acted as a powerful mood-elevating agent that when in high dosage (750 mg of 10:1 seed extract per kg bodyweight) performed as effective as the anti-depression drug imipramine.
But even in lower dose (250 mg/kg), the extract already manifested a significant mood boost. The positive mood effect is attributed to high total phenol and flavonoid contents of okra extracts.
The difficulties and complications related to diabetes put diabetes sufferers at greater risk of developing depression. Also, it is thought that having depression may increase one’s risk for diabetes or worsen diabetes symptoms.
Studies have shown (unsurprisingly) that people with depression and diabetes suffer more severely than those with diabetes alone.
With the discovery of okra’s powerful anti-depressive action, people with diabetes have a significant likelihood of handling depression and gaining control over their blood levels at the same time.
Eating the whole okra contains fiber which is essential for regulating blood sugar and lowering cholesterol levels. It also contains nearly 10% of recommended levels of vitamin B6 and folic acid.
Even without diabetes, munching on okra is a far more healthy option for having that “happy hormone” than binging on sweets.
 Biotechnology Letters