Okra and Diabetes
The anti-diabetic effects of various fruits and vegetables have recently gained recognition among scientists and dieticians. Although they are not certified as replacements for anti-diabetes medications, incorporating them into your diet helps you manage your condition better.
One of these vegetables is okra. While research on its anti-diabetic effect is still in its infancy, some studies record valuable benefits in the management of diabetes. This article throws light on okra and diabetes research works and studies that highlight its associated blood sugar-lowering effects.
- Protein 2 g
- Carbohydrate 7.03 g
- Fat 0.1 g
- Fiber 3.2 g
- Sugar 1.2 g
- Cholesterol 0 g
The Nutritional Profile of Okra
Although biologically classified as a fruit, okra positively affects the body when cooked as a vegetable. This is due to its rich vitamin and mineral profile.
Offering just a meager 7.45 g of carbs per cup, this vegetable yields minimal changes in blood sugar levels. This, coupled with its high dietary fiber content of 3.2 g per cup, enlists it among top diabetes-safe foods.
In addition, it contains a moderate amount of protein and sugar (1.93 g and 1.48 g per cup, respectively) alongside high amounts of potassium, positively impacting diabetic health.
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Benefits of Okra to Diabetics
While it is a fact that okra is packed with diabetes-friendly nutrients, how exactly do these nutrients improve the condition? The following sections provide reasons why okra and diabetes go perfectly together.
High Potassium Content
Okra is packed with high amounts of potassium — as much as 299 mg of potassium per cup (8.8–11.5% RDA).
Lower potassium levels, both serum levels and, to a lesser degree, dietary levels, are linked to a higher incidence risk of diabetes in some studies. In a paper that reviews the association between potassium levels and glucose metabolism, a low potassium diet induces a lowered pancreatic beta-cell sensitivity to hyperglycemia. A decline in insulin release also accompanies this.
Reduces Blood Sugar and Cholesterol Levels
Managing blood sugar levels can be tough for people with diabetes, especially those that do not control what they eat. For this category of people, okra qualifies as a supplement to existing anti-diabetic management strategies.
A three-week study on six streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats that were regularly fed a formulated okra-based diet validates this claim. Namely, the findings include a considerable increase in HDL “good” cholesterol and body weight, alongside reduced levels of blood glucose, triglyceride, LDL “bad” cholesterol, VLDL cholesterol, and total serum cholesterol.
In addition to this, the study proves the okra-based diet prompts a regeneration/repair of experimental pancreas tissues and endocrine pancreatic beta cells, yielding increased serum insulin levels. A decrease in certain digestive enzymes like serum alpha-amylase—a type 2 diabetes-associated enzyme—was also noted following the ingestion of the okra meal.
Reduces Glucose Absorption in the Intestinal Tract
Reduced glucose absorption in the gut subsequently results in reduced blood sugar levels. In light of this, an okra and diabetes study that examines the effects of water-soluble okra fractions on oral glucose and metformin absorption from the intestines of alloxan-induced diabetic rats presents outstanding discoveries.
Namely, the findings include reduced intestinal glucose absorption, aiding glycemic control. This is attributed to the viscous soluble dietary fiber content of okra. However, this okra’s attribute also results in the entrapment of metformin molecules, inhibiting their absorption. Hence, the coadministration of okra and metformin is not advised.
Safe Ways for Diabetics to Eat Okra
Although okra poses no risks to people with diabetes, check with your doctor to ensure that it is safe to eat before making changes to your diet or treatment. Nonetheless, here are some safe ways to eat okra;
- Dredge in eggs and cornmeal, and fry
- Flavor with some salt, olive oil, and pepper and roast in the oven
- Use it as an ingredient for tomato stew
- Try it with seafood or chicken
- Slice and eat it raw
Okra is a diabetes-friendly addition to your diet due to its rich nutrient profile. However, it’s essential not to use it alongside certain anti-diabetic medications like metformin due to potential reduction in the drug’s absorption. Overall, confirm with your doctor on the amount that is safe for you to consume.
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