Treating high cholesterol with okra has become more and more popular. The trend of using okra to treat high cholesterol is more than just a fad; it is rooted in science-based concepts and studies. As with all fads, claims are often embellished. However, it is important to realize the impact cholesterol has on our entire system and the role that certain characteristics of okra play in potentially improving our health.
Okra fiber binds to cholesterol
The first important characteristic of okra is that it is a great source of fiber. Just like most fruits and vegetables, okra naturally contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber has been linked to improved levels of LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol by reducing the absorption of cholesterol in the body and aiding in the excretion of excess cholesterol.
Also, as okra is cooked it forms a gelatinous substance (also called mucilage) that will physically bind to cholesterol. In fact, a 2014 study explored the ways okra might reduce cholesterol, finding that the more okra extract that was consumed by mice, the lower total cholesterol and the more cholesterol forming bile acids were excreted in fecal matter.
Linoleic acid in okra seed oil
Another important characteristic of okra is the fat content of the seeds. Despite the total yield of oil extracted from the seeds being relatively low, the oil that is present is a great source of unsaturated fatty acids, which have been shown to have a positive impact on the prevention of heart disease.
Specifically speaking, okra seed oil is high in linoleic acid. Linoleic acid is an important fatty acid that has been directly linked to decreasing total and LDL cholesterol while raising HDL (or “good”) cholesterol.
Okra and reduced arterial plaque formation
The last important characteristic of okra and its power to help decrease cholesterol lies in its antioxidant properties. As with most fruits and vegetables, okra is high in antioxidants. Antioxidants help to fight free radicals that our bodies are exposed to all day, every day.
One of the keys to developing heart disease is the oxidation (or addition of oxygen) of cholesterol forming a fatty plaque. This fatty plaque build-up is also known as atherosclerosis and may form blockages throughout the circulatory system. Having a diet rich in antioxidants may help prevent this oxidation of cholesterol and therefore reduce the risk of plaque formation.
Okra shares many of the same characteristics as other fruits and vegetables and can be added to any balanced diet. It is important to keep in mind that no one fruit or vegetable will prevent any type of disease and the power lies in an overall balanced diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, lean proteins, and fiber.