Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) the oligo-purpose crop

One of the most popular and commonly utilized members of the Malvaceae family is okra (Abelmoschus esculentus), a vegetable crop grown in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It is popularly called lady’s finger while in Nigeria, it is usually referred to as okro. The crop is widely distributed globally but grown in some countries, especially in Africa, Asia, and southern Europe. India ranks number one in its consumption, but its original home is Ethiopia and Sudan, the north-eastern African countries. It is a crop with multiple applications (oligo purpose) for its fresh leaves, buds, blossoms, pods, stems, and seeds, but it is typically eaten for its green, soft fruits, which are used in a variety of ways. Okra’s immature green pods are typically eaten as vegetables and can be used fresh, dried, fried, or boiled in salads, soups, and stews. The extract from the pods is also utilized in many soup and sauce recipes to increase viscosity.

Nutritional composition of okra

Okra is a popular health food due to its significant amount of fibre, vitamin C, folate, antioxidants, potassium, and calcium. It also contains protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins (A, B, and K), water, sugar, and essential biological minerals such as zinc, iron, and magnesium. According to reports, okra seeds’ proteins differ from those of grains and pulses because they have been modified to contain a balance of two distinctive amino acids, lysine, and tryptophan. Thus, they are a crucial part of the human diet for their high supply of vital amino acids. Okra seed contains oil which is rich in unsaturated fatty acids such as linoleic acid, a well-known representative of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which is essential for human nutrition. Okra pods are also eaten in dried form in several regions of the world, particularly in West Africa, after being combined with other ingredients. However, the lack of beta-carotene or retinol (vitamin A) in the dried form is a significant nutritional disadvantage of such eating.

Medicinal usage of okra

Okra has recently been employed for its nutraceutical and therapeutic characteristics in addition to its nutritional benefits due to the presence of several significant bioactive compounds and their related bioactivities. Medicinally, okra is used for the remedy of many diseases such as diabetes, hyperlipidaemia, asthma, ulcer, depression, cancer, and renal function improvement. Furthermore, it is used as an antioxidant (due to the large amounts of polyphenols (29.5%) present within the seeds of immature pods), antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral. It reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases due to oxidative stress.

Drawback of okra

Despite its excellent nutritional profile, the phytochemical analysis of okra indicates the presence of gossypol. Okra seeds have reportedly been shown to contain gossypol, a toxin that promotes infertility, or a substance that is similar to gossypol. Recently, some studies claimed that excess consumption of okra may have injurious effects on sperm parameters, testes’ weight, and testicular tissues. These detrimental effects may subsequently reduce male fertility or cause male infertility.

References

  1. Bello, H. et al. (2018) ‘Antifertility Effect of Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) in Men’, Asian Journal of Research in Medical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2(4), pp. 1–6. doi: 10.9734/ajrimps/2017/38671.
  2. Elkhalifa, A. E. O. et al. (2021) ‘Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) as a potential dietary medicine with nutraceutical importance for sustainable health applications’, Molecules, 26(3), pp. 1–21. doi: 10.3390/MOLECULES26030696.
  3. Gemede, H. F. (2015) ‘Nutritional Quality and Health Benefits of Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus): A Review’, Journal of Food Processing & Technology, 06(06). doi: 10.4172/2157-7110.1000458.
  4. Jain, N. et al. (2012) ‘a Review on : Abelmoschus Esculentus 1 1 1 1’, 462036(June), p. 87.

 

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