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Lady Fingers For Type 2 Diabetes

Lady fingers (okra) for type 2 diabetes

A vegetable sometimes referred to as lady fingers, also known as okra, has been touted as an effective way to fight type 2 diabetes. Before you decide you don’t like okra because of the slime factor, take a few moments to learn what this tropical vegetable may be able to do for you and type 2 diabetes…and I’ve even included a recipe.

Lady fingers, the veggie not the cake

Okra was reportedly cultivated by the ancient Egyptians discovered near Ethiopia during the 12th century BC and was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians. Although it has a distinctive slippery quality, it is popular in many Greek, South American, African, Turkish, and Indian dishes (as well as gumbo in Louisiana and Creole country).

It’s a significant stretch to say that including lady fingers in your diet will cure type 2 diabetes. However, okra does possess some important qualities that can make it helpful in fighting and managing the disease, both from a nutritional standpoint and from results in the lab.

Let’s look at its nutritional virtues first. Type 2 diabetes is often associated with overweight or obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance. To help tackle these issues, okra provides some excellent qualities.

One cup of okra provides only 31 calories and 0 fat, but also offers 3 grams of fiber. The same amount of okra has 50 percent of your daily need of manganese, 66 percent of vitamin K, 35 percent of vitamin C, and 22 percent of folate.

Okra’s glycemic index (how fast carbohydrates in foods turn to sugar in the blood) is less than 20 and its glycemic load is only 3, which means the vegetable is an excellent choice to help balance blood sugar levels and weight controls. The vegetable also is considered to be a mild anti-inflammatory. All of these attributes are good news for people who have type 2 diabetes.

What the studies say
A recent study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research reported on the impact of okra polysaccharides (long carbohydrate molecules) on metabolic disorders in mice. The authors found that okra polysaccharides reduced body weight and sugar (glucose) levels in the animals, who were fed a high-fat diet.

Okra polysaccharides also improved glucose tolerance, and consumption was associated with a decline in total cholesterol. The conclusion reached by the investigators was that okra polysaccharides “may have therapeutic effects on metabolic diseases” such as type 2 diabetes.

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People with type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of eye problems, including cataracts, glaucoma, and blindness. This relationship and the effect of a Mediterranean diet on these risks were explored in a study that involved 500 blacks in Africa with type 2 diabetes. Slightly more than half (52%) were women, and all the participants were age 60 years or older.

The study population was followed for six months, and the investigators noted the following significant associations:

  • Between cataracts, blindness, and aging
  • Between blindness, cataracts, glaucoma, and being sedentary
  • Between blindness, cataracts, glaucoma, and exposure to sunlight (very significant)

At the same time, the authors found that regular intake of a Mediterranean diet that included lady fingers (okra), green leafy vegetables, beans, and plantains was associated with a significantly reduced risk of blindness, cataracts, and glaucoma among type 2 diabetes patients.

Enjoying lady fingers
One complaint about okra is that it is slimy, but if you prepare it certain ways, you can greatly reduce this issue. Here’s a tip: the less you cut okra, the less slime, so use whole okra rather than cut it into slices. Grilling also significantly eliminates the slime factor, as does cooking the veggie with tomatoes.

Here’s a recipe that uses two of these three suggestions.

Okra and Tomatoes
1.5 lb okra
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3 chopped tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup sliced mushrooms
1 tsp each chile powder and turmeric
1 Tbs lemon juice
½ tsp salt
½ cup water

Cut the ends from each okra pod. Spray a large skillet with spray-on oil and saute the onions until they start to brown. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds, add the chile powder and turmeric, and stir for another 30 seconds. Add the okra, tomatoes, salt, water, and mushrooms to the pan, cover, and let the mixture simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the okra is tender. Stir in the lemon juice and serve. Makes 4 to 6 servings

Fan S et al. Okra polysaccharide improves metabolic disorders in high-fat diet-induced obese C57BL/6 mice. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research 2013 Jul 26
Moise MM et al. Rose of Mediterranean diet, tropical vegetables rich in antioxidants, and sunlight exposure in blindness, cataract and glaucoma among African type 2 diabetics. International Journal of Ophthalmology 2012; 5(2): 231-37

Image: Morguefile