Can Eating Okra Keep Your Lipid Levels Healthy?

Jennifer Moll,

Okra (scientific name: Abelmoschus esculentus L. Moench) is an annual vegetable found in many regions of the world, including Asia and Southern Europe. Also known as gumbo or lady’s finger, this delicious veggie has been included in many types of cuisine, such as Cajun, African, and Southern cooking. Extracts of okra have also been used for medicinal purposes for centuries to treat ailments such as upset stomach and cancer.

A few studies have shown that okra can help lower glucose levels and insulin resistance in diabetic rats. Can okra also help keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels in check?

What Do the Studies Say?

There are not many studies examining the effects of consuming okra on cholesterol or triglycerides. Although there are no human studies examining this to date, there are a few animal studies looking at the effects of okra on lipid levels.

One study involved adding ground okra seed pods to mice given a high lipid diet, with the amount given being 1% or 2% by weight. The mice continued this high-fat diet (with or without the ground okra) and their lipid levels were measured at 8 weeks. By eight weeks, the mice consuming 2% ground okra by weight in their diet had a  total cholesterol levels had decreased by 16%, non-HDL levels (such as LDL, VLDL) were decreased by 30%, and triglycerides were lowered by at least 22% compared to those mice not consuming the ground okra.

HDL did not appear to be affected in this study. The mice consuming 1% ground okra or no okra at all did not see a significant difference in their lipid levels. Another study showed that mice fed 30 g/kg of okra pods in their high fat diet had their triglyceride levels lowered significantly by at least 30%, but no other lipids were affected by consuming okra.

It appears to modify genes that control the synthesis of fats, such as triglycerides and fatty acids, in the liver. Additionally, one study in mice showed that the ground okra had the ability to increase conversion of cholesterol to bile acids, resulting in the fats not being absorbed by the intestinal tract and excreted in feces. Another study indicated that components in okra could affect peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors, which are proteins that affect lipid levels in the body.

Although the studies looking at okra’s effect on cholesterol and triglycerides look promising, more research is needed. Additionally, more studies would be needed to see if okra affected similarly as in the animal studies conducted.

The Verdict on Okra

Even though the verdict is still out on okra’s ability to lower your lipid levels, this vegetable contains many important nutrients that make it a good food to include in any healthy diet. Okra is high in folic acid, calcium, vitamin C, and minerals. Additionally, okra is high in fiber and low in saturated fat – qualifying this veggie as a good go-to ingredient to include in your cholesterol-lowing meal plan. Okra also contains moderate amounts of a flavonoid, quercetin, a plant byproduct that has been shown to have heart-healthy properties in previous studies.

If you are looking for ways to include okra in your lipid-lowering diet, there are many recipes and tips that can help you:

Tips for Including Okra in Your Lipid-Lowering Diet


Fan S, Yu Z, Qinhu S, et al. Extract of okra lowers blood glucose and serum lipid in high-fat, diet-induced obese C57BL/6 mice. J Nutr Biochem 2014:702-709

Wang H, Chen G, Ren D, et al. the Hypolipidemic activity of okra is mediated through inhibition of lipogenesis and upregulation of cholesterol degradation. Phytotherapy Res 2014;28:268-273

Talirevic E, Sehovic J. Quercetin in the treatment of dyslipidemia. Med Arch 2012;66:87-88

Continue Reading