Have you tried the trending okra water? This is what experts have to say

Okra, a plant native to Africa, is booming on TikTok. Picture: Victoria Bowers/Pexels

Okra, a plant native to Africa, is booming on TikTok. Picture: Victoria Bowers/Pexels

Published Apr 15, 2024


The new health trend of okra water is making waves on TikTok, with users claiming it helps with everything from losing weight to improving digestion and keeping skin hydrated.

This trendy drink involves soaking okra—a plant native to Africa and a staple in global food recipes—in water.

Despite being a fruit, scientifically, thanks to its seeds, okra is mostly used as a vegetable in cooking.

The hashtag #okrawater is booming on TikTok, with the most popular videos racking up millions of views from users eager to share the supposed health benefits. However, the evidence behind these health claims is murky and the excitement on social media may not be backed by solid science.

To uncover the truth about okra water, Independent Media Lifestyle spoke to Mpho Tshukudu, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA).

Tshukudu gave expert insight into the health trend that's taken TikTok by storm.

According to social media, the okra pods are steeped in water until mucilage, a gel-like substance, forms.

Mpho Tshukudu, Registered Dietitian and spokesperson for the Association for Dietetics in South Africa, gives her input on okra water. Picture: Supplied

It is produced when the okra is immersed or cooked in water or an aqueous solution, for example tomato sauce.

Mucilage has prebiotic activity (prebiotics are beneficial to the gut bacteria and improve gut and overall health); mild laxative effects, that can soften the stools to relieve and prevent constipation; and can lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, Tshukudu said.

What scientific evidence currently supports the health benefits linked to drinking okra water?

Researchers have studied okra in its whole form – including the pods, seeds and slimy substance known as mucilage. Most of these studies have not focused specifically on okra water.

The health benefits we talk about with okra are usually found when consuming the entire vegetable, not just the water it's been soaked in, explained Tshukudu.

The supposed health benefits of okra are wide-ranging. They include managing chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and digestive issues. Okra is also said to help with fatigue, detoxifying the liver, fighting bacteria and even preventing cancer.

According to Tshukudu, these benefits are due to the nutrients and bioactive components found in the whole vegetable.

These include vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, folate, C and K, and minerals like zinc, calcium, iron, manganese and magnesium. Additionally, okra contains fibres, prebiotics, polyphenols and antioxidants, all of which contribute to its health-promoting properties.

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Are there any potential side effects or individuals who should avoid consuming okra water?

Because of the laxative effect of mucilage, okra water consumption can result in diarrhoea, which can cause water and nutrient loss and gut irritation. It is important to note that data on the safety and toxicity of okra is limited, said Tshukudu.

How often should one consume okra water to potentially see the health benefits?

There is no available information. It is ideal to consume the whole okra as a vegetable to gain the whole benefits.

Okra is often recommended for weight loss. What properties of okra make it suitable for a weight management diet?

No one food or nutrient can make a significant impact on weight on its own, Tshukudu shared.

According to her, there's no proof that drinking okra water will slim down your waistline directly. However, okra itself could help you lose weight.

The vegetable is loaded with fibre, which makes you feel full and satisfied. This feeling of fullness could mean you eat less, cutting down on your calorie intake.

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Many women claim that okra water helps with fertility: some believe it improves ovulation and egg quality.

There’s no evidence to support these claims, says Tshukudu.

Others suggest it helps with reducing the likelihood of neural tube defects in babies.

Okra is rich in important nutrients beneficial for pregnancy, including vitamins A, B (B1, B2, B6), C and minerals like zinc and calcium.

It also contains folates and fibre. Folates are crucial for preventing miscarriages and aid in the development of the foetus' neural tube, reducing the risk of defects such as spina bifida.

Furthermore, the fibre in okra can help pregnant women avoid constipation, making it a valuable addition to a healthy pregnancy diet.

There are claims that it can help ease menstrual pain.

There is also no evidence supporting this.

Does okra water help manage diabetes?

It helps to lower blood sugar but does not cure diabetes. It is also important to note that the other foods you eat will have a negative or positive effect on blood sugar levels.