Okra doesn’t have the best reputation. The green fruit (yep, it’s a fruit) is a little fuzzy, can be sort of slimy, and is sometimes referred to as lady’s fingers—how appetizing! But okra is a nutrition powerhouse that can be quite delicious when prepared properly (read: air fryer okra). And if you’ve been on social media lately, you might’ve noticed that a beverage made with okra—that is, okra water—is having a moment.

Okra water is, simply, a drink made from soaking okra pods or slices of this fruit in water.

You may have seen TikTok videos about the benefits of drinking okra water for glowing skin, improved digestion, and enhanced fertility. But are these benefits legit?

Here, we asked registered dietitians about the possible benefits and risks of drinking okra water.

Is okra water good for you?

If you don’t mind the taste, okra water can help you stay hydrated, “potentially supporting weight management and digestion,” says Michelle Routhenstein, RD, CDN, preventive cardiology dietitian, registered dietitian nutritionist, and certified diabetes educator.

Drinking water aids in digestion by preventing or alleviating constipation and helping your body break down food so it can absorb nutrients, she adds. And staying well-hydrated has also been linked to a healthier weight. (Although keep in mind, you can hydrate with many beverages beyond okra water, including plain ol’ H2O.)

Beyond that, whether okra water is good for you may come down to how you drink it. More to the point: If you’re eating the okra pieces along with sipping this fruit-infused beverage, then you’ll reap the benefits of whole okra, of which there are many. (More on that in the next section.)

Presumably because of its sticky and gelatinous consistency, TikTok users recommend drinking okra water before intercourse and during pregnancy because they claim it helps with the birthing process. It’s true that folate is recommended during pregnancy for fetal development, particularly of the brain and spine, and okra is a decent source of folate. But: “There is no validated clinical research that shows okra water is good for fertility, sexual health, or labor,” Routhenstein says.

Likewise, Maya Feller, RD, CDN, of Brooklyn-based Maya Feller Nutrition, a registered dietitian nutritionist and author of Eating From Our Roots: 80+ Healthy Home-Cooked Favorites From Cultures Around the World, says further research is needed to substantiate claims around okra water for women’s enhanced fertility and vaginal lubrication.

Drinking okra water vs. eating okra

Feller explains that okra is a “functional food,” meaning it’s minimally processed and highly nutritious. The carbohydrates and chemicals “found in okra have the potential to increase antioxidant activity within the body, specifically concerning blood sugar regulation and lipid regulation,” she says. One such chemical is glutathione, which is an antioxidant that helps with repairing tissue, supporting immune health, and making proteins that help the body function properly.

What’s more, okra is a source of potassium, which can help reduce blood pressure and protect against stroke. It’s also rich in vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and magnesium, which contribute to overall health, Routhenstein says. It’s also a great source of soluble fiber, which plays a role in lowering blood glucose and cholesterol. The combination of fiber and nutrients in okra may enhance gut health along with promoting healthy skin, Routhenstein says.

Given the limited research available, much of which is focused on animals, “it’s not clear if drinking okra water has the same effect as eating okra because the whole fruit is not consumed,” Feller says. You can’t tell how many nutrients you’re consuming by soaking okra pods in water.”

She notes that okra contains a gel-like substance called mucilage (similar to the gel from an aloe plant), and research on mice shows that mucilage binds to lipids and cholesterol, which prevents them from being absorbed by the body (a boon for heart health). But this effect hasn’t been studied in people, she stresses, and we can’t assume a human body reacts the same way as a mouse’s.

In a 2021 study, researchers used a method of extracting chemicals from different parts of okra pods called pressurized hot water extraction. They found that most of the antioxidant and antidiabetic effects of okra resulted from applying this method to the seeds compared to other parts of the plant. Based on these findings, it’s possible that okra can help with controlling blood sugar and protecting against toxins, but this extraction process isn’t something you can do at home, Feller says.

In a nutshell: “While okra boasts nutritional benefits such as high fiber content, potassium levels, and glutathione, it’s unknown if significant quantities of these nutrients are present in okra water,” Routhenstein says. To maximize the benefits of okra, her advice is to eat the whole vegetable.

Risks of drinking okra water

Okra water is generally safe for most people, but drinking too much could have negative effects in some cases. For one, okra tends to be high in a sugar called fructans which may be a concern for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other gastrointestinal issues. The mucilage in okra water also can have a laxative effect, leading to bloating and diarrhea.

Beyond gut health: “More research is needed to validate the quantity and safety of incorporating okra water, particularly for individuals taking blood thinners or medications for diabetes,” Routhenstein says.

The taste and consistency of okra water may not appeal to everyone. If you’re trying to control your blood sugar, adding a sweetener to make okra water more palatable can be risky.

Aside from that, Feller recommends avoiding okra water if you can’t tolerate it or have a food allergy. She recommends speaking with a qualified health care professional if you plan to add okra water to your routine. Tell them the medications and supplements you’re taking to avoid any negative interactions.

Another risk of over-consuming okra water is the potential for a “high oxalate volume, which can lead to an increased risk of kidney stones, depending on what else you’re eating,” Routhenstein says. Oxalate is an organic compound that binds with minerals like calcium, which makes it harder for the body to absorb these nutrients. So, it’s wise to limit your consumption of oxalate-rich foods if you have a history of kidney disease.

How to make okra water

Start by washing the okra pods thoroughly. You have the option of using whole pods or cutting them into slices. Whichever you choose, add them to a jar or pitcher of cool water to steep overnight. Feller suggests soaking okra pods for 8 to 24 hours. If you prefer a less viscous texture, you can pour the liquid through a strainer. The result is a beverage that’s rich in mucilage.

If you don’t enjoy the earthy flavor of okra, another tip is to add lemon or honey. Avoid adding sugary beverages like juice or soda which can make you feel more dehydrated than refreshed. Becaise okra water tends to be slimy, you can skip the water and eat the pods whole. Both Feller and Routhenstein agree that okra is best consumed whole. (Check out these okra recipes for inspiration.)

Routhenstein suggests sautéing okra in an herb-infused tomato sauce. The acidity of tomato can reduce okra’s gummy texture. Feller recommends trying a recipe like callaloo (a Caribbean stew made with okra, among other ingredients) for maximum flavor and nutrition. Other ways to cut down on the sliminess of okra are using high heat, baking slices in the oven, or roasting them on a grill. You can also pickle okra or eat it fresh.

How much okra water should you drink a day?

Currently, there is no research on the benefits of drinking a specific quantity of okra water. “Therefore, it should be done with caution and in conversation with your health care provider, including a registered dietitian,” Routhenstein says.

The bottom line

Okra is a staple in stews and soups because it’s readily available, inexpensive, and works as a thickening agent. Some studies suggest there are benefits to consuming okra, but research on the health effects of drinking okra water is lacking. Okra contains fiber, minerals, and vitamins, but you don’t know how much of these nutrients are deposited into the water.

That said, because okra water is thick and gelatinous, it’s possible that at least some nutrients are seeping into the H2O. If okra water complements your taste preferences, staying hydrated is a good reason to make this beverage part of your routine. Just be sure you’re also eating a nutritionally balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.

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