Okra is an underutilized vegetable yet boasts an impressive array of benefits. In this blog, we explore the health qualities and recipes for okra.
Okra is a vegetable with many benefits. It’s also used in dishes that are delicious and easy to make. Okra is low in calories, high in protein, and has no cholesterol or fat. In addition, it’s rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, iron, and calcium.
In the United States, okra, a popular pod vegetable and nightshade vegetable (yet it’s really a fruit! ), are also known as “gumbo.” Okra is often associated with Southern food, such as cajun and creole cuisine, but did you know that this vegetable also offers various nutritional benefits?
Okra is an annual, tall plant with stiff hairs on the stems that is considered an edible decorative blooming hibiscus. The perfume of the whole plant is similar to that of cloves.
The plant looks similar to cotton, but it has considerably bigger and tougher leaves and a thicker stem.
Okra has a variety of applications and is considered a commercially significant vegetable crop due to the value of its fresh leaves, buds, flowers, pods, stems, and seeds. It may be used in salads, stews, and fried or boiled dishes.
It’s a wonderful source of fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, folate, and more, no matter how you eat it.
What Exactly Is Okra?
Let’s begin with the most fundamental question: What exactly is okra?
Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) is a mallow-like plant with a hairy appearance (Malvaceae). This plant is indigenous to Africa and the Eastern Hemisphere’s tropics.
Is okra a vegetable or a fruit? Although it is technically a fruit since it includes seeds, it is most generally considered a vegetable, particularly when used in cooking.
The unripe pods or fruit are the only portions of the plant that are consumed.
The insides of pods contain oval, dark-colored seeds and a significant quantity of mucilage, a gelatinous material that thickens recipes.
Many folks are perplexed as to why it is slimy.
Exopolysaccharides and glycoproteins make up the mucilage or “slime” within the pods. This sticky feature of the pods has some pretty amazing health advantages, particularly regarding diabetes prevention (more on that later).
Okra was found in the Abyssinian center of origin of cultivated plants, covering modern-day Ethiopia, Eritrea’s highland or plateau region, and the eastern, higher part of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.
Okra has been growing in the United States for generations. While there are no records of okra being grown in early America, it must have been widespread among French colonists. Since the mid-1700s, it has been cultivated as far north as Philadelphia.
Is okra considered a superfood? While it isn’t as nutrient-dense as vegetables like spinach and kale, it does contain certain important elements.
For starters, it’s a high-fiber food: Gums and pectins, which make up about half of its nutrition, are soluble fibers.
A half-cup of cooked okra also has about 10% of the necessary vitamin B6 and folic acid levels.
It is a high-antioxidant diet that may help prevent free radical damage and relieve cardiovascular and coronary heart disease symptoms, type 2 diabetes, digestive disorders, and even cancer. It also contains a lot of other vitamins and minerals, including thiamine, riboflavin/vitamin B2, and zinc.
Okra seeds are particularly high in defensive chemicals, according to studies, including:
- Polyphenolic substances
- Catechins oligomeric
- Derivatives of flavonols
- Glycosides of flavonols
A half-cup of cooked okra nutrition (about 80 grams) comprises roughly:
- Calorie Count: 17.6
- Carbs: 3.9 g
- Protein: 1.5 gram
- Fat: 0.2 g
- Fiber: 2 g
- Vitamin K: 32 micrograms (40 percent DV)
- Vitamin C: 13 milligrams (22 percent DV)
- Manganese: 0.2 milligrams (12 percent DV)
- Folate: 26.8 micrograms (9 percent DV)
- Thiamine: 0.1 milligrams (7 percent DV)
- Vitamin B6: 0.1 milligrams (7 percent DV)
- Magnesium: 28.8 milligrams (7 percent DV)
- Calcium: 61.6 milligrams (6 percent DV)
- Vitamin: A 225 international units (5 percent DV)
In addition, okra nutrition provides the following nutrients:
- A source of vitamin E
- Pantothenic acid
Okra and acorn squash are both considered vegetables, although they are really fruits since they contain seeds. Knowing that okra, acorn squash, and asparagus are all acceptable options is helpful if you’re on a keto or low-carb diet.
Carbohydrates are found in the least amount in asparagus, okra, and acorn squash. However, all three “vegetables” are high in disease-fighting antioxidants as well as important vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, A, and potassium.
All three of these nutritious choices are accessible year-round in grocery stores. Still, suppose you want to purchase them seasonally at your local farmers’ market. In that case, okra is often available in late summer/early autumn, acorn squash is a fall crop, and asparagus is a spring vegetable.
What are the advantages of consuming okra? Abelmoschus esculentus “possesses several important biological activities, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory, antibacterial, anticancer, antidiabetic, organ protective, and neuropharmacological activities,” according to a report published in the journal Phytochemical Research in 2019.
Okra is a cooling meal in both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. “Hot” and “cold” foods relate to whether or not a food item has a cooling or heating impact on our bodies after consumption, rather than temperature.
In Ayurvedic medicine, this vegetable is thought to have a moistening impact on the body, making it an excellent option for balancing the dryness that Vata dosha sufferers typically face. In addition, the unripe fruit and leaves have a long history in traditional Chinese medicine as a component of pain-relieving poultices.
What happens if you consume okra daily? Here are some of the main health benefits of this vegetable:
1. Magnesium and calcium are abundant in this food
Okra is high in calcium and magnesium, which helps to avoid calcium and magnesium deficiencies.
Calcium is required for the regulation of heart rhythms, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, in addition to maintaining healthy bones. It also aids muscular function as well as nerve transmission.
Calcium from veggies may help make up for the lack of dairy for persons who have lactose intolerance symptoms or are vegans or vegetarians.
2. Promotes heart health and cholesterol levels that are normal
According to the Journal of Food Processing & Technology, the soluble fiber in okra helps naturally lower cholesterol and, as a result, may help lessen the risk of developing concerns like cardiovascular disease.
It’s particularly abundant in pectin fiber, which may help lower blood cholesterol levels by altering bile production in the intestines. According to a research study published in the International Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences in 2018, nearly half of the contents of okra pods contain soluble fiber in the form of gums and pectins.
Furthermore, okra’s mucilage binds excess cholesterol and poisons present in bile acids, making it simpler for the liver to remove them. When administered as a plasma replacement or blood volume expander, mucilage has additional medical uses.
3. Antioxidants help to maintain healthy vision
Okra pods are high in vitamin A, beta-carotene, and vitamin C, all of which are essential nutrients for maintaining good vision (along with healthy skin). Additionally, this nutrient may aid in the prevention of eye-related diseases such as macular degeneration.
4. Good Protein Source
Because of its high nutritional fiber content and unique seed protein balance of both lysine and tryptophan amino acids, okra has been dubbed the “ideal villager’s vegetable.”
The amino acid profile of the seeds of this vegetable is similar to that of soybeans, a major plant-based protein source. The seeds supply important amino acids, which your body cannot produce on its own and must be obtained via your diet.
5. Assists in Blood Sugar Stabilization
Okra regulates the pace at which sugar is absorbed from the intestine, which helps to keep blood sugar in check. In addition, the seeds have blood glucose normalization properties and lipid profiles that may help avoid diabetes naturally.
Researchers in India discovered that rats fed dried, and ground okra peels and seeds experienced a reduction in blood glucose levels. In contrast, others showed a gradual decrease in blood glucose after regular feeding of okra extract for about 10 days in a 2011 study published in the Journal of Pharmacy & BioAllied Sciences.
Many people with diabetes have observed decreased blood sugar levels after soaking cut-up okra pieces in water overnight and then drinking the juice in the morning, in addition to scientific study. In addition, roasted seeds have been used as a traditional diabetic medication in countries like Turkey for millennia.
6. Fiber-rich and beneficial to gut health and digestion
Okra is high in insoluble fiber, which helps to maintain the digestive tract healthy by lowering the risk of some cancers, including colorectal cancer. It also supports regular digestion and intestinal health with liver detoxifying, antimicrobial, and chemopreventive properties.
According to one research, okra eating may improve communication between the microbiota, stomach, and brain by regulating inflammatory responses.
According to some specialists, this vegetable may aid in protecting the intestinal barrier and lubrication of the intestines. In addition, it can bulk up feces, which helps to avoid constipation and acts as a natural laxative.
Unlike severe laxatives that might irritate the intestines, mucilage soothes the intestines and aids in easier removal.
What to Look for/How to Grow
In most places of the United States, okra is available in the late summer/early autumn. It should be available at your local grocery shop or farmers’ market. Choose pods with a vivid color and strong texture.
What is the best way to cultivate it at home?
When this vegetable is sown, it needs a chilly temperature, and then it needs a humid climate to flourish. Therefore, it grows best in areas where the temperature is consistently over 85 degrees Fahrenheit, such as the southern United States.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, it is readily damaged by frost.
In cultivated versions, the fruit is a long pod that is usually ribbed and spineless. However, pod length, color, and smoothness vary by variety, and they thrive on well-drained, manure-rich soil.
It’s ideal for harvesting the pods when they’re still green, fragile, and immature.
How do you keep okra that has been cut?
Instead of cutting the pods, store them whole in the refrigerator.
How long do you think it’ll last in the fridge? The whole pods will last two to three days and two to three months in the freezer in the fridge.
Is it possible to freeze the pods without having to boil them? Yes, you may keep them fresh in the freezer for subsequent use.
How can you tell when it’s beyond its prime when it comes to okra? It’s time to toss your pods if they’re mushy, spongy, and/or brown.
What is the flavor of okra?
The pods have a delicious taste and a mucilaginous consistency.
It’s an acquired taste for some. Consumers typically find it unattractive because of the stringy mucus inside the pod. On the other hand, cooking in salted water may help to decrease the slimy texture.
Remember that one of the advantages of okra water is that it may thicken dishes organically.
What can be done to prepare it?
Boiling, frying, steaming, grilling, battering, or eating raw okra are all options. Pickling, drying, and grinding the okra plant’s fruits into powder is one way to preserve them. Soups, sauces, and salads are all prepared using them.
Okra is most often used in soups, such as gumbos and other dishes that include meat. However, okra is occasionally prepared in the same manner that green peas are – the young, sensitive pods are boiled and served as a salad with French dressing.
Okra is a mainstay for folks who grew up in the southern United States, and it’s usually served fried with thick cornmeal covering. There are, however, many more healthy methods to include in your diet.
For starters, if you’re a fan of traditional fried okra, try this healthier version: Gluten-Free Oil-Free Okra Oven-Fried.
Is raw okra safe to eat?
Yes, the pods may be eaten uncooked. Just make sure you fully wash them beforehand.
How do I clean them, if you’re wondering? If you want to decrease the slime on the pods, wash them in warm water and dry them well before using them.
Is it possible to consume the whole pod?
Trim a tiny slice from the stem end or top of the pod before eating it raw or cooking it. The remainder may be eaten.
How do you make okra that isn’t slimy?
Cooking it whole is one option. However, if you plan on slicing it, opt for larger portions.
Some chefs soak entire okra in a vinegar-water combination for 30 to 60 minutes before using it in dishes to minimize slime. Experts say that adding lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or diced tomatoes to your finished product may help reduce the amount of slime that remains. Furthermore, there are some delicious and healthful additives to any meal.
Side Effects and Risks
Is it possible that okra is harmful to your health? While it is a nutritious diet in general, it does include solanine, which is found in several other fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant. Some persons with joint problems, such as arthritis, attempt to stay away from solanine.
It’s also rich in vitamin K, which is why persons on blood thinners are typically recommended to limit their intake of high-vitamin K foods.
What are the negative consequences of consuming okra? Fructans, a kind of carbohydrate found in okra, may cause gas, cramps, diarrhea, and bloating in certain persons with bowel/gut issues, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you have a disease like IBS, see your doctor before ingesting it.
Okra is rich in oxalates, so if you’re prone to kidney stones, ask your doctor whether it’s safe to consume.
While allergic responses to this plant are uncommon, some people do develop allergy symptoms while harvesting and eating this vegetable. If you’re sensitive to related plants like hollyhock, rose of Sharon, or hibiscus, proceed with care.
- What exactly is okra? It’s a fruit that’s sometimes mistaken for a vegetable, and it’s been consumed and used medicinally for generations.
- Okra nutrition benefits include giving calcium for healthy bones, assisting with heart and eye health, decreasing cholesterol, balancing blood sugar levels, promoting digestion, and avoiding constipation.
- Almost the whole pod may be eaten raw or cooked. Because here is where the plant’s seeds are located, even the slimy interior consistency is edible and has great benefits.
- This vegetable may be prepared in a variety of ways. It’s great in Creole, Southern, and African cooking. It’s deliciously boiled, breaded and air-fried, sautéed, or used to thicken sauces.
Frequently Asked Question
Is it safe to eat okra every day?
A: It is safe to eat Okra if you don’t have any food allergies or sensitivities. Consuming it too often can lead to a condition referred to as okra poisoning, which causes nausea and vomiting.
- disadvantages of eating okra
- okra health benefits and side effects
- okra water side effects
- health benefits of okra
- benefits of okra sexually
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