Okra is popular for its culinary delight and its many nutritional benefits. Many parts of the plants are useful, including the fresh leaves, buds, flowers, pods, stems and seeds. Generally, it’s considered an important crop in many countries. A cup of okra provides about 40% of your recommended daily vitamin C needs. It also contains a high amount of vitamins K and A. Also included in this juicy vegetable are magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, zinc and folate.
Okra is one of many vegetables that’s popular in the southern United States. It’s also popular in parts of Africa and the Middle East, the Caribbean, and South America. It favours warm climates and thrives in such seasons. Okra is technically a fruit but is referred to as a vegetable. This source of minerals, vitamins and fibre is also known as ladies’ (or lady’s) fingers, bhindi, bendakaya, bamia or gumbo.
We will address the facts, health benefits and recipes of Okra that will contribute to your better lifestyle goals.
Okra facts just for you
- Okra is a flowering plant that produces large yellow flowers and a pod that measures 4-10 inches.
- It is a green, finger-shaped vegetable with a characteristic viscous juice.
- Fresh okra does not last longer than 3 to 4 days. Buy okra when it is firm and keep it dry. Store for no longer than 3 to 4 days in paper or plastic in a crisper drawer.
- It provides fibre, iron, niacin, phosphorus and copper.
- Its nutritional content means it can promote heart health and strong bones and also protect the body against cancer.
- Okra seeds can also be roasted and ground to make a non-caffeinated coffee substitute.
- Okra contains vitamin C which boosts the immune system and vitamin K that boosts bone health and improves blood clotting. It also contains vitamin A, which improves vision and prevents free radical damage.
- Its a source of antioxidants.
- Cooking it whole makes it the mucilaginous juice, unpopular with some people, less obvious.
- It can also be pickled, fried or sautéed.
- It contains magnesium that regulates blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Okra also contains potassium and calcium that improves bone health and muscle function. The folate in the veggie helps to improve brain function and prevent anaemia.
- People who use blood thinners should not eat too much okra, as the vitamin K levels can interact with the drug.
Here are the health problems it helps your body prevent:
- Cancer cells
- Fetal problems during pregnancy
- Liver disease and damage
- Spiked blood sugar level
- Stress, anxiety, and depression
- Harmful cholesterol level
- Constipation and other digestive problems
- Weight gain
- Ulcer, including stomach ulcers, gastritis and peptic ulcers
- Alzheimer disease and other neurological diseases
- Asthma and other lung conditions
Okra recipe tips
When buying Okra, ensure you get one that’s bright green and firm. Avoid shrivelled or soft pods. Also, avoid the ones with dark spots and cuts. There are several ways you can prepare Okra. You can use it in salads, soups and stews, fresh or dried, fried, sautéed, roasted or boiled. They can also be pickled.
Here are two ways you can prepare Okra.
1. Easy roasted okra
Recipe developed by Marisa Moore, RDN
- 1 pound (½ kilogram) fresh whole okra
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Coarse salt
- Fresh cracked black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Wash and dry the okra.
- Place it on a baking sheet, leaving plenty of space between each piece.
- Drizzle olive oil over the okra, and roll it around for even distribution. Sprinkle on the salt and pepper to taste.
- Roast the okra for 15 minutes, turning once.
- Remove from the oven and enjoy as a warm snack or side dish.
2. Chicken and okra stew
Recipe developed by myfavouritepastime.com
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 800g (1½ pounds) skinless, boneless chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 cup finely chopped onions
- 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
- ¾ cup finely chopped celery (1 large stem)
- 2½ cups tomatoes (about 400g, 140z), skinned, seeded and chopped
- 2 teaspoons ground garam masala
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ¼-½ teaspoon, cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste blended with two tablespoons water (optional)
- 500ml (2 cups) low sodium chicken broth
- 300g fresh okra pods, cut into 1-inch pieces, soaked in salted vinegar water (you can adjust the amount if you like)
- ½ cup red capsicum (bell pepper) julienned
- 1 cup green capsicum (bell pepper), julienned
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander, to add at end of cooking before serving
- Add 2-3 tablespoons vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt to 1 litre (1 quart) water. Soak cut okra for 30 minutes. Drain and rinse thoroughly. Set aside.
- Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken in batches and cook for about 5 minutes until brown on both sides. Remove chicken from pan. Set aside. Cook the rest of the chicken.
- Heat the remaining olive oil in the pan. Add onions, garlic and celery and sauté for 8 minutes until soft, stirring from time to time.
- Increase the heat. Add tomatoes, garam masala, paprika and cayenne pepper and cook for 8 minutes. Then add tomato paste and continue cooking, another two minutes.
- Add stock and chicken, season with salt and pepper, bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes.
- Place the okra on top, continue to simmer about 10 minutes or until okra is tender.
- Add the peppers in the last 5 minutes. If you prefer your peppers fully cooked, add them earlier.
- Adjust seasoning, and add the fresh coriander just before serving.