A popular ingredient in soups, stews and gumbos, okra is highly appreciated for its texture as well as its flavor. When used traditionally, it gives the dish a slightly gelatinous texture, but it can also be roasted or fried in a pan if you are not a big fan of its slimy juices. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t matter how you choose to cook it, as long as you make sure to include this protein packed vegetable in your diet.
Okra looks similar to a small pickled cucumber or a rifled green chili pepper. It is thought to originate in Africa, and was brought to America about 300 years ago. As it needs a warm climate to grow, okra can only be found during the summer in areas with cooler climates. While it has been commonly grown and consumed throughout history in countries such as China and Egypt, it is just beginning to gain popularity in the US. It is a common ingredient in Indian cuisine, and many vegetarian dishes. However, considering the astonishing amount of nutrients present in okra, all of us would greatly benefit from adding it to our diet.
First of all, okra is a great source of fiber. As most of us know, fiber is essential for a healthy digestive system. Bowel problems, weight problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, toxins are all examples of serious issues that can be prevented or resolved with a high fiber diet.
While these benefits should be enough to convince anyone to start eating okra, there is even more to gain. How about getting enough folic acid and vitamin B6 to cover a tenth of your recommended daily intake? That is, by eating only one piece. It also contains other vitamins, minerals and lots of antioxidants that provide protection against cell damage caused by stress and environmental factors.
It is also a good idea for pregnant women to add okra to their diet as it promotes a healthy pregnancy. Vitamin B and C, which can both be found in okra, are essential in the production and maintenance of new cells and fetal growth and development. Additionally, the folic acid helps prevent birth defects and is an important compound for an ideal pregnancy.
For those suffering from kidney disease, studies have shown that a daily dose of okra can provide a substantial relief. This is closely tied to its ability to prevent diabetes, as this is often the catalyst for health issues in this organ. The dietary fibers found in okra may also bring a solution to colon issues by cleaning the gastrointestinal system, making it work more proficiently, thus benefiting the entire digestion system.
Asthma and other respiratory problems can also be relieved by a regular intake of okra. Its high dose of vitamin C is especially beneficial for children with symptoms. This may sound strange, but there is actually a quite substantial amount of research supporting this thesis.
The message is clear: okra can help prevent or relieve a large number of common health problems. However, if you’re critical to modern science you may want to turn to the Chinese for advice. Perhaps they can convince you: okra is said to be a powerful male aphrodisiac in China. The herb was also served to athletes during the Beijing Olympics, which reasonably tells us a great deal about its reputation in the region.
Check out delicious Roasted Okra Masala recipe
Fun fact: Baking soda will speed up the cooking of the onion, but it reacts with turmeric, causing the turmeric to turn red instead of yellow.
- 1 pound small, tender okra
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 pinch baking soda, optional
- 1 teaspoon ginger root, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala spice
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, optional
- Preheat oven to 450. Trim the stems of the okra if they’re longer than a quarter inch. Place okra on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Okra should be beginning to brown in places but not burned.
- When the okra is almost finished cooking, heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and a pinch of baking soda, if you want to speed up the cooking. Cook until onion begins to soften and then add the ginger root, garlic, and cumin and cook for another minute. Add turmeric and garam masala and cook for another minute, adding a tablespoon of water if the spices start to stick. Add the roasted okra and salt, if you use it, stir well, and cook for another minute or two.
Preparation time: 10 minutes | Cooking time: 25 minutes
Number of servings (yield): 4 (side dish servings)
Nutrition (per serving, with salt): 53 calories, 2 calories from fat, <1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 520.6mg sodium, 411.8mg potassium, 11.9g carbohydrates, 4.4g fiber, 2.7g sugar, 2.8g protein. (without salt, deduct 470mg sodium.)