Okra is one of my favorite vegetables. It’s an edible ornamental flowering hibiscus which smells of cloves and looks a little like a cotton plant. This aromatic plant has many uses and is an important crop within the U.S. because its fresh leaves, buds, flowers, pod, stem and seeds all have great value.
Okra is well known within Cajun and Creole cuisine, and can be used in salads, soups, stews, fresh or dried, fried or boiled. Okra, called lady fingers in England and bhindi in India, is known for its slimy inside texture, which most people don’t like. (A trick that my mother taught me to decrease the sliminess is to wash without cutting the fruit, dry thoroughly and then cut in desired shape before cooking.)
Even though people are turned off by the sliminess, this substance contains exopolysaccharides and glycoproteins which hold a lot of the incredible health benefits. Okra is a powerhouse fruit of valuable nutrients high in antioxidants, which is supportive in improving cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, digestive diseases, and even some cancers. It is rich in several vitamins and minerals including thiamin, vitamin B6, folic acid, riboflavin/vitamin B2, zinc and dietary fiber.
For those who may suffer from lactose intolerance or are vegan or vegetarian, okra provides calcium to make up for the lack of dairy. It is loaded with pectin which can help reduce high cholesterol simply by modifying the creation of bile. The amino acid composition of okra seed protein is actually comparable to that of soybean having a balance of both lysine and tryptophan amino acids, which is a good serving of protein.
The main thing my mother used it for was to stabilize her blood sugars; okra helps to regulate the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract. A traditional Ayurvedic practice of soaking cut-up okra at night and drinking the water in the morning would significantly help to decrease blood glucose. This fruit also aids digestion, as it contains insoluble fiber and helps to lubricate and cleanse the large intestines helping to relieve constipation.
As always, not all foods are for everyone. For those of you who do not consume nightshades, this plant is of the nightshade family containing solanine and is recommended to avoid if you have joint issues. Okra is high in vitamin K which is not the best to consume in high amounts if you are on blood thinners, so eat in moderation. For those of you who suffer from IBS or other gut/bowel-related problems, check with your doctor before consuming okra. Okra is also high in oxalates, so consult with your doctor if you are prone to kidney stones. Like I always say, connect with your body; the body will always tell you if it likes something or it does not.
Below I share with you a favorite recipe that I grew up with which is perfect as a side dish to complement any meal.
- 16 oz okra washed and dried
- 6 tbsp avocado oil
- 1 tbsp of fresh grated ginger
- 1 tbsp whole fennel seeds
- Maldon Sea salt to taste
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- ½ tsp of raw sugar
- In a large frying pan add oil of choice and heat on a medium flame.
- Add in fennel seeds, ginger, turmeric and stir; cook for 30 seconds and add in whole okra.
- Stir in the rest of the spices: cayenne pepper, sesame seeds, garlic powder, black pepper, and sugar.
- Keeping the flame on medium, cook for about 7 minutes, stirring intermittently until you have cooked okra al dente. Turn off the heat and serve immediately.
- Finish with cilantro and squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Dipika is a holistic health and lifestyle coach who empowers clients to activate a balanced lifestyle of the mind, body and soul. She can be reached at [email protected] For more information visit www.loveyourlifehealthy.com