I have a sorted history with okra. Knowing what I know now about the health benefits, I've been engaging in healing my relationship with this awesome vegetable (really its a fruit). Many folks living in the northern US do not regularly include okra in their diets compared to folks in the south. Let's take a closer look at okra for those of you who may have never cooked or eaten it before.
Okra is also known as lady fingers or ochro. Lady fingers because the fruit pod is elongated, slender and ends in a tip. The whole plant can be eaten. The leaves can be cooked like spinach or beets leaves, and the seeds that are found in the pod can be roasted to make a non caffeinated coffee substitute. But its the pods that most people cook with. The pods can be eaten raw in salads, cooked, or pickled.
Nutritionally, okra contains a fabulous amount of soluble fiber which is very mucilaginous. It also contains a good amount of Vitamin A, C, K; thiamin, folate and magnesium.
My parents are both from the south, my maternal grandmother is creole. A dish that is quite commonly made from New Orleans area is gumbo and one of the primary ingredients is okra. Frankly, as a child I did NOT enjoy gumbo because of the mucilaginous quality bestowed by the okra. Since my young adult years I have shied away from okra. But its just too wonderful of a ingredient to ignore.
The soluble fibers in okra are the key to it being a fantastic plant source to help manage conditions like metabolic syndrome and digestive problems. The great quantity of fibers help to: 1. keep the gut cells healthy and happy, and thus the gut good bacteria happy and thriving; 2. decrease and slow the absorption of simple sugars and carbohydrates thus regulating and helping to manage blood sugar. This is important for pre diabetics, and those with diabetes type 1 and 2!
As I have been working to fall in love with okra, I've come across some recipes that have been helpful. These preparations of okra decrease the sliminess, while still providing the nutty, sweet taste.
Roasting has become a favorite preparation of mine. I like to pre heat the oven to about 400 degrees. The okra should be rinsed and sliced in halves (removing the round end). Halves can be tossed with olive oil, paprika, fresh minced garlic, cumin; salt and pepper to taste. Pods are spread out on a oven pan and roasted for about 20 minutes or until crispy.
For more personalized dietary recommendations schedule an appointment with Dr. Lisa Price, ND.