It’s summer and the season for okra. Here in Florida at this time of year, it’s too hot to grow most produce except for okra. Growing up in the South, I enjoyed okra often. My mother stewed it with tomatoes or rolled it in corn meal and fried it. It was also a basic ingredient in gumbo which was a special treat in my parents’ home.
Okra is great in soups and gumbo as it thickens it. I enjoyed them pickled with baby corn and beans. They are also an excellent addition to a stir-fry with onions, tomatoes and peppers. As an adult, my favorite way to eat okra is fried. It’s so good that I can eat it like popcorn. Unfortunately, frying is not the healthiest way to eat it. My local chemical-free growers have plenty of okra.
When I get fresh okra, I wash and cut it. I roll it in rice flour (gluten-free). Then I do one of two things – half goes on a parchment lined cookie sheet and is sprayed with oil before going in the oven. The second half is put in a freezer container and frozen. In October, November, and December, I will occasionally pull out a frozen package, cook it in the oven and enjoy it. Similar to fried okra but much less fat.
There are many articles on the health benefits of okra. They are low in calories – only 30 per 100 grams – and are a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They contain healthy amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, vitamin A, and flavonoid anti-oxidants such as beta-carotene, xanthin and lutein. It is one of the vegetables with highest levels of these anti-oxidants. These compounds are known to have antioxidant properties and are essential for vision. Vitamin A is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in flavonoids helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers. Due to the heavy concentration of mucilage, okra is excellent for easing constipation. The excellent fiber content helps with digestion, stabilizing sugar, and controlling the rate of sugar absorption. Many consider it a super food for people with or at risk of diabetes or colorectal cancer.
Okra helps with kidney disease. A study published in the October 2005 Jilin Medical Journal found that regular consumption of okra can help prevent kidney disease. In the study, “those who ate okra daily reduced clinical signs of kidney damage more than those that simply ate a diabetic diet.” This also ties in with diabetes, as nearly 50% of kidney disease cases are caused by diabetes.
I urge you to buy some fresh okra this summer and try a new recipe.
For more information, see:
Eat This Now: Okra, Time
Okra and Diabetes, Diabetes.co.uk
Over 6 Okra Health Benefits, Natural Society