OK so put your hands up who has heard of Okra? Don't worry if you haven't, I hadn't heard of it until recently either but since I found out about it I've be is a unique and versatile vegetable that is often overlooked in many diets. Despite its unique texture and sometimes divisive flavor, okra is a nutrient-dense vegetable that is packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It is also a low-calorie food that can help you feel and perform at your best. In this article, we will explore the benefits of incorporating okra into your diet, including its nutritional content, taste, and health benefits.
What is Okra and How Does it Taste?
Okra is a vegetable that is part of the mallow family, which is the same family of plants that produces marshmallow root. It is a long green tuber that contains juicy seeds inside and has an earthy and fresh taste. Okra has a gel-like texture that can sometimes be slippery or slimy, but when prepared properly, it can produce a satisfying crunch.
Okra is commonly compared to the green bean in terms of taste, as it has a mild flavour that is described as slightly grassy or even reminiscent of aubergine. However, its texture is where it differs the most from these two vegetables.
How Nutritious is Okra?
Okra is an incredibly nutritious vegetable that is low in calories but high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. One cup of okra contains only 33 calories, but it packs a punch in terms of nutrients. It provides 3 grams of fiber, which is a key factor in digestive health, and it also provides 14% of your daily vitamin A needs, 26% of your daily vitamin C, 26% of your daily vitamin K, and 14% of your daily vitamin B6. Additionally, it provides 14% of your daily magnesium and 15% of your daily folate, making it a great source of these essential nutrients. Okra is also a sneaky source of plant-based protein, providing 2 grams per cup.
What are the Health Benefits of Okra?
Okra is not only a nutritious vegetable, but it also has a number of health benefits that make it worth incorporating into your diet. Some of the key health benefits of okra include:
Antioxidants: Okra is packed with antioxidants, which are essential for balancing free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are created naturally by processes in our bodies, but without antioxidants to balance them, they can cause cellular damage known as oxidative damage. Oxidative damage has been linked to several chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, and neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease). By incorporating okra into your diet, you can help reduce oxidative damage and improve your overall health.
Heart Health: Okra has been shown to improve heart health by reducing oxidative stress and lowering your risk of blood clots. It is also high in soluble fiber, which has been shown to lower blood cholesterol, and it contains mucilage, which can bind to cholesterol during digestion and eliminate it from the body. By incorporating okra into your diet, you can help lower your risk of heart disease and improve your heart health.
Improved Digestion: Okra is high in fiber, which is essential for digestive health. Fiber helps to regulate bowel movements, relieve constipation, and prevent other digestive issues. By incorporating okra into your diet, you can improve your digestive health and maintain regular bowel movements.
Folate: Okra is a great source of folate, which is an essential B-vitamin that is important for cell growth and development. It is also important for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, as it helps to prevent birth defects in newborns such as cleft pallets.
Okra is a versatile and nutritious vegetable that can be found in most supermarkets. You can find it in canned or jarred form, but it is recommended to check the label for any chemical preservatives or hidden sugars. Frozen okra is also a great option for long-term storage.
When it comes to cooking okra, there are many options available to you. You can boil, blanch, fry, sauté, or steam it, and even eat it raw if you prefer. For a less slimy texture, try steaming or blanching the okra for a few minutes and then drying it before adding it to your dish. Another option is to make fried okra, either in an air fryer or oven, or to cook it in a hot pan for a more al dente and crunchy result.
Okra is a great ingredient for healthy meals, thanks to its impressive nutrition profile and low calorie count. To keep your meals healthy, it's important to avoid using calorie- and sugar-laden sauces and toppings. Instead, try using okra to add a bit of substance to your meals, helping you feel full for hours without feeling weighed down.
You can add sliced okra to a stir-fry for a crunchy addition and a touch of Asian flair. Eating it raw on a veggie platter with a hummus dip is another option, or adding it to a salad for extra fibre and texture. Okra's viscous texture and high fibre content also make it great for thickening soups and stews.
Why don't you give cooking with Okra a try? Let us know what you come up with. We don't have Okra in any of our vegan ready meals yet however we've been experimenting with it loads so keep your eyes peeled for some Okra-inspired NPD from the Root Kitchen soon.