Okra - Health benefits and culinary uses
Okra or ladies’ finger (Abelmoschus esculentus ) is flowering plant which belongs to Malvaceae or mallow family. Plants like cotton , hibiscus and cocoa also belong to the same species. The plants grow around 2 meters tall and the fruit (okra) is around 18 cms long. It contains numerous seeds in it. It needs warm temperatures and grows in subtropical countries.
Health Benefits of Okra
Okra is a very popular vegetable liked by almost everyone. But few hesitate to eat this due to its mucilaginous property as it feels slippery. This vegetable is store house of nutrients. It contains Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, amino acids, proteins, flavonoids, folate, calcium, potassium and plenty of anti-oxidants. Okra is rich in fiber. By virtue of these nutrients okra is a popular health food.
In constipation: Okra is rich in fiber and contains mucilage. These properties help to increase bulk of stools and make it soft. Regular consumption of this vegetables help to normalise bowel movement and eases evacuation of faeces.
Reduces Cholesterol- The fibre and mucilage present in okra, mop up the fat molecule from the digestive system. The fat molecules get trapped inside fibres and become unavailable for digestion. This helps to control the blood cholesterol level.
Anti-Aging: The ant-oxidants which are present in plenty help to destroy free radicals. Free radicals damage the layers of blood vessels, nerves and body tissues leading to accelerated aging process. Thus regular consumption of okra helps to slow down aging process and keeps body tissues healthy.
Detoxification: We all know that liver is the chemical factory of human body. Toxins tend to accumulate in liver during its function. The nutrients in Okra help to eliminate these toxins and reduce the load on liver.
Stabilizes Blood Sugar Level: Okra reduces the rate of absorption of sugar from intestinal tract. The popular diabetes home remedy with okra goes as follows. Take two okras and wash them well. Slit them into two and cut them into longitudinal pieces. Put these in a cup of drinking water and leave overnight. Next day morning remove pieces of okra from water and drink the water in empty stomach. This helps to prevent fluctuation of blood sugar level.
Boosts intestinal Flora: Okra when consumed, increases intestinal flora or friendly bacteria. Intestinal flora aids in synthesis of Vitamin B Complex. This property of okra can be enhanced by mixing fried okra slices in curd. Little salt and finely chopped coriander leaves can be added to make it tastier. This acts as a tasty salad which helps to increase the intestinal health.
Heals Ulcers in Digestive System: The mucilage of this vegetable neutralizes acid present in digestive tract and forms a protective coat on the layers of digestive tract. It also heals ulcers and prevents its formation. The insoluble fibers of okra lower the risk of colon cancer.
Protects Heart : The anti-oxidant property and cholesterol lowering property help to maintain heart health.
Weight Loss: A bowl of Okra salad when consumed just before meal, fills the stomach due to its high fibre content. This suppresses food craving and hunger, helping you to lose excess fat.
Lowers Risks of cataract: The high beta carotene component (Vitamin A) in Okra or ladies’ finger lowers the risks of cataract.
Promotes Men Health: Anti-oxidants, Vitamin C, Potassium and Calcium are very essential nutrients for men health. These help to boost sexual function and also increase sperm count.. They also help to increase libido in diabetic men.
The slipperiness of okra is overcome by combining it with acidic foods like tamarind juice, sour tomatoes or lemon. It can also be fried in oil to reduce the mucilage. The okras can be cut into long pieces or thin slices to suit the recipe.
In India Okra is used in “Sambar”. Sambar is a thick curry which is savoured with rice and is staple diet of south India. Mildly spiced Okra subzi is a popular dish which goes good with rotis (Indian bread). Ladies’ finger cooked with onions, spices and butter milk or curd makes a good combination with Kichri (a rice variety).
America : Okra is a popular vegetable in both north and south America. It is pickled with vinegar. Deep fried okras are served with corn bread as a side dish. Gumbo is a popular stew in which okra is used as an important vegetable.
Africa : Okra is used in soup or gravy which is served with cassava.
Asia : Okra is used in various dishes like sushi , soups and curries in Asia.