Okra nutrition facts
Okra, also known as "lady finger" or "gumbo", is a highly nutritious green edible pod vegetable. Botanically, this perennial flowering plant belongs to the mallow family and named scientifically as Abelmoschus esculentus.
The plant is cultivated throughout the tropical and warm temperate regions of the world for its fibrous fruits or "pods". It grows best in well drained and manure soil. The plant bears numerous dark green colored pods measuring about 5-15 cm in length. It takes about 45-60 days to bear ready-to-harvest fruits.
Internally, the pods feature small, round, mucilaginous white colored seeds arranged in vertical rows. The pods are harvested while immature and eaten as vegetable.
Health benefits of Okra
Very low in calories, provides just 30 cal per 100 g and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol; but is a rich source of dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins; recommended in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.
The rich fiber and mucilaginous content in Okra pods helps smooth peristalsis of digested food particles and relieve constipation condition.
The pods contain healthy amounts of vitamin A, and flavonoid anti-oxidants such as beta carotenes, xanthin and lutein. It is one of the green vegetable 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.
Fresh pods are good source of folates; provide about 22% of RDA per 100 g. Consumption of foods rich in folates, especially during pre-conception period helps decrease the incidence of neural tube defects in the offspring.
The pods are also an excellent source of anti-oxidant vitamin, vitamin-C; provides about 36% of daily recommended levels. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps body develop immunity against infectious agents, reduce episodes of cold and cough and protects body from harmful free radicals.
The veggies are rich in B-complex group of vitamins like niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid. The pods also contain good amounts of vitamin K. Vitamin K is a co-factor for blood clotting enzymes and is required for strengthening of bones.
The pods are also good source of many important minerals such as iron, calcium, manganese and magnesium.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.1 g||0.5%|
|Dietary Fiber||9%||3.2 g|
|Pantothenic acid||0.245 mg||5%|
|Vitamin C||21.1 mg||36%|
|Vitamin A||375 IU||12.5%|
|Vitamin E||0.36 mg||2.5%|
|Vitamin K||53 mcg||44%|
Selection and storage
Fresh and immature okra pods are readily available in the stores all around the year. The pods have attractively rich green color and neutral flavor. In the store, look for crispy, immature pods and avoid those with over-ripen, sunken appearance, discolored spots, cuts and too soft.
Once at home, place them inside the refrigerator. Eat them while they are fresh to obtain full benefits of vitamins and anti-oxidants.
Preparation and serving methods
Some hybrid varieties are usually subjected to insecticide powder or spray. Therefore, wash the pods thoroughly in the water in order to remove dust, soil and any residual insecticides.
Trim the crown end and tips. The pods are generally cut into small circular sections and used in variety of cuisines in Indian and Asian countries.
Here are some serving tips:
Okra pods are one of the widely used vegetable in tropical countries. Chopped or sliced pods are then stewed or fried in low heat oil in order to remove mucilaginous content. It then, can be mixed with other vegetables, rice or meat.
In Caribbean islands okra is cooked up and eaten as soup, often with fish.
The pods can be pickled and preserved like in other vegetables.
Okra leaves may be cooked in a similar manner as the greens of beets or dandelions. The leaves are also eaten raw in salads.
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