How okra made its way into dishes all over the world is quite a tale. People grew the little green pod in Africa hundreds of years ago, but then it spread to the Middle East, India, Asia and eventually with the slave trade, all the way to the New World
Okra may not be a commonplace vegetable, but it's no secret how good it tastes stewed with tomatoes, or how thick and delicious gumbo is with the little green pod in it.
You will find many vitamins and nutrients in okra, including potassium, vitamin, magnesium, folate and manganese. These make this tasty vegetable a potent weapon against osteoporosis, arthritis and heart disease.
4 WAYS OKRA KEEPS YOU HEALTHY
• For a triple-powered punch against heart disease, eat some okra. It strikes first with an antioxidant jab to atherosclerosis — that dangerous hardening and clogging of your blood vessels. The top antioxidant in okra's arsenal is vitamin C which the World Health Organisation has linked to a reduced risk of fatal disease. One cup of sliced okra has more vitamin C than a whole tomato. Although you can't rely on okra as a single source of this important vitamin, it makes an interesting and nutritious addition to your diet. With a healthy dose of folate — about 40 per cent of your daily requirement in each cup — okra gives heart disease a left hook. Without this vitamin, your body leaves behind loose amino acids, called homocystiene, when it metabolises protein. Too much homocystiene built up in your blood damages your arteries and can lead to heart disease and stroke.
WEALTH OF MINERALS
Okra gives a final knockout blow with its wealth of minerals — mainly potassium and magnesium. For lowering blood pressure, it is suggested that eating potassium rich foods may be as important as losing weight and cutting back on salt. And just the right amount of magnesium is especially important to seniors, who may not absorb it as well as they used to and excrete more of it as waste. Magnesium helps control cholesterol and blood pressure, regulates your heart rhythm, and may even improve your odds of surviving a heart disease and a heart attack with Okra.
• Don't forget okra when you are planning a bone-building menu. It's full of four osteoporosis fighting nutrients — potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and beta carotene. People, who eat foods high in these nutrients, may slow down the bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis. To top it off, a cup of okra gives you over 10 per cent of the recommended dietary allowance of the most famous mineral of all — calcium.
• Latest studies indicate that okra has some super nutrients required to beat osteoarthritis due to its vitamin C and manganese-important nutrients to build cartilage. So eat Okra for a strong cartilage.
• Being rich in dietary fibre, okra provides nutritional support in keeping our colon healthy. The fibre in okra provides a lot of help to clean out the gastrointestinal system allowing the colon to work at higher levels of efficiency.
Even though okra has a sticky reputation, don't judge this little veggie The chemical compounds that make okra gummy stay safely trapped inside each pod, unless you slice them. Steam whole pods or add them to stews for extra flavour. Remember 2 things: Rub off the outer fuzz with a towel if you don't like the roughness and if you cook okra in a pot made of brass, iron or copper, the pods will darken.
CRISPY FRIED OKRA
• Okra: 300g
• Onion: 1 big
• Salt: to taste
• Turmeric: 1/4 tsp
• Red chilli powder: 1/4 tsp
• Dry mango powder: 1/4 tsp only
• Oil for stir frying
• Gram flour: 1tsp
Wash the okra and towel-dry gently to remove all the moisture. Leave it on the towel for few minutes. In the meanwhile prepare the filling - mix all the dry ingredients and add little water to make it a smooth paste. Remove the tops of the okra, make a slit lengthwise and fill the paste inside carefully without pressing it too hard. Sprinkle the gram flour on the okra so that all the pieces are coated. Heat little oil in a non-stick pan and stir fry till crispy and golden. Serve hot with bread/chapatti.
Monika Seth/Nutritionist and diet consultant specialising in weight loss at Al Raffah Hospital