Yes, Okra is Paleo!
That Slimy Green Vegetable…
Okra , also known as lady’s fingers, ochro, gumbo or bamia is a vegetable from the mallow (Malvaceae) family, which is the same family as cotton and hibiscus. Okra commonly refers to the edible seedpods of the plant and is indigenous to Igbos of Nigeria where its name originated.
Okra plant bears dark green colored pods with small, round, mucilaginous white seeds inside. It has rough and large leaves and a thick stem. When cooked, okra produces slime that contains soluble fiber. The whole okra plant has an aromatic smell similar to cloves and cotton.
Okra is a staple food in the Southern part of the United States, specifically in New Orleans, Louisiana. It is usually served fried with cornmeal coating and is popular in Creole cooking. Okra can be consumed boiled, steamed, grilled, battered or even raw. It can also be used as ingredients to soups, stews, curries and salads. It is also famous in Indian cuisines.
Most people do not want to eat okra because of its slimy feature. One option to avoid this is to prepare the okra dry. After washing it, make sure to let it dry before cooking. Patting it down with a clean dish towel will help too in avoiding the slime.
A Power Punch of Nutrition
Okra is packed with high amounts of nutrients. This green vegetable is abundant in vitamins and minerals, including thiamin, vitamin B6, folic acid, riboflavin/vitamin B2, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, protein and dietary fiber. It also has carotene, as well as lutein and zeazanthin and antioxidants epicatechin, catechin, rutin, procyanidin B1 and B2 and quercetin which have remarkable health benefits to the human body.
Okra is also low in calories and has no saturated fats or cholesterol.
The Health Benefits
A powerhouse of valuable nutrients, okra provides numerous health benefits. It is known as a high-antioxidant food which benefits include lowering risks of conditions like cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, digestive diseases, and even some cancers.
Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammation
As with most green vegetables, okra is high in antioxidants, which can help lower inflammation. The numerous antioxidants in okra can help the body prevent damage from oxidative stress and environmental factors. A diet high in antioxidants has proven to be effective in combating the wide array of illnesses that result from chronic inflammation, diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.
Okra is also rich in viamin C which helps in maintaining the body’s immunity and prevention of colds and infections.
Lower Levels of Blood Sugar
Okra, based on studies has shown notable effects in maintaining blood sugar levels in people with Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabete by stabilizing blood sugar levels by slowing its absorption from the intestines. Because okra contains dietary fiber, it is good in promoting better glycemic control and improving insulin sensitivity.
The dietary fiber found in okra is also helpful in maintaining cholesterol levels. The high amounts of soluble fiber in okra, in the forms of gums and pectins, lowers level of cholesterol, hence, reducing the risk of certain cardiovascular diseases. Okra binds excess cholesterol and toxins in the bile acids, thus, eliminating it easily.
The good potassium levels and polysaccharides in okra can help regulate blood circulation.
Another benefit of the dietary fiber in okra is that it helps in digestion, cuts hunger cravings, and keeps satiety. It also acts as a natural laxative which can help in preventing constipation. Okra’s fiber feeds the beneficial bacteria of the gut and helps maintain the pH balance of the digestive tract. The gooey substance of okra’s pods helps lubricate the large intestine allowing easy bowel movement.
Good Vision and Eye Health
The carotenes lutein and xanthine can help preserve good vision with the help of vitamin A. Okra has also been linked to cataract prevention.
The abundant antioxidants and fiber in okra is associated with cancer prevention, especially colorectal cancer.
Concerns on Okra
There are some things to consider when consuming okra. Though it does not certainly belong to the nighshade family, okra contains solanine, a compound present in the nightshade vegetables including potatoes, eggplants and tomatoes, which is responsible for triggering autoimmune diseases such as joint pain, inflammation and arthritis.
Another concern is oxalates. Oxalic acids bind with calcium and other minerals forming insoluble complex called oxalates which are excreted together with the stool. While this is not so much of an issue especially for vegetables that contain more calcium and other minerals, this is something to take note of by people who have conditions such as kidney disorders, gout and arthritis as consuming okra could trigger pain and inflammation in the gut area.
For the majority of people who are healthy and not at risk of any inflammation issues, okra could be very beneficial and is not really a major concern. But for people with health history relating to kidney stones, then okra should be avoided.
What Experts Say About Okra
“Okra is just about the easiest way to lose that belly fat – you can eat an entire bag for fewer calories than a slice of cheese”. – Mark Sisson
Other Names for Okra
Lady’s finger, Gumbo
All you ever wanted to know about Okra and Paleo
Mark’s Daily Apple. If I See 1 More Carrot-Cauli-Broccoli Blend, I’ll…
Mark’s Daily Apple. Grilled Okra with Spicy Sumac Seasoning Salt
Nourished and Grounded. Paleo Crispy Baked Okra
Paleo Porn. Is Okra Paleo?
Paleo Comfort Foods. …and WE’RE BACK! With a new recipe too!
University of Illinois Extension. Watch Your Garden Grow. Okra
Nutrition and You. Okra
Health Line. Benefits of Okra for Diabetes
Dr. Axe. Okra Nutrition
Did we miss anything?
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photo credit: Okra – Ladies’ fingers