Okra is a plant that produces an edible pod that is eaten as a vegetable. Okra also known as bhindi, bendi, lady’s finger, gumbo is a member of the cotton – mallow family (Malvaceae). These are a group of plants that exude a gelatinous substance when sliced. This substance is called mucilage.It is the mucilage which contributes to the slime factor in okra.
What is this mucilage in Okra:
Mucilages are not pathological products. They are formed in normal plant growth within the plant by mucilage-secreting hairs, sacs, and canals; However, they are not found on the surface as exudates as a result of bacterial or fungal action after mechanical injury, as are gums. Mucilages occur in nearly all classes of plants in various parts of the plant, usually in relatively small percentages, and are not infrequently associated with other substances, such as tannins. The most common sources are the root, bark, and seed, but they are also found in the flower, leaf, and cell wall. Any biological functions within the plant are unknown, but they may be considered to aid in water storage, decrease diffusion in aquatic plants, aid in seed dispersal and germination, and act as a membrane thickener and food reserve.
How to minimize the sliminess in Okra while cooking:
Basically, its the interaction with liquid that makes the stuff inside turn slimy, so the trick is to minimize the okras contact with water and other liquids. There are a couple of ways to do this.
Wash and wipe dry the okras thoroughly before slicing it.
You can also team or blanch the okras for 3-4 minutes and drain and dry the okra thoroughly before slicing it. After slicing the okras don’t add it to the dish until the very end, so as to minimize moisture contact. For example, you could stew some tomatoes, onion and eggplant until done and then add the blanched, dried and sliced okra just before serving.
Another way is to saute or shallow fry it, which sort of cauterizes the okra. This is the method used in Indian dishes. Wash the okra, dry thoroughly and then slice and fry in a small amount of very hot oil. Remove it from the oil and set aside while you prepare the rest of the dish. Add the okra to the recipe at the very end.
Don’t cut the okras in very small pieces.
Use of sour ingredients cuts down the slime. In India, sour ingredients like tamarind paste, dried mango powder, curds, lemon juice, kokum(a fruit found in India) are used.
Health and Nutritional Benefits of Okra:
Okra contains a unique combination of valuable nutrients. It’s high in vitamin B6, fiber, calcium, and folic acid, which helps prevent neural tube defects in developing fetuses. A serving of okra contains only 25 calories. So if it’s prepared in a low-fat recipe, it’s an incredibly healthy addition to any meal.
A half-cup cooked okra contains:
* Calories = 25
* Dietary Fiber = 2 grams
* Protein = 1.5 grams
* Carbohydrates = 5.8 grams
* Vitamin A = 460 IU
* Vitamin C = 13.04 mg
* Folic acid = 36.5 micrograms
* Calcium = 50.4 mg
* Iron = 0.4 mg
* Potassium = 256.6 mg
* Magnesium = 46 mg
The also other many benefits of this versatile vegetable on our health. They are well worth reading.
1. The superior fiber found in okra helps to stabilize blood sugar as it curbs the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract.
2. Okra’s mucilage binds cholesterol and bile acid carrying toxins dumped into it by the filtering liver.
3. Many alternative health practitioners believe all disease begins in the colon. The okra fiber, absorbing water and ensuring bulk in stools, helps prevent and improve constipation. Fiber in general is helpful for this but okra is one of the best, along with ground flax seed and psyllium. Unlike harsh wheat bran, which can irritate or injure the intestinal tract, okra’s mucilage soothes, and okra facilitates elimination more comfortably by its slippery characteristic many people abhor. In other words, the incredibly valuable okra not only binds excess cholesterol and toxins (in bile acids) which cause numerous health problems if not evacuated, but also assures easy passage out of the body of same.
4: Okra is completely non-toxic, non-habit forming (except for the many who greatly enjoy eating it), has no adverse side effects, is full of nutrients, and is economically within reach of most unlike some prescription and over-the-counter drugs for this.
5: Okra fiber is excellent for feeding the good bacteria (probiotics). This contributes to the health of the intestinal tract.
6: To retain most of okra’s nutrients and self-digesting enzymes, it should be cooked as little as possible, e.g. with low heat or lightly steamed. Some eat it raw. However, if one is going to fry it only extra virgin olive oil, or unrefined coconut butter is recommended. Organic ghee used by gourmet chefs, has the oil and flavor of butter without the solids, is also excellent for frying okra (does not burn like butter), and may be obtained from the health food store.
7: Okra is a supreme vegetable for those feeling weak, exhausted, and suffering from depression.
8: Okra is used for healing ulcers and to keep joints limber. It helps to neutralize acids, being very alkaline, and provides a temporary protective coating for the digestive tract.
9: Okra treats lung inflammation, sore throat, and irritable bowel syndrome.
10: Okra has been used successfully in experimental blood plasma replacements.
11: Okra is good for summer heat treatment.
12: Okra is good for constipation.
13: Okra is good in normalizing the blood sugar and cholesterol level.
14: Okra is good for asthma. Okra’s vitamin C is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, which curtail the development of asthma symptoms.
15:Okra is good for atherosclerosis.
16:Okra is believed to protect some forms of cancer expansion, especially colorectal cancer.
17: Eating okra helps to support the structure of capillaries.
18: Some information shows that eating okra lowers the risk of cataracts.
19:Okra is good for preventing diabetes.
20: Okra protects you from pimples and maintains smooth and beautiful skin.
So the next time when you make okra, you very well know its health and nutritional benefits.