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Fresh is best: A rundown of the many excellent benefits available from okra

Okra has the worthy distinction of being one of the most drought resistant crops in the world. That’s definitely a boon to local farmers who suffered lots of crop loss this spring due to lack of rain.

It is the slimiest food I know and as such it’s still on my list as one I avoid, but it’s clear I shouldn’t. It’s an excellent natural source of vitamin K, a necessary nutrient that isn’t common in most of the foods we eat. It’s also iron rich, is a mild anti-inflammatory and an excellent source of folates. In fact the slime that is produced when it is cooked is actually soluble fibre. The body can absorb this soluble fibre, unlike most fibre which simply pushes food through the gut.

Okra seeds can be roasted and ground to form a caffeine-free coffee substitute. Its leaves are also edible and can be cooked like mustard greens or beet tops.

OkraScientific name: Abelmoschus esculentus

Family of: Malvaceae (mallow)

Related to: Cotton and hibiscus

Grown: in Bermuda

Vitamin content: An excellent source of K and folate (B9) and a very good source of other B vitamins including thiamin (B1), Niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6) and riboflavin (B12). Okra is also a very good source of vitamins A, C, and E.

Mineral content: A very good source of potassium, iron, manganese and magnesium. A good source of phosphorus, calcium, zinc, copper, selenium, and sodium.

Dietary Fibre: A good source of fibre. There are about six grams in one cup of the boiled vegetable.

Omega 3 fatty acids: 3.6 milligrams in one cup of the cooked vegetable.

Omega 6 fatty acids: 144.14 milligrams in one cup of the cooked vegetable.

Protein: 3.8 grams in one cup of the cooked vegetable.

Good for: Okra is an excellent vegetable for expectant mothers to eat. The high concentration of folate or folic acid is important in protecting the developing foetus from neural tube defects of the brain and spine including spina bifida, and anencephaly (a condition where a large part of the brain and skull are missing). This nutrient needs to be in sufficient quantities in the mother’s blood at the time of conception.

In the US all women are recommended to take at least 400 micrograms (mcg) every day. One hundred grams of fresh okra pods provides about 22 percent of this.

That slimy or mucilaginous characteristic of okra helps in the physical aspect of the digestive process and it relieves constipation.

Okra can boast one of the highest levels of the flavonoid antioxidants beta-carotene, xanthin and lutein. These nutrients have been proven to be essential for vision. Vitamin A, also an anti oxidant and also found in high levels in okra, is also important in vision and in maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin.

Flavonoids are also offer protection from lung and oral cavity cancers.

High in vitamin-C, okra pods help the body’s immune system fight infections and free radicals. Its vitamin K and calcium content makes it important in strengthening and building bone. Vitamin K is also a necessary ingredient in blot clotting.

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Published August 16, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 16, 2011 at 9:31 am)

Fresh is best: A rundown of the many excellent benefits available from okra

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