7 benefits of okra, according to a dietitian

If you live in the southern United States, okra is a vegetable that is found in abundance, often served deliciously hot and steamed straight from a frying pan. Less familiar with it? Okra is a green flowering plant with edible pods. Originally it was cultivated in Ethiopia and by the ancient Egyptians in Egypt. From there it spread across North Africa and the Middle East, eventually reaching the United States through slaves and settlers.

While many are drawn to okra for its taste – slightly earthy with more depth and crispness the longer it is cooked – which may not be so obvious with every bite, these are its many health benefits. “Okra is especially good for the gut,” says Nour Zibdeh, RD, dietitian and author of The Complete Acid Reflux Diet. Here, she explains exactly what the health benefits of vegetables are, including particularly notable gut health benefits. Plus, get okra cooking tips and delicious recipes to try.

What are the benefits of okra?

1. Okra is good for the gut.

Let’s go straight into the big one. All vegetables contain fiber (the key nutrient for healthy digestive system function) and okra is no exception. The vegetable contains three grams of fiber per cup. But that’s not the only reason Zibdeh says it’s good for the guts. “Okra can take on a slippery texture; this substance actually helps coat the lining of the intestine when you eat it,” she explains.

Zibdeh explains that it is very important that the lining of the intestine remains intact. Otherwise, harmful pathogens can find their way into the bloodstream; this is often called a leaky gut. Concrete example ? You absolutely want your gut lining to be strong, and eating okra can definitely help.

2. It is a great source of vitamin A.

One serving of okra contains almost all of the vitamin A you need for an entire day. (He wraps 716 micro-units per cup when you want to aim 900 micro-units.) “It’s good for eye health and the immune system,” Zibdeh says. So, if you stare at a computer all day, keep okra in mind as a great vegetable to incorporate into more of your meals.

3. Okra is a beneficial food for people with IBS.

Many Zibdeh customers suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and Zibdeh says that often when a person has it regularly, they are hesitant to eat foods high in fiber. “Okra is a great vegetable for people who are hesitant because it doesn’t contain fermentable fiber, which can be irritating for people with IBS,” she says. So if cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are causing you intestinal issues, try increasing your okra intake until a dietitian can help you start eating a wider range of foods again. vegetables.

4. Okra contains calcium.

Besides being good for the gut, eating okra will also be good for your bones. This is because it contains calcium, in particular 82 milligrams per cup. You want to aim for 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day, so okra probably won’t be your main source of nutrients, but every step counts!

5. He’s got iron.

Zibdeh says another nutrient that many may not know okra possesses is iron. Similar to calcium, it doesn’t get enough to the table to be considered a primary source of nutrients, but it’s still remarkable, especially for people who eat mostly plant-based foods and need to be extra careful with their contribution.

6. It is good for immune health.

Between the cool temperatures and the onset of flu season, who isn’t trying to get more vitamin C right now? Good news, okra contains 23 milligrams of vitamin C per serving. “This means that it is linked to the benefit of the immune system,” Zibdeh explains. “Just be aware that some of the vitamin C is lost when cooking okra, so the actual amount you will get is less than you might think. “

7. Okra is full of antioxidants.

All fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, and Zibdeh says okra is no exception. Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals that we encounter in the environment. Exposure to these toxins breaks down cellular DNA over time. So when you fill up on foods rich in antioxidants, you are helping your body fight these toxins and protect you against chronic inflammation.

Now that you know the benefits of okra, you’re probably wondering how to integrate it more into your life, right? While you can certainly eat raw okra, most people will tell you that it is much better cooked. Here in the United States, okra is often fried. Delicious? Yes, but Zibdeh says the paste and oils can subtract the health benefits. (Unless you’re using an air fryer.) Instead, she recommends boiling, steaming, or roasting it. Need some ideas on how to do it in a delicious way? Read on for some recipes to try.

Enjoy the benefits of okra through these delicious recipes

health benefits of okra
Photo: Amira’s pantry

1. Bamya (okra stew)

Bamya is a traditional Ethiopian dish often made by incorporating okra into a hearty tomato-based stew, along with lamb, onion, and carrots. It also contains many anti-inflammatory herbs, like cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and bay leaves.

Get the recipe: bamya (okra stew)

okros soup
Photo: Immaculate Bites

2. African okro soup

Between the okra, spinach, seafood, and meat in this okra soup, you definitely get a lot of iron. Recipe maker Imma Adamu also likes to add pumpkin seeds (egusi), which gives the stew another layer of texture. Add a little heat with red pepper flakes and paprika.

Get the recipe: African okro soup

cookies and burlap
Photo: Cookies and burlap

3. Okra air fryer

If you are looking for a good air fryer okra recipe, this is what you need. The dough is a mixture of eggs, flour, cornmeal, black pepper and Cajun seasoning. This way, vibrant spices are incorporated into every bite. The best part? It only takes 15 minutes to do.

Get the recipe: okra air fryer

okra recipe
Photo: Real Greek recipes

4. Okra and baked tomatoes

In this recipe, the okra is drizzled with red wine vinegar and baked with red onion. Then it is accompanied by juicy tomatoes. Add olive oil, a touch of dill, feta cheese and Kalamata olives and you have a delicious Mediterranean-inspired app.

Get the recipe: okra and baked tomatoes

Indian okra
Photo: My beet heart

5. Bhindi (Indian okra)

Sometimes okra and a few spices are all you really need. Here, the gut-healthy vegetables are paired with cumin seeds, ginger, turmeric, and garlic. On top of that, all you need is a bit of ghee, onion, and a Serrano pepper for extra heat. Literally, each ingredient is full of nutritional benefits.

Get the recipe: bhindi (Indian okra)

As you can see, there is no shortage of ways to cook with okra. Experiment using the recipes included here or put your own creative ideas to the test. Incorporating vegetables into your meals is not only delicious, it will be great for your body, especially your intestines.

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