A Little Background
Okra is a member of the family Malvaceae, which it shares with others of the ‘mallow’ family such as cotton, cacao, and hibiscus. This long, sometimes ridged and sometimes smooth pod is also known as ‘lady fingers’ in other countries, but in the US is best known simply as okra.
There is a great difference of opinion as to where okra originated. Some believe it to have come from Ethiopia, from where it is believed to have spread throughout Western Africa and on to central parts of the continent during the Bantu migration approximately 4000 years ago.
Others state that it may have begun its migration in Southern Asia, or possibly even India, finding its way to Brazil in the early 1500’s. But one thing remains true to all who write of its history: okra made its way to the US in the early 1700’s with the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Okra is referred to in the historical record by ancient Egyptians and Moors of the 12th and 13th centuries. Today, okra is particularly well established in the Southern US and its cuisine. It has a ‘slimy’ or mucilaginous texture and is not only wonderful simply fried, but also lends thickening to many Cajun and Creole dishes, including gumbo, an especially hardy and beloved stew of the South.
Okra grows best in tropical to warm temperate climates throughout the world today.
In traditional medicine, okra was used to treat sore throats, inflammation of the mucous membranes, urinary tract infections, diarrhea and other abdominal issues, plus headache and fever.
Okra is a great vegetable for those watching their weight since it is extremely low in calories and contains no cholesterol or fat. Okra is often recommended by nutritionists to those following a weight reduction or low cholesterol diet.
At the same time, it is rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, as well as being one of the best vegetable resources of the antioxidants lutein, xanthin and beta-carotene. These are exceptional for their antioxidant properties and for the health of our vision.
Okra is also rich in vitamins A, E, and C, which are particularly beneficial to the health of our skin and mucous membranes, and as antioxidants that fight disease and aging. Okra is also a wealthy resource of B-complex compounds, folates, flavonoids, protein, and vitamin K. Vitamin K is especially necessary for healthy blood.
This wonderful veggie also contains the minerals calcium, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, selenium, and zinc.
Due to its abundant source of fiber, this vegetable is able to help control the rate of sugar absorption and cholesterol in the body, which is good news for those with diabetes and high cholesterol.
In a study published in the Jilin Medical Journal of the Jilin School of Medicine in China, okra was reported to greatly assist in decreasing diabetic neuropathy. This same study showed that regular consumption of okra also reduced the possibility of kidney disease better than a ‘diabetic diet’ did.
In diabetics with accompanying kidney and heart disease, okra was shown to play a significant role in lowering the risk of both.
- Either run the ingredients through a juicer or simply blend everything together well in a blender.
- Remember to drink your fresh juice or smoothie as soon as you can for best taste and maximum nutritional value.