People who suffer from diabetes often have to change their eating habits to a specialized diet to keep their blood sugar levels in a healthy zone. One solid option and known diabetic superfood is okra.
Okra, which is also called “lady’s fingers,” is a vegetable of the mallow family that's related to cotton and hibiscus.
Okra typically refers to the plant’s edible green seedpods. They’re low-calorie and contain no saturated fats or cholesterol.
The pods can be cooked, pickled, eaten raw, or tossed into salads – and they sure pack a nutritional punch. Okra contains potassium, vitamin B, vitamin C, folic acid, and calcium, among others.
Although it’s often avoided because of its slimy texture when it’s cooked, you should do your best to find a regular place in your diet for okra because of its many nutritional benefits, especially if you’re a diabetic patient.
It’s rumored that okra can cure diabetes – while that’s not true (keep taking your insulin shots, friends), okra certainly helps.
Here are some of the many benefits okra can provide to patients with diabetes.
1. Okra Helps Manage Your Blood Sugar Levels
Okra packs a high fiber-filled punch, and that’s great news for the diabetic patients who consume it.
Eight medium-sized pods of okra contain about 3 grams of fiber. The high fiber levels of okra help with your digestion, cuts your hunger cravings, and keeps you fuller for a longer amount of time when you eat it.
Fibers helps stabilize your blood glucose by slowing down the speed at which sugar is absorbed from your intestinal tract.
High-fiber foods are particularly good for diabetic patients because increased dietary fiber intake helps promote better glycemic control (blood sugar control). It also helps improve insulin sensitivity, which is good because insulin resistance is what causes the problems of Type 2 Diabetes.
2. Need to Manage Your Stress Levels?
Okra can help with stress management and general mental health too!
The antioxidants in okra have an anti-stress effect on the bloodstream.
Long-term, high stress levels can cause blood sugar levels to spike. That's why stress level reduction is an important part of a patient’s management of diabetes.
Okra can also help improve some of the symptoms of depression.
3. Okra May Help Lower Cholesterol and Decrease Fatigue
Okra has been known to help lower levels of cholesterol because of its antioxidant and fiber content.
As people with diabetes tend to be more likely to have unhealthy cholesterol levels, this is important.
It’s also notable that okra helps with recovery times and fatigue levels – it improves your energy levels so you can operate better in your day-to-day life.
It’s recommended to include okra in your diet alongside a healthy exercise routine to keep up your cardiovascular health. You should be able to work out for longer and recover more quickly with the dietary inclusion.
4. A Potion Called Okra Water
One of the most popular ways okra is used to help maintain blood sugar levels in diabetic patients is through the consumption of okra water.
Okra water is beneficial to diabetic patients because by soaking the okra pods in water overnight, the nutrients in the skin and the seed pods are absorbed into the water so you can just drink up with no extra hassle.
This is the way people who are put off by the taste and texture of okra are able to still reap the nutritional benefits of the vegetable.
Here’s one way to make okra water:
First, you need to gather 4 or 5 medium-sized okra pods and wash them.
Next, you’ll want to clip off both ends of the pods and split the pods in half or pierce each side with a knife.
Put the pods in a glass and fill over them with water.
Soak the pods overnight or for at least 8 hours.
In the morning, squeeze your pods in the water, so they release any remaining sap.
Lastly, take the pods out and drink your water.
Some people prefer to soak the okra in the water after cutting it into thin slices instead of leaving the seed pods whole – watch out though because preparing okra water this way will leave your drink a bit bitter.
5. Okra Peels and Powdered Seeds
The most traditional way to use okra as a medicinal herb is through its peel.
Some studies suggest eating shredded okra peel is the most favorable way to consume it.
You can shred okra peel right in your kitchen with a cheese grater or a lemon zester. There’s not really a limit to how much you should peel, but half a teaspoon of okra peel is more than enough to give your body the benefit.
Powdered okra seeds are also popular medicinally – they’re dried out before being ground down. Making the powder is a bit labor- and time-intensive, but you can easily buy powdered okra seeds online or from health food stores if you’re really interested.
Showcasing the Magic of Okra: # Recipes
Okay, now that you know the great benefits of okra, hopefully, you’re convinced to at least give the food a shot.
Here are a few okra recipes you can try your hand at. Enjoy!
1. Roasted Okra
Let’s start off simple: roasted okra. You’ll be able to knock out this recipe in 20 minutes.
- 18 fresh okra pods, sliced 1/3 of an inch thick
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, or to taste
- 2 teaspoons of black pepper, or to taste
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 2: Arrange your okra slices in one layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle the veggies with olive oil and sprinkle on your salt and pepper. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
2. Four-Ingredient Okra Stir Fry
Ready for a recipe with a little more zip? First, gather these ingredients:
- 1 tablespoon of peanut oil (or vegetable oil – your call)
- 1 teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorn
- 2 dried chili peppers
- 10 okra pods, chopped (about 7 ounces of okra)
- 2 teaspoons of light soy sauce, or tamari for gluten-free folks
Step 1: Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet (or a wok, if you have one) over medium heat until it’s warm. Add the peppercorn and cook until it’s fragrant and dark, which will take about a minute. Turn down to the lowest heat and use a spatula or ladle to scoop out as discard the peppercorns.
Step 2: Break the chili peppers into 2 or 3 parts and add them into the skillet. Stir a few times.
Step 3: Turn to medium-high heat (high heat if you’re on an electric stove), and add the okra to the skillet. Stir quickly to coat the okra with oil for about a minute.
Swirl in the soy sauce and stir to mix well. Cook and keep stirring until the okra is cooked through and charred on the edges – which will be about 2 to 3 minutes.
If the skillet starts to smoke intensely during your stir-frying, lower the heat to medium. If you can’t hear any vibrant sizzling sounds, turn the heat back up to high.
Step 4: Transfer your stir-fry to a plate, serve warm, and enjoy!
3. Baked Tomato and Okra
And here’s another little okra recipe for you to try out:
- Half a cup of loose-pack frozen lima beans
- 8 ounces of fresh okra, washed, stemmed, and cut into ½-inch thick slices; or 2 cups of frozen cut okra, thawed
- 4 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped
- 1 medium-sized onion, sliced and separated into rings
- 1/2 medium-sized yellow or green sweet pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook the lima beans according to the directions on the package. Drain. In a 2-quart casserole dish, combine the lima beans, okra, tomatoes, onion, sweet pepper, crushed red pepper, and salt.
Step 2: Bake that, covered with tin foil, for 45 minutes, stir. Bake, uncovered, for 30 more minutes, stir. Serve with a slotted spoon. Enjoy!