But it’s slimy!

Okra flower and pod

Okra flower and pod

If I heard it once about okra…but in this case slime is good. And here’s another name for it – FIBER!

There are two major categories of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Within those groups there are many different types and the “slimy” kind found in okra is mucilage. Other sub-types include: cellulose, hemicellulose, pectins, gums, inulin, psyllium and polydextrose polyols. If you’re a label reader, I’m sure you recognize many of these words.

Soluble fibers seem to be useful for both the person with diabetes (as it causes sugar to get a slow release into the bloodstream) and those concerned about cardiovascular health (it binds with some of cholesterol’s building blocks). I don’t think okra is terribly unique in those functions, many vegetables carry the same benefits.

Now back to the slimy part, that’s probably the reason that okra is a more common ingredient in a gumbo, soup or stew than as a stand alone vegetable – you don’t notice the slime there. You might call it “body”.

While botanically the okra pod is a fruit, the plant’s nutritional profile more closely matches most vegetables. Okra is very low in calories with a negligible amount of fat; it provides vitamins C and K and of course fiber.

Again, like many plant foods, you get the bonus of other plant chemicals like lutein and beta carotene and zeaxanthin.

To avoid the slime, most cookbooks advise NOT adding water to the okra – so dry heat and dare I say it – fried. Cindy, my fresh okra provider, said you’ll love it quickly pan sautéed in a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and then toss some cornmeal in at the end. I’ve got to admit, it was pretty darn tasty.

Marcia

PS Linguini Day is September 15 in case anyone needs encouragement to eat pasta!!

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