I am not familiar with this vegetable so all the more reason to write about it, especially as there would appear to be very important anti-cancer compounds in okra.
What are these anti-cancer compounds?
- A newly discovered lectin in common okra has been shown to kill 72% of human breast cancer cells (MCF7) in vitro, mostly by inducing programmed cell death. The okra extract has also been shown to slow the growth of breast cancer cells by 63%.
- While the research on okra for the prevention of cancer is fairly recent, a further study has shown that okra pectin is active against highly metastatic melanoma cells, reducing their proliferation, inducing cell cycle arrest and programmed cell death (known as apoptosis).
- In another study, the "Southern" eating pattern (where okra, grits, cornbread, beans, rice and sweet potatoes are the main components) was shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 40% in a group of American men while a diet richer in fruit and vegetables did not reduce the risk in that group.
Known in many English-speaking countries as ladies' fingers, bhindi, bamia or gumbo, okra has edible green seed pods and is cultivated in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions around the world.
There are further health benefits
These include its high fiber, vitamin c and folate content as well as being high in antioxidants and a good source of calcium and potassium.
How to buy and prepare okra
When choosing okra at the store, look for young, small pods no more than 4 inches in length as larger pods tend to be tough and stringy, choosing specimens that are firm, unblemished and a bright color. While green is the most common, you may come across red or deep burgundy varieties. If fresh okra is unavailable, frozen
can be used instead while canned okra is fine in stews if fresh is unavailable. The young leaves are sometimes used as a vegetable in a similar way to spinach, particularly in West Africa and Southeast Asia. In addition, even flower buds and petals are eaten in times of food shortage.
If you are unsure how to cook and serve fresh okra, here are some suggestions:
Braised fresh okra
- Wash 8 ounces okra with cool, clear water and drain well.
- Using a sharp paring knife, cut off the stems. Cut the pods crosswise into ½ inch slices giving some 2 cups sliced okra.
- Bring a small amount of lightly salted water to boiling in a saucepan and add the okra.
- Cover the pan and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until tender.
- Drain well and toss with a little butter, if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
As an alternative, chop the okra into rings and saute it with a little oil until it is almost tender. Some cornmeal will soak up some of the stickiness and adding fresh chopped tomato to cook for a few further seconds along with some salt and pepper will give a crunchy texture and taste.
Adding okra to your regular vegetables
hese recent studies have highlighted that okra (a healthy food which is already widely consumed) may give protection from at least three different cancers. You cannot go wrong in adding okra to your regular diet, which should already contain plenty of vegetables
with as wide a variety as possible.