Okra is a classic southern vegetable, often served stewed with tomatoes, simmered in a gumbo or simply fried. If you don't like okra, it's probably because you haven't had it cooked correctly. Okra's slime, or what botanists call mucilage, can turn any vegetable lover into an okra hater. But if you've given up on this vegetable, you may want to give it another try. It's low in calories and a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, folate and magnesium.
Energy density refers to the number of calories a food contains by weight. Foods with a low energy density have fewer calories per gram of weight, which means you get to eat a larger portion and consume fewer calories. A 1/2-cup serving, which is 80 grams, of boiled and drained okra has 25 calories, or 0.3 calories per gram. If you're trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, eating more low-energy-dense foods like okra can help.
Carbs and Fiber
Most of the calories in okra come from carbs, with 6 grams per 1/2-cup serving. Carbohydrates are an essential nutrient your body needs to function properly. It is also the body's preferred source of energy. Some of the carbs in the okra come from its fiber content. A 1/2-cup serving of cooked okra contains 2 grams of fiber. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate your body cannot digest, and eating more fiber-rich foods can help lower blood cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Some Protein, No Fat
Some of the calories in okra come from its protein and fat content, although the amount of fat in a serving of okra is negligible. A 1/2-cup serving contains 1.5 grams of protein and 0.1 grams of total fat. Like carbohydrates, protein and fats are also essential nutrients you need for good health. Protein in foods like okra helps with tissue repair and supports immune health. Like carbohydrates, fat in food also provides energy and is necessary for absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
Rich in Vitamins and Minerals
Okra is a nutrient-rich vegetable that can help you meet your vitamin C, folic acid, potassium and magnesium needs. As an antioxidant, vitamin C protects your cells from free radical damage, which may reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. Folic acid is a B vitamin that is especially important for women of child-bearing age because it helps prevent birth defects. Potassium in foods like okra is used to build muscle and break down carbs into energy. You need magnesium for protein synthesis and to assist with the contraction and relaxation of your muscles.
- The New York Times: It's Not Fair What They Say About Okra
- FatFree: Nutritional Data for Okra; Ckd, Boiled, Drained, W/O Salt
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Low-Energy-Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger
- McKinley Health Center: Macronutrients: The Importance of Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin C
- WomensHealth.gov: Folic Acid Fact Sheet
- MedlinePlus: Potassium in Diet
- MedlinePlus: Magnesium in Diet