The health benefits of okra include supply of essential vitamins and minerals, supply of antioxidants, laxative properties due to the presence of dietary fiber, cure for diarrhea and dysentery and increase of blood count.
Okra or Lady’s Finger is a popular vegetable in tropical countries. Believed to be of African origin, okra is now grown mostly in tropical, sub-tropical and warm places in the world. The name okra is used mostly in the United States due to the fact that in the Caribbean countries it is called okro. But outside the US, in English speaking countries, it is known by the name lady’s fingers. The edible part of the plant is the green seed pods.
From its native land Africa, okra reached Asia during the ancient times due to the trade between Northern Africa and Asia. This plant has particularly settled in India to an extent that it has been a part of Indian cuisine for more than a thousand years now and it is produced in most parts of India.
During the colonial expansion of Europe during 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the Europeans who conquered regions of Africa came to know about okra and introduced it in Europe and the Americas respectively.
Young seed pods are the most preferred ones in okra due to their great taste, while in mature seed pods the taste is believed to disappear. Young and tender okras are a favorite among its patrons. Taste apart, one of the distinguishing features of okra is the presence of goo-like or slimy substance that is found inside okra. This is not found in most other vegetables.
Nutrition in okra
The National Nutrient Database from the US Department of Agriculture, lists the following nutrients in okra which include
|Nutritional Component||Value per 100 g||Nutritional Component||Value per 100 g|
|Water||89.58 g||Energy||33 kcal|
|Protein||1.93 g||Total Lipid||0.19|
|Carbohydrates||7.45 g||Sugars||1.48 g|
|Calcium||82 mg||Iron||0.62 mg|
|Magnesium||57 mg||Phosphorous||61 mg|
|Potassium||299 mg||Sodium||7 mg|
|Zinc||0.58 mg||Vitamin C||23 mg|
|Thiamin||0.2 mg||Riboflavin||0.060 mg|
|Niacin||1 mg||Vitamin B-6||0.215 mg|
|Folate||60 ug||Vitamin A||716 IU|
|Vitamin E||0.27 mg||Vitamin K||31.3 ug|
Is it safe to give okra to my baby?
Yes, it is safe to give okra to your baby, but there are few things that must be kept in mind with okra. As mentioned above, okra contains a slimy substance inside it and due to the structure and texture of okra, it would be very difficult to make a smooth puree of okra that can be fed to your baby. In fact, it is better to wait until your baby is old enough to chew okra without any issue. A minimum of 14-18 months of age is recommended for feeding okras to your baby. This is because, the slimy nature and seeds make it difficult for your baby to chew okra. Other than this, okra does not pose any threat to your child as far as food allergies are concerned.
Health benefits of okra for babies
Here are some of the benefits of okra for your babies.
Good source of vitamins and minerals: Okra is a good source of various vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B, thiamin, niacin, folate and vitamin E. All these vitamins play important role in the physical and mental development of your baby. Apart from these vitamins various minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron and zinc. Each of these minerals are also useful for your baby’s development.
Supply of antioxidants: Okra is a good source of antioxidants. Supply of antioxidants is essential in any diet. A diet with ample amount of antioxidant supply makes sure that free radicals that are produced in the body during metabolism are countered. If left alone, free radicals can damage cells and DNA. (Sabitha, 2012).
Laxative properties: Okra, as any other vegetable and fruit is also a good source of dietary fiber. Okra supplies the essential dietary fiber that enables smooth bowel movement in your babies and reduces the risk of constipation.
Increases blood count: Regular consumption of okra increases blood count. A healthy amount of blood needs to be maintained by the body for transporting all the nutrients to all parts of the body. This is especially true in case of infants and children. As they are still growing, their dietary needs demand optimum blood count. (Nicholas, A Caribbean Diet).
Cure for dysentery and diarrhea: Ayurveda, one of the most ancient medicinal practice from India suggests the use of okra as a cure for diarrhea and dysentery. The decoction of immature or young seeds must be given to the patient. (Khare, Indian Medicinal Plants).
Measures to be taken while dealing with okra
Okra is a typical vegetable and certain measures have to be taken for a very good vegetable for you as well as your baby.
Young, tender and immature pods: Okra is very susceptible to mature and it is better to buy it as young as possible. As okra starts maturing, you can observe that the seeds are bulging out through the pod and this means that okra has already matured and doesn’t taste good. The seeds of younger and tender okra wouldn’t be bulging out and the pod would look uniform in all directions.
Cooking okra: Okra can either be stewed along with other vegetables or it could be fried. While frying might not be a great way to feed your baby in the initial stages, it is better to opt for stewed form.