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Okra: A Healthy, Curative Food With Cultural Implications

Okra: A Healthy, Curative Food With Cultural Implications

By: Rogia al-Shafee

KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - Okra (scientific name: abelmoschus esculentus) is one of Sudan’s important vegetables that was, and still is, having its noteworthy presence on the country’s food table. Both fresh and dried okra are also always present in happy and sad occasions of Sudanese.

The White Nile State of Central Sudan is believed to be the home of okra when it was first introduced in the country in the 19th Century.

But now all Sudanese regions now grow and care for okra.

Dried okra powder, known as waika, enters into nearly all popular meals. Waika is cooked with fresh or dried beef to make such popular dishes as neaimiyya, tagliyya, miris and with dried fish to make kajaik. It is also cooked with sorghum stalk ashes to make waikab.

Nutrition specialist at the Soba Teaching Hospital, Dr. Nawal Hassan Algabbani, says research has revealed that the high viscosity of okra obstructs the absorption of glucose, thus stabilizing the sugar level in the human body. “The sticky fibers in okra reduce the absorption of sugar through the stomach walls,” she further explains.

The sticky substance in okra unites with cholesterol and poisonous yellow acids and drives them out of the body through excreta.

Okra contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber may lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease, while insoluble fiber keeps your intestinal tract healthy, which may decrease your risk of colorectal and other cancers.

Okra pods contain 1.6-2.2 proteins, some carbohydrates, vitamins A and C and a small quantity of B vitamins. Okra is also a good source of calcium, phosphorous and iron.

Okra leaves contain higher rates of these elements. For instance their protein content is 2.7%. They also contain a relatively high rate of riboflavin and Vitamin B2.

Okra seeds are rich in proteins and fats. They have a high rate of potassium, calcium, phosphorous and also contain some starch. The okra seed oil is made of oleic acid (45%), linoleic acid (20%), in addition to saturated fatty acids.

Okra’s sticky substance helps heal ulcers of the digestive system and reduce stomach acidity. It also softens the colon, thanks to the existence of laxative fibers that inflate when they absorb water and thus push their surrounding substances out of the body and accordingly rid the body of constipation.

Taking okra moderates sore throats, lung inflammations and narrow bronchial tubes because of the vegetable’s high content of Vitamin C, which is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant capacities. For that reason okra reduces arterial stiffness and joint inflammation. Consuming okra also prevents the formation of eye cataracts because of its content of lutein and zeaxanthin.

Fresh okra contains little calories. In every 100 grams of okra there are no more than 30 calories.

Okra contains no saturated fats or cholesterol. It is also rich in folic acid, manganese, magnesium and thiamin. Okra does not cause any allergy and much consumption of okra does not result in any disease symptoms.

Okra powder capsules are now sold in Europe, America and elsewhere.

Okra is cheap and is available everywhere.

The public wisdom maintains that when rain-fed okra ripens, prices of other food stuffs would go down. “Our okra is now ripe”, many a family man or woman would defiantly tell a trader who charges a high price for an essential food item. The public wisdom also nicknames okra as the darraba (the hitter), meaning it hits greedy food traders hard. The term darraba also has the second meaning that if a greedy trader hoards it, its prices may go down (because of abundant production) and that trader may lose the money he invested in it.

Fresh smooth skinned green okra is one of Sudan’s most important exports to European and Arabian markets while hairy okra is consumed locally.

 

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