Okra, also sometimes known as lady’s fingers, is a popular vegetable in the southern United States, South Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. It belongs to the mallow family and generally thrives in warmer climates.
These are bright-green, elongated pods with rich nutritional values.
When it comes to okra, a lot of people either love it or hate it. This is because of its slimy texture that some people may not find palatable. Despite that, it continues to be a popular food in certain parts of the world.
On a keto diet, you need to shop for foods that are low in carbs. So how can okra help your keto journey?
This article will explore the nutritional content of this food and how it can be incorporated into a ketogenic lifestyle.
These green pods are associated with warm, humid climates. Despite being known as a vegetable, this food is actually a fruit. It is the immature seed pod of the Abelmoschus esculentus plant and is related to cotton, hibiscus, and cocoa plants.
The okra plant can sustain heat and drought conditions well and has been proposed to fight malnutrition in developing countries.
The taste and texture of lady’s fingers can be a divisive factor. Some people might be put off by the greasy and fuzzy exterior. It also has a slimy texture, which can be perfect for thickening stews, or reduced by frying or cooking it with tomatoes.
This food is rich in nutrients with many health-beneficial properties.
It has a low carbohydrate content and contains protein and fiber. This makes it unique among other fruits and vegetables, as most lack protein.
Here is the nutritional breakdown. All values are obtained from the USDA website.
Serving size: 8 pods, cooked (85 g)
As you can see from the nutritional stats above, okra contains very few carbohydrates, which is good news for keto.
It is also an excellent source of vitamins A, C, K, B6, and potassium. Since it is densely packed with several nutrients, it is no surprise that it is hailed as a solution for ending global malnutrition.
Therefore, this is a perfect low-carb, nutrient-rich vegetable for your keto meal plan.
Moreover, it also contains antioxidants such as polyphenols. Antioxidants have a role in reducing the risk of cancer, so that’s one more reason to include this food in your keto diet. Polyphenols are also said to have a role in promoting cardiovascular health and lowering the incidence of overall inflammation.
Lady’s fingers may also play a role in promoting cardiovascular health. It might bind to cholesterol during digestion which is then later eliminated in stools. As higher cholesterol levels are a leading risk factor for heart diseases, it might be worthwhile to consume okra for better heart health.
The underlying principle of the ketogenic diet is to restrict carbohydrate intake so that the body primarily relies on fat sources. This state of “ketosis” helps to achieve weight loss.
So is okra good for keto? The answer is yes.
Since it contains very few carbohydrates per serving size, it is safe to eat okra on keto.
Moreover, since it is a fresh ingredient, you do not need to worry about additives that might offset the balance of your macronutrient consumption.
As it also contains fiber, it will help you to feel full for longer.
Therefore, it can help you to reduce the carbohydrate cravings that some people experience when they first switch to a ketogenic diet.
However, one thing to keep in mind is that this green vegetable has negligible amounts of fat. As you need to increase your consumption of healthy fats while on a keto diet, make sure that you've added healthy sources of plant-based fats to your diet.
Some examples of plant-based fats that can go well with this are olive oil and MCT oil.
This food is low in carbs, which means you don’t have to worry about exceeding your daily carb limit when consuming this green vegetable.
Even if you eat 2 servings, or 16 pods, you’ll only be getting 5.4 grams of net carbs.
However, if you’re wondering about the exact amount you can safely have on keto without exceeding the limit, just remember to keep track of what you eat during the day. This way, you’ll be sure to stay within your macros.
If you’re considering adding this food to your keto diet plan, you might be wondering what type is most suitable.
For the maximum benefit of okra on keto, you should always consider buying it raw and fresh from the store. That way, you prepare it yourself using real ingredients.
You can have it boiled, cooked, pickled, roasted, or fried.
So what should you look for when you’re grocery shopping for lady's fingers?
According to the USDA standards, the uncooked vegetable should be free from damage and decay.12 Therefore, when you’re shopping, make it a habit to inspect the pods. They should not be dimpled, browned, or badly shaped.
You should avoid buying packaged okra chips because they contain a lot of carbohydrates per serving.
A single 28-gram serving of okra chips contains about 15 grams of net carbs, which is a whole lot more than the vegetable itself. That amount can make you exceed your daily carb limit on keto.
So now that you’ve learned that this veggie is a perfect addition to your keto diet, you might be wondering what other food items you can pair it up with.
In short, this green pod can be paired with several vegetables and meat dishes. You don’t have to limit yourself to a particular style of cooking as there are several different ways and keto-friendly recipes available.
If all the nutrients and health benefits aren’t enough to convince you, then you can always consider other keto-friendly alternatives.
A lot of people might not enjoy the slimy texture, which is completely understandable. Or maybe you live in a region where it isn’t easily available.
So which keto-friendly alternatives can you consider? Some notable options include:
This is one of the best keto-friendly vegetables you can have in your diet. However, you might still have a lot of questions in mind regarding this fuzzy, green pod. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
Generally speaking, lady's fingers is a very healthy food for a keto diet. But can the same be said if it’s fried?
It depends. If you use unhealthy saturated fats like butter, ghee, or lard to fry, then fried lady finger is going to be anything but healthy. Saturated fats are linked with an increased risk of heart diseases as they increase the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood.13 The key is to substitute animal-based oils with healthier alternatives for frying.
For a healthy keto meal, olive oil is one of the best cooking oils you can use.
It also depends on the breading. Regular flour is high in carbs, but you could use almond flour or pork rinds instead.
Optimal blood sugar control is essential, especially for patients with diabetes.
Research shows that this food can improve the control of blood sugar. This is because it lowers the absorption of glucose from the digestive tract. A substance called mucilage that is found in okra may have hypoglycemic effects. Some mice studies have reported that okra can help to reduce the spikes in blood sugar levels.1
However, one thing that should be kept in mind is that it can interfere with the antidiabetic drug metformin.14 Hence patients taking metformin should not consume this food.
Some people are put off by the slimy, gooey substance released by lady's fingers. This slime is called mucilage, which is a thickened, gel-like substance. It is a glycoprotein and has a high-binding water capacity.
The slime released is actually good for health. Mucilage contains high levels of protein, carbohydrates, nutrients, and minerals, which makes it a very nutritional substance.
Another health benefit of mucilage that might be of interest is its ability to lower cholesterol levels. Mucilage binds to the cholesterol and is then later excreted from the digestive tract.
As higher cholesterol levels are linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, it can be highly beneficial for patients with heart diseases.
The slime or mucilage is also a good source of antioxidants.
If the green pod appears discolored, misshapen, or blackened, it is safe to assume that it is no longer fresh. It will also have increased slime or mucilage in storage when it has gone bad. The white seeds inside turn black, and you can notice the texture becoming hard.
This food can generally be stored in the fridge for up to 2 to 3 days. When you notice that it is no longer fit for consumption, you should throw it away.
It has high fiber content, making it good for the digestive system. It helps to prevent constipation by aiding the movement of the bowels.
A study published in the American Journal of Digestive Diseases reports that okra decreases the emptying time of the stomach. In addition, intake of fiber is associated with a reduced risk of stomach cancer.
Hence, the fiber content makes it excellent for your gut health.
It is a low-carb vegetable, which makes it an ideal supplement to your weight loss meal plans.
It also has a low glycemic index. Low glycemic index foods are associated with weight loss as they promote satiety or fullness after a meal and better insulin sensitivity.
All of these factors collectively promote sustainable weight loss.