Okra is an unusual vegetable as it contains a mucilaginous gum which thickens stews and casseroles. It is known for its use in gumbo in Creole cooking however it has a wider range of uses and is worth including on a more regular basis.
A small study of okra conducted in 2013 (1) showed that okra reduced the production of fat and increased the breakdown of cholesterol. The only other food with a similar cholesterol lowering effect is oats.
Nutritionally okra has a high level of Vitamin C and folate as well as moderate levels of magnesium and potassium.
Looking around for recipes for okra I was focussed on finding a breakfast option to copy the one I had enjoyed in Fiji at a breakfast buffet. What I did find was some really useful side dishes which would add flavour to any meal.
Carrots are a versatile vegetable and nutritionally a great source of Beta-Carotene, Vitamins B6 and K as well as minerals such as potassium . The beta carotene in carrots can be converted to Vitamin A. They are also good food for the microbiome as the soluble starch in carrots is largely pectin.
Carrots have the advantage of being ideal raw or cooked. Carrots are available year round and are usually very reasonably priced so a great addition to the weekly shop.
How do you include carrots in your meal plan? Well in addition to being a great side dish on their own they combine well with so many flavours to add to a meal. Often the base of many casseroles or pasta sauce is to start by sauteeing carrot and onion as these “fragrant” vegetables add to the flavour profile of a dish. Adding a carrot can be a good way to increase the quantity of vegetables in a dish.
Here is a list of recipe suggestions for including more carrots in your cooking. Some of these are from recent blogs and others are just recipes I use all the time at home. Carrots are also a favourite to add to roasts as they absorb flavours beautifully specially if you cook them with the lamb or chicken.
Steam carrots lightly for 3-4 minutes so they are still crisp but cooked. Saute onions in olive oil for 3-4 minutes until clear and then add carrots. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Serve with chopped continental parsley.
My favourite way to serve carrots is roasted however this combination with roasted parsnip (Maple roasted carrots and parsnip) is simple and a delicious way to get children to eat more vegetables as well.
Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health St Ives. You can make an appointment on 8084 0081 or online.