Food & Nutrition For You

About bhindi: From nutrition to trivia

Bhindi fry or bhindi masala, whichever okra dish you bring to the table, it will always be people’s favourite choice! Bhindi, okra or ladies’ finger is one of the most versatile and incredible vegetables in the market. This dark green seedy bhindi belongs to the Malvaceae family and is called Abelmoschus esculentus in its botanical world.

An okra is a 2-meter-long erect pod which has fine fibres on the outside of the skin. It is a perennial plant with stringy fruit/ shrub with white round seeds inside. The hairy leaves are long, broad and rounded. The plant has flowers which sport five white-yellow petals and have a red-to-purple hue at its bottom. As a tropical plant, it is heat and drought-resistant. It blossoms in sunlight and is best cultivated in soil that is acidic. The seed pods require a lot of water.

Okra is grown in tropical regions and warm humid countries like India, Asia and Africa. In India, the major cultivators are UP and Bihar, AP and Karnataka, West Bengal, Assam and Odisha.

Bhindi and its various names

Going by more than one name, our beloved bhindi is also called vendakkai in Tamil, ventaykka in Malayalam, bhindo in Gujarati, bendekayi in Kannada, bhendi in Marathi, dhenras in Bengali and so on.  Bhindi has its unique name in Sanskrit too. It is called Asra-pattraka.

Loved and enjoyed

Bhindi is commonly found in many Indian preparations, lending itself as a part of most Indian spreads. These are long and fresh.  Select the ones that are delicate but firm and without black spots. Black spots indicate worms which are found in this vegetable hence it should be carefully avoided. Bhindi that is broken should also be avoided.

Watch out for okra which has lost its tenderness. They become leathery very fast and get tough to eat. It is, for this reason, the seed pods are harvested within a week of pollination. This way this veggie remains fresh when it hits the market.

To keep bhindi crisp, pack it in plastic packets and store them preferably in the fridge. Make small 2-3 holes in the plastic bag when storing the bhindi.

The one feature of this delicious veggie is that it is slimy. To get rid of the sliminess, wash and dry them immediately before storing them. Dry them well. Alternatively, you can cut it and sauté it in hot oil till it loses its sliminess. Then store it in an air-tight container.

Healthy goodness galore

Bhindi is rich in antioxidants, dietary fibres, vitamins A, B, C, and K, and minerals such as folate, thiamin, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. It is low in calories as well as sodium making this a potentially healthy vegetable to treat or prevent many ailments. Bhindi is our beloved vegetable not just for its delicious taste but also because it keeps us in good health.

As bhindi contains a lot of insoluble fibre it aids digestion. This is good for diabetics too. An additional benefit of fibre is that it absorbs bad cholesterol thus reducing the risk of heart issues.

Rich in calcium and vitamin K, this ladyfinger helps you to flaunt strong bones. Vitamin A and beta-carotene boost strong vision and vitamin C helps build immunity. It also helps asthmatics. So, let us have more bhindi masala on the table, please.

The good news is also that this awesome vegetable promotes skin health as it keeps your complexion healthy. It decreases the pigmentation of the skin thus reducing the signs of ageing. Yay!

As it is low in calories have okra more often to keep your weight under control. It helps cut obesity as it keeps one feeling full for long periods.

Bhindi prevents and treats constipation reducing the risk of certain cancers especially colorectal cancer. It is not surprising that this seedy vegetable is fast winning the race to being a superfood for diabetes and cancer.

Okra for diabetics

Diabetes is a lifelong condition and anyone who is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes must follow a healthy lifestyle. It has been said that okra helps manage blood sugar levels in diabetics. In Ayurveda, bhindi is used to lower blood sugar levels and control certain types of diabetes. Because it is low on the glycemic index (GI) scale it has minimal effect on blood glucose.

If you are a diabetic there is a great way of keeping diabetes in check. Cut 3-4 bhindi and soak them overnight in water. The next day, have the juice on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning.  The insoluble fibre in okra can help stabilize blood glucose by reducing the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract. One will benefit tremendously from this home remedy and the bonus is loads of goodness from the range of nutrition that it offers.

But, please note that bhindi should not be used as a substitute for insulin or any regular medical treatment. It is advised to speak with the doctor before trying bhindi as a holistic treatment.

Bhindi is a versatile vegetable as you can make varieties of curries, fries, crispy snacks, grilled, and pickles from it. If you have not tried sambhar with loads of bhindi in it you have missed something. This nutrition-dense vegetable is easy to cultivate so you can grow it in your own backyard.

So, enjoy the taste and the health benefits!

Trivia

The dry skin of okra is used in the manufacture of paper, cardboard and bast fibre, while the root and stem are used in the cleaning process of cane juice while prepping to make jaggery.

A study indicates that okra oil is suitable for use as a biofuel.

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