Okra Chips: Nutrients, Benefits, and Recipe

Okra, also called Abelmoschus esculentus L. or lady’s finger, is a vegetable native to Africa. Today, it grows throughout many tropical and subtropical regions (1).

Okra seedpods are a mucilaginous food, meaning that they produce a sticky, glue-like substance. They’ve long been used in traditional African and Asian medicine to treat conditions such as gastritis (1, 2).

Okra chips are a handy way to boost your dietary fiber intake and gain the benefits of okras, without any stickiness.

This article explains how to make okra chips and discusses their nutrition, health benefits, and potential downsides.

Although okra chips can be purchased ready-made online or at specialty stores, you can also make them from scratch at home. This way, you can customize them to your taste for a nutritious and quick snack.

Step 1: Prepare

One pound of okra serves about four people as a snack or side dish.

To make okra chips, you can slice the okra lengthwise or into quarter-inch pieces. However, be mindful that the more you cut the vegetable, the stickier the texture.

The University of Illinois Extension recommends soaking cut okra in vinegar for 30 minutes to remove some of the stickiness. Then, rinse with clear water and pat dry with paper towels (3).

A West Indian practice for choosing soft and palatable okras is to test them by breaking their ends. If the end snaps off, it’s young, but if it bends without snapping, it’s on the older side.

Because older okras are stringy with a hard texture and are difficult to chew, you may want to omit these from your recipes.

Step 2: Season

There are almost endless options when it comes to seasoning your chips, depending on your preferences and palate.

At a minimum, you may want to toss the okra in olive oil and a little salt. Alternatively, you can add a blend of flavors such as paprika, black pepper, chili powder, or amchur powder.

If frying, you may create a batter using all-purpose flour seasoned with parsley, oregano, salt, black pepper, and paprika, or any other spices you desire.

If you’re after a gluten-free option, simply use cornmeal or other types of gluten-free flour in place of all-purpose flour.

Step 3: Cook

To make chips, you can fry, dehydrate, bake, or air-fry the prepared okra.

Even though deep-frying gives food a unique combination of flavors and texture, research has shown that it may induce inflammation in your body. It also increases your exposure to potentially cancer-causing compounds (4, 5, 6).

Furthermore, repeatedly heating vegetable oils at high temperatures reduces their nutritional benefits. Therefore, it’s best not to reuse frying oils (5).

Baking or air-frying vegetables at high heat for a shorter duration has been shown to preserve the quality of the food more than deep-frying. It also requires less oil (7).

Air-fry the okra chips at 270ºF (132ºC) for 15–20 minutes or oven bake for 40–45 minutes at 400ºF (204ºC). They’re ready when they begin to brown and turn crispy.

Lastly, you can also dehydrate unseasoned okra by slicing them into quarter-inch pieces, spreading them on a tray, and leaving them in the dehydrator for 4–5 hours at low heat.

Follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food safety guidelines for any leftover chips. Store them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator within 1 hour of cooking and use within 3–4 days. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to reheat all leftovers to 165ºF (74ºC) (8).

Summary

Prepare okra by slicing and soaking in vinegar for 30 minutes to remove the stickiness. Season as desired, then air-fry or bake to make chips. Okra can also be dehydrated or deep-fried, although the latter option may not be the healthiest.

Okra is low in calories and a good source of dietary fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Just 1 cup (100 grams) of raw okra provides 33 calories and 14–15% of the Daily Value (DV) of magnesium, folate, and vitamin B6 (9).

It’s also a rich source of vitamins C and K, providing 26% of the DV of both per cup (100 grams) (9).

Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties that plays an important role in immune health. Meanwhile, vitamin K supports proper blood clotting and bone health (10, 11, 12).

Other antioxidants found in okra include polyphenols, flavonoids, and isoquercitrin (1).

These antioxidants reduce harmful free radicals in your body and protect against the negative health effects of chronic inflammation (13, 14).

Preparing your okra chips with heart-friendly fats like olive oil increases the nutritional benefits of your homemade snack (15).

However, not all okra chips are nutritionally equivalent. For instance, deep-frying may alter the nutrient profile of okra chips and other foods by increasing fat and calories and reducing nutrients such as vitamin C (16, 17).

Summary

Okra is a good source of magnesium, folate, and vitamins B6, C, and K. It’s also rich in antioxidants such as polyphenols, flavonoids, and isoquercitrin, all of which reduce free radicals in your body to protect against chronic inflammation.

Some health benefits have been attributed to eating okra or okra extracts.

May offer anti-fatigue properties

Some animal research suggests that okra may provide anti-fatigue and antioxidant effects.

These benefits have been found to relate to okra’s seeds more than its skin, although similar benefits have been observed when the okra stem is used as well (1, 18, 19).

For example, in one mouse study, a diet rich in ground okra seeds reduced fatigue more than both ground okra skin (1).

Other mouse research has also demonstrated that okra extract has effective anti-fatigue properties. These benefits have been attributed to its antioxidant content (19, 20, 21).

These findings hold promise for the development of therapeutic products to support people with Parkinson’s disease, cancer, HIV, and other conditions that induce fatigue (1).

Still, research in animals can’t be directly translated to outcomes in humans, warranting more research in this area.

May lower cholesterol

Some studies suggest that okra could help lower cholesterol levels (22).

Research in mice has shown that okra powder could reduce cholesterol levels by increasing the breakdown of cholesterol and inhibiting the production of cholesterol in the body (23).

In other animal studies, okra powder has been shown to lower cholesterol by binding to dietary cholesterol and preventing its absorption in the body (23).

These findings suggest that okra powder has a potential role in treating high cholesterol levels and the management of metabolic disorders. Still, more specific research in humans eating whole okra is needed to learn more (22, 23, 24).

Other health benefits

According to test-tube studies, the lectin content of okra could have antitumor effects in human breast cancer cells. As such, okra is now being explored as a potential adjunct treatment to breast cancer (25).

Lectins are proteins naturally found in some vegetables and legumes, and they’ve been shown to inhibit cell growth in some instances (25).

Further, okra extract may keep bacteria called H. pylori from attaching to the stomach, thereby guarding against gastritis, which is inflammation of the stomach due to bacterial infection. In fact, okra has long been used in traditional medicine for this purpose (2).

Lastly, isoquercitrin in okra is believed to protect against oxidative stress, help prevent chronic inflammation, and slow muscle loss in mice treated for denervated muscle atrophy (14, 26).

This is a condition characterized by muscle loss and weakness, also seen in individuals who are bedridden.

However, keep in mind that much of this research is based on ground okra or specific okra extracts used in isolation. It’s not specific to okra chips, which should be enjoyed as part of a balanced, nutritious diet.

Summary

Okra contains protective antioxidants that may offer anti-fatigue, cholesterol-lowering, antitumor, and slowed muscle loss benefits. It may also guard against gastritis. Still, more research is needed to better understand any potential health benefits.

Eating okra is generally regarded as safe. However, research has explored its relation to food allergies in Nigeria (27).

As with all other foods, avoid okra if you experience side effects or have a food allergy to it with reactions such as respiratory difficulties, skin rashes, or itchy throat.

Although okra is high in dietary fiber, suddenly increasing your intake of dietary fiber may also cause bloating, constipation, and abdominal pain (28).

To avoid these side effects, try to gradually introduce fiber-rich food to your diet, alongside a corresponding increase in water intake.

The sliminess and stickiness of okra may be a deterrent for some. However, okra chips are one way you can enjoy okra without the slime.

Summary

Okra is generally safe to eat, though it may be a potential food allergen in some regions of Africa. Its stickiness may be a deterrent for some, but okra chips are a good way to enjoy okra without it.

Okra seedpods are a type of vegetable used in traditional African and Asian medicine to treat conditions such as gastritis.

Okra is a good source of magnesium, folate, and vitamins B6, C, and K. It’s also rich in antioxidants such as polyphenols, flavonoids, and isoquercitrin, which may provide anti-fatigue, cholesterol-lowering, antitumor, and slowed muscle loss benefits.

Okra chips can be enjoyed air-fried, fried, dehydrated, or baked and is a fun way to enjoy okra without the stickiness.

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