Foodie Tuesday: Okra, Part 1 – History, Health and Beauty Benefits

Where Did Okra Come From?

this is an okra plantAmong the many vegetables that West Africans brought with them on the slave ships was okra, the seeds for which some historians believe people purposely hid in their hair.

The name for this vegetable, also known as “lady fingers” probably derives from the Niger-Congo group of languages. For instance, in the West African Twi language, okra is called nkuruma. In Louisiana, slaves taught Creoles how to use okra (called gombo in French) to thicken soups and the vegetable is an essential ingredient in the dish that is now called “gumbo.”

Okra is a vegetable with a long history. Historians believe that okra was cultivated in Ethiopia as far back as the 12th century B.C, making its way from there to West Africa. During the years of the Atlantic slave trade, it spread across the world. You’ll now see okra in African, Middle Eastern, Greek, Turkish, Indian, Caribbean, and South American cuisines.

Health Benefits

okra pods - the vegetable comes in both purple and green varietiesIn Japan’s Kowchi Prefecture, where farmers specialize in growing okra, residents credit their good health and beautiful smiles to the vegetable. And no wonder! One-half cup of this superfood contains 83.6 mcg of folate, or 22% of your daily requirement. It’s also high in a number of other B vitamins, as well as vitamin C and A, iron, and calcium. Okra’s high fiber content makes it useful for digestion.  In addition, mucilage and fiber found in okra helps adjust blood sugar by regulating its absorption in the small intestine, which makes it a great food for people who are concerned about Type II Diabetes.

Beauty Benefits

Cleopatra of Egypt and Yang Guifei of China, both of whom were considered beautiful women, loved to eat okra for its health and beauty benefits.  Okra can become “sticky” when cooked using certain techniques; it’s this slimy quality that makes it a good thickener in soups and stews. It also makes it a good setting lotion (see this recipe from Black Hair Media), final hair rinse, natural hair gel and lice eradicator. To make a natural okra-based conditioner:

  1.  Boil horizontally sliced okra till the brew become maximally slimy.
  2. Cool it and add a few drops of lemon or your favorite natural scent.
  3. Use this as your last hair rinse for body and softness.

Okra, Part 2 – Cooking Okra w/out the Slime

Tune in next Tuesday for information on how to cook okra, including a couple of really tasty recipes that use techniques that prevent it becoming “slimy.”

This is important news for any woman who might become pregnant and it makes sense, since our bodies require B-12 to process folic acid. And it’s one more reason to Go Folic! with a multi-vitamin. The study that this recommendation is based on recommends that women supplement with at least 2.5 mcg of B-12 everyday. Go Folic! Multis, which San Francisco women can get for free from the health department contain 6 mcg. If you don’t live in San Francisco, any multivitamin with 100% of the RDA will have this amount.

Resolutions for the Keeping

ImageWith the recent Chinese New Year celebrations, it is not too late to check up on those New Year’s resolutions initially established, as well as fashion some new ones because it is only just the beginning, and it’s never too late to make some changes in one’s life. But, with the making of these resolutions comes the problem of keeping them. Often times, resolutions are too big and too ambitious to be maintained, and therefore fall through, only to be revived yet again at the same time next year. From the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, are some guidelines for making resolutions, so you can better follow the goals that you set for yourself:

1. Instead of coming up with a broad resolution, such as, “I want to lose weight” or “I want to get physically active,” come up with a more specific goal, such as “I’m going to jog each morning” or “I will workout for 30 minutes each day.”

2.  Focus on one resolution that can be successfully achieved, instead of having multiple tasks going on that you want to complete.

3. Make a list to remind yourself of what you need to do each day to accomplish your goals.

4. Once you set your specific resolution of choice, start taking steps towards achieving the goal right away! Whether it be leaving your computer and going for a stroll or planning a healthy next meal, action without delay is key!

ImageNeed a resolution to begin with? Never fear, here are some general and popular resolutions that you can make your own, and strive to achieve depending on your lifestyle, taken from

1. Lose weight

A common resolution throughout this country, but very achievable if you have a plan. Keep a journal of what you eat and how much you exercise daily, it will help you keep up and stick to your goals!

2. Stay in touch

Rekindle old friendships and catch up with friends you haven’t seen or talked to in a while. All the social resources are out there, especially Facebook, and the more friends you make, the better, because they will only make your life even happier and more exciting.

3. Save money

Spend only when you need to, and buy only what you will use. Try to set limits on your spending each week/month depending on your tendencies.

4. Cut your stress

Lighten the load and learn to say “no” to things that you don’t have to absolutely do. Take breaks throughout the day, walk around and listen to music to keep your mood relaxed and your mind focused.

5. Volunteer

Pour some time and energy into a cause you care about, whether it is the local animal shelter or soup kitchen. Helping out another in need gives great feelings of happiness and positivity, which are good for the mind and soul.

6. Get more sleep

A full dose of shut-eye is essentially your way to reboot daily. Getting in more sleep, whether it be sleeping earlier or taking naps during the day, is very beneficial for the wellbeing and strength of the brain and mind.

I hope these tips help you make and keep your resolutions in the New Year. And if you aren’t one to make resolutions, these can just be suggestions for having a healthy and happy life in general. Enjoy!


CONTEST ALERT – From our friends at ISIS, Inc.!

We all do little things to keep ourselves healthy.  Some of us walk to school or work instead of driving.  Sometimes we turn off the TV and head outside.  Some of us even take multivitamins with folic acid!

What creative things are you doing in your life to make yourself healthy?  Our friends at ISIS, Inc. want to hear all about it!

Today is for Tomorrow is a preconception health campaign for young women (ages 16-24) in California. Preconception years are the years where you could get pregnant, choose to get pregnant, or are in between pregnancies. Not planning to get pregnant anytime soon? That is okay, staying healthy starts way before ever deciding to have a baby, and most of the small changes you can make today can make a big impact on your tomorrow.

If you’re a young woman between the ages of 16 and 24, you’re eligible to enter ISIS, Inc.’s Today is For Tomorrow contest.  Let ISIS, Inc. know – in 140 characters or less – what things you do to keep yourself healthy.  You’ll have a chance to win a $2,000 scholarship, Nintendo Wii, or other great prizes.

Contest ends July 10th (24th!*), so hurry to to submit your entry!

*Contest deadline has been extended until July 24th!

Notes From the Field – Richmond Community Health Festival

On Saturday, May 14th, Go Folic! particpated in the 7th Annual Richmond Community Health Festival. People from all over the community gathered inside the huge gym to receive free health information and screenings for blood pressure, bone density, vision, and body mass index, among other things. Outside of the rec center, there were food tastings with steamed buns from local vendors. For the children, a book mobile was onsite, allowing them to view and purchase books.

The event was a huge success! Mei Lin and I had a steady stream of people interested in learning more about folic acid and receiving vitamins.

I remember one woman, in particular.  She came up to me and asked if she could take some vitamins for her daughter who had given birth two years ago but had stopped taking vitamins.

“Of course you can!” I replied.

She then explained that her daughter would only take them if she was the one to bring them to her. This mother talked about her relationship with her daughter and how important it was for her to be involved in her life.

She mimicked her daughter saying, “She says to me,  ‘You don’t know, you’re old Chinese’! I say to her, ‘I’m right Chinese, so do it’!” After that, her daughter would do whatever she suggested.

We died laughing, but it was great to see how it’s possible to reach people through others. I’ll bet $100 that her daughter is taking her vitamins religiously!

Nutrition Notes: Are Advertisers Controlling What We Eat??

At Go Folic! we always have an eye on what’s going on in the world of nutrition.  That’s because we know that good diet choices are important to the health of teen and adult women.  Lately a lot of people have been writing about the affects of advertising on our food choices.

Last week the Los Angeles Times wrote about the increase in fast food advertising to young kids.  “Exposure to fast food advertising is escalating, according to the report. In 2009 preschoolers saw 56% more ads for Subway, 21% more ads for McDonald’s and 9% more ads for Burger King, compared with 2007.  Children age 6 to 11 saw even more: 59% more ads for Subway, 26% more for McDonald’s and 10% more for Burger King.  The report also found that African American kids and teens are exposed to at least 50% more fast food ads than their white counterparts.”

It’s pretty scary to think that fast food companies are targeting kids as young as pre-school, especially when most of the food is high in fat, sugar, and salt, and very low in nutritional value.

Another interesting article was written recently about teens and sports drinks.  The article reported that teens think that sports drinks are healthy.  However, sports drinks have high sugar content and low nutritional value.  So they are really not healthy. The article reminded us a lot of our Clinician’s Corner post about the problems with energy drinks.

is this gatorade good for me?From the Medline Plus article: ” ‘Adolescents who engage in an otherwise reasonably healthy lifestyle with lots of physical activity and a healthy diet still consume large amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages in the form of flavored and sports beverages,’ she added. ‘We believe that this is due to successful marketing that has led consumers to see these beverages as healthy.’ ”  Read the full article and learn more about the study here.

Just because something is marketed as healthy does not always mean that it is good for your body.  It’s important to look carefully at the ingredients and nutrition label for everything you eat or drink.  That way you can make a smart decision for yourself, rather than follow what the advertisers tell you.

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Forget Me Not

Forget Me Not?According to Barbara Kass-Annese, Go Folic! Medical Consultant, the best time to take your multivitamin is at the end of a meal.  Taking your vitamin with food makes it easier for your body to absorb the nutrients.  But remembering to take your vitamin can be difficult.  We lead busy lives and it’s easy to forget.  That’s why Go Folic! asked around and came up with some helpful tips for remembering to take your vitamin with folic acid every day.

1. Write yourself a note

2. Set an alarm on your cell phone

3. Put the bottle somewhere where you can see it everyday

4. Start taking them with a friend

5. Make it part of your daily routine

6. Keep the bottle in your purse

7. Take it before you brush your teeth

The most effective time to take your multivitamin with folic acid is at the end of a meal.  But the best time for you is whenever you remember!