Okra Soup: A family food

Okra soup is one of the commonly consumed soups in Nigeria. Its main ingredient is chopped or grated Okra, Abelmoschus esculentus, a fruit vegetable that grows easily in the tropics. It is prepared in different ways but the most common is to use meat stock as base of the soup and then add fish, shrimps, bouillon cubes, palm oil and peppers to it till it forms a thick mucilaginous soup. Some people add periwinkle, stock fish, and pomo.

When on a low budget, addition of locust beans would improve the protein content in the absence of beef and fish. Animal protein sources would of course increase the protein quality.

Vegetables such as spinach and Ugu are usually added and this improves the mineral and fibre content of this soup.

Okra soup is a great addition to the family meal however we should be careful of the sodium content of this soup. Addition of meat stock, bouillon cubes and salt greatly increases the sodium content of the soup as well as other soups we consume. According to a 2016 study on the mineral composition of commonly consumed local foods in Nigeria by Morakinyo and other researchers, the sodium content of Garri (Eba) and Okra soup was the highest of all the foods analyzed. Of course, this is just one study and the methods of preparation and ingredients determine what nutrients are in the food but it makes us wonder what the contents of our foods really are. Do we consume very high salt in our meals? Our restaurants and eateries use a lot of salt in the foods we purchase. We should be aware that the contributions of excess salt to our health are detrimental.

We can achieve a balance however. If bouillon cubes or salts are eliminated or reduced in the cooking, this will reduce the sodium content and make our meals safer for consumption.

Okra soup is a great soup for its fibre and micronutrients. It works well for infants and toddlers as well as other members of the family and the time taken to prepare the soup is relatively short.



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