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Home arrow Nutrition arrow Healthy Eating arrow Is Gumbo Healthy? Calories and Other Nutrition Facts

Is Gumbo Healthy? Calories and Other Nutrition Facts

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Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: April 4, 2023
6 min read 1308 Views 0 Comments
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Gumbo is a popular dish in the Southern United States that typically includes a variety of vegetables, meats, and spices. This article looks into the nutritional profile of gumbo, whether it is diabetes-friendly, and if it increases the risk of obesity and health problems.

is gumbo healthy

Gumbo is derived from “ki ngombo,” an African word for okra, one of the ingredients. 

In Choctaw, a native American language, “Kombo” is pronounced the same as the dish, meaning “file.” Surprisingly, one of the ingredients of gumbo is file powder, which means that the dish could have been named after its ingredients. 

Although the dish is popular due to a combination of different cultures, the flavorful stew originated in Louisiana, where French cuisine is quite popular, including gumbo.

The nutrition content of gumbo often raises concerns among weight watchers due to the ingredients such as flour and fat. So how many calories does gumbo have, and is it suitable for people with diabetes? 

This article will look at the nutritional content of gumbo, its health benefits, and whether it fits into a healthy diet.

What Is Gumbo?

Gumbo is a flavorful stew that is a staple in Louisiana. Traditionally gumbo consists of a combination of the “holy trinity” of vegetables (celery, onions, and bell peppers), with meat or seafood, such as chicken, shrimp, crabs, or sausage, along with seasonings and spices, such as garlic, bay leaves, and cayenne pepper. 

The dish is thickened by roux (a mixture of fat and flour cooked together), fresh okra, and file powder. The roux is cooked until lightly browned to give a rich nutty flavor. The delicious dish is often served with hot cooked rice.

Is Gumbo Healthy?

Gumbo is a healthy dish, depending on the ingredients and portion size. The vegetables, lean meats, and seafood used in gumbo are good sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.

Make gumbo healthier by toasting flour with healthier oil such as olive or canola oil, and use a vegetable broth made with vegetable stock. Also, replace refined wheat flour with cassava flour to make it gluten-free.

3 Health Benefits of Gumbo

Gumbo is packed with flavor and nutrition! Here are three main health benefits of gumbo.

#1 It is a nutritional powerhouse

The delicious dish is full of nutritious ingredients like okra, tomatoes, and various spices. These ingredients make gumbo a great source of vitamins A, C, and B6, as well as iron, zinc, and magnesium. 

These vitamins and minerals can help you maintain a healthy immune system and provide energy throughout the day.

#2 Contains beneficial antioxidants

Gumbo is also a great source of polyphenols, which are antioxidants that protect the body from free radicals that damage cells and cause disease. Antioxidants also reduce inflammation in the body, thus enhancing brain health and reducing the risk of heart disease.

Studies reveal that regular consumption of antioxidants reduces the risk of cancer. Okra, an ingredient in gumbo, contains a lectin that has been shown to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells in humans.

#3 Diabetes-friendly

Gumbo is a filling dish low in calories, carbs, and sugars and does not negatively affect blood sugar levels. 

It contains dietary fiber, which is excellent for maintaining a healthy gut and keeping you full for longer, so you can avoid unhealthy snacks and maintain a healthy weight. This means it can also help reduce the risk of obesity and other health problems, such as hypertension and stroke, that would be detrimental to people with diabetes.

Moreover, research shows that okra, one of the key ingredients of gumbo, helps to lower blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Nutrition Facts of Gumbo

Here are some general nutrition facts about gumbo with no rice. The nutrition facts of your specific gumbo dish may vary depending on the ingredients and amounts used.

Nutritional value (per 100g)

Calories/ Nutrient (per 100g)Amount
Calories (kcal)83
Net Carbs (g)3.13
Fiber (g)0.9
Sugar (g)1.83
Fats (Total)3.68
Protein (g)8.54
Cholesterol (mg)33

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/2342324/nutrients 

Low in calories

Gumbo is low in calories and can be a good option for people who want to lose weight. A 100g serving of gumbo with no rice contains 83 calories, which is 4% of the recommended daily calorie target for healthy adults (2,000 calories).

High in proteins

A 100g serving of gumbo contains 8.54g of protein, which is about 17% of the recommended daily allowance for a person weighing 132 pounds. 

According to Harvard Health, you need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, equivalent to 0.36 grams per pound.

Moderate amount of fats

Gumbo contains moderate amounts of fats. A 100g serving provides 3.68g of fat, which is 8% of the daily recommended value based on the recommendations for a 2,000-calorie diet.  

Low in carbs and sugars

The carbs and sugar content of gumbo varies depending on the ingredients. A 100g serving of gumbo with no rice contains 3.13g net carbs, which can be considered low-carb since it only provides 1% of the calories from carbs based on a 2,000-calorie diet and the recommendations to reduce the risk of chronic disease.

Rich in vitamins and minerals

Gumbo is an excellent source of B vitamins, vitamin C (26% of DV), vitamin A (14% of DV), vitamin K (26% of DV), magnesium (14% of DV), and folate (15% of DV).

Vitamin C improves the overall immune function; the B vitamins enhance energy production, while vitamin K enhances blood clotting.

Low in cholesterol

One serving of gumbo (100g) contains 33mg of cholesterol, which is only 11% of the daily value. The previous recommendation by USDA was to limit cholesterol intake to below 300mg per day. The recent recommendations suggest no evidence that dietary cholesterol is linked to cardiovascular disease.

Gumbo vs. Jambalaya

 GumboJambalaya
OriginLouisiana region of the United States. Also linked to Creole and Cajun roots and French cuisineLouisiana region of the United States. Also linked to Creole and Cajun roots with a mix of French and Spanish influence
Use of riceRice is a side dishRice is an integral ingredient
TextureHas a thicker texture and uses roux, okra, and/or file powder as a thickenerIt is a soup-like dish, does not use any thickener
SeasoningUses the “holy trinity” (onions, celery, and bell pepper) in the recipeUses the “holy trinity” (onions, celery, and bell pepper) in the recipe and served with hot sauce and cayenne pepper

Healthy Sausage Gumbo Recipe

Here’s a delicious and healthy chicken and sausage gumbo recipe you can make at home! Use low-sodium shrimp for seafood gumbo since the sausage contains sodium in high amounts.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 50 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, large and diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 celery stalk, minced
  • 4 cups cooked chicken broth (should be reduced sodium)
  • 10 frozen okra pods, trimmed, cut into ½’’ pieces lengthwise to fill 1 cup
  • 1½ cups diced tomatoes
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • Cayenne pepper, a pinch
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 6oz medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4oz boneless and skinless chicken breast (thigh meat could work too) cut into ½’’ pieces
  • 2oz Andouille sausage, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. Toast the flour on a cast iron skillet or pan over medium heat, constantly stirring using a silicone or wooden spoon until the flour is lightly browned. Pour the browned flour on a plate and set aside to cool.
  2. Add oil to a stockpot over medium heat. Add onion, celery, garlic, bell pepper, and sauté for 7 minutes or until the onions are light brown. Pour in the toasted flour while stirring. Add in the chicken broth while constantly stirring and allow to simmer.
  3. Add okra, tomatoes, pepper, thyme, oregano, paprika, bay leaf, and cayenne. Cover the stockpot and cook for about 15 minutes. Add the chicken, sausage, and shrimp. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the chicken isn’t pink anymore. The shrimp should be opaque.
  4. Discard bay leaf and add salt. Ladle into serving bowls. Serve with cooked rice.

If you are looking for more recipes, we recommend checking our top nutrition apps for a healthier lifestyle.

FAQs

Is gumbo fattening?

Traditional gumbo recipes have meat, sausage, seafood, and rice, which increase the calorie count. You can opt for lean chicken and use low-calorie thickeners like okra instead of traditional roux.

Is gumbo good or bad for weight loss?

Gumbo is low in calories, carbs, and sugars and can be a part of a healthy weight loss plan depending on how it’s prepared. Try a healthy seafood gumbo with low-sodium broth and lots of vegetables to reduce the calorie count.

A Word From a Nutritionist

Gumbo is a good source of protein and essential vitamins and minerals due to the variety of ingredients used, such as shrimp, chicken, Andouille sausage, okra, and other vegetables. However, it may be high in sodium and fat, depending on the ingredients used. If you make gumbo with high-fat meats, a lot of butter or oil, and white rice, it can be much higher in calories and saturated fat.

Eat healthy gumbo in moderation and add more vegetables and lean protein to the gumbo recipe. You can reduce the sodium content by using low-sodium broth and seasoning. 

Lastly, opt for a whole grain like brown rice or quinoa, or use cauliflower rice instead of white rice to increase the fiber content. With the right ingredients, gumbo can be a nutritious and delicious part of a healthy diet.

Conclusion

Gumbo is a versatile dish that can be made with different meats and vegetables, making it a great option for those who like to experiment with different flavors. Overall, gumbo is a delicious and hearty dish that is sure to please anyone looking for a taste of the South.

Beatrice Wairimu, RD
Beatrice is a registered dietician with vast experience in health and wellness. She specializes in writing for the health and fitness industry. When she is not writing, Beatrice coaches women on healthy eating, exercise, and mental wellness. Her goal is to educate people on healthy living through writing, health promotion, and coaching.
The article was fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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HR_author_photo_Rosmy
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: April 4, 2023
6 min read 1308 Views 0 Comments
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