Extracts from different parts of this water plant including its leaves, stems, roots and seeds have been reported to show several benefits, such as antioxidant, free radical scavenging, anti-inflammatory, and immuno-modulatory activities. Makhanas have also been used in religious rituals in India.
Interestingly, the lotus seeds are also called fox nut or gorgon nut. However, being low in fat and high in carbohydrates, these are nutritionally distinct from nuts and seeds. Lotus seeds are a good source of protein, carbohydrates, fibre, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron and zinc. Lotus seeds are also low in sodium.
Their low sodium and high magnesium content makes them useful for those suffering from heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. These seeds have been used extensively in traditional Oriental and Chinese medicine for their health benefits and are valued for their nutritional and healing properties.
These seeds contain an anti-aging enzyme, which is believed to help repair damaged proteins.
Lotus seeds are also known to contain kaempferol, a natural flavonoid also found in coffee which prevents inflammation and aging.
It is believed that roasted lotus seeds make a coffee substitute. In addition, lotus seeds are high on phyto-nutrients (disease fighting nutrients) including alkaloids, gallic acid, saponins.
Most significantly, the glycemic index of lotus seed is significantly lower than most high carbohydrate foods like rice, bread and others. It appears that lotus seeds may have a beneficial effect on diabetic individuals, and may be one of the more appropriate foods for them.
According to Ayurveda, lotus seeds have astringent properties that have specific benefits to the kidneys, helping to restore vital energy within the body.
The seeds can be eaten raw, roasted, or ground and boiled into a syrup or paste. The most common use of the seed is in the form of lotus seed paste, which is used extensively in Chinese pastries as well as in Japanese desserts. Dried lotus seeds may be soaked in water overnight prior to use. They can then be added directly to soups, salads or used in other dishes. Puffed seeds are used in curries, kheer, puddings and dry roasted snacks.
So far, as there are no detailed reports on the toxic effects of long-term consumption of lotus seeds and their products, further experiments are warranted. Although nutraceutical value of lotus seeds is established, further precise exploration of value-added compounds might be beneficial in health promotion.
Lotus seeds hold a promising future as an alternate gluten-free protein supplement and potential nutra-ceutical and pharmaceutical source. Blending its flour with other nutritionally rich legumes like daals and soybean or millets like bajra and jowar will be of immense value to develop low-cost, gluten-free, protein-rich food supplements to combat malnutrition, particularly relevant to India.
Hence, introduce the ‘makhana’ snack food in your regular diet for that healthy edge.