Makhana are actually water lily seeds, an ancient food, harvested and eaten since prehistoric times across Asia and believed to be one of the oldest aquatic crops in Bihar in eastern India. Whilst the vast majority of people in India use the word Makhana, it is also referred to there and worldwide as Phool Makhana, popped lotus seeds, fox nut, ‘gorgon’ nut or, just as water lily seeds. Makhana are seeds produced by Euryale ferox, a water lily so different from any other that it is classified as a separate genus all by itself.
Long known for health giving properties, the nutritional benefits of eating Makhana are valued by both traditional Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine. When Hindu rituals forbid eating grains, Makhana is a well regarded traditional fasting food. Over the last 100 years it has become a commonly used ingredient in Indian household cooking.
Whilst medicinal usage goes back generations, scientific study of Makhana health benefits has begun only relatively recently, but the results have been significant, creating considerable interest. Awareness is building globally and early this year Newsweek heralded Makhana as the “hottest new Superfood snack” in a feature article.
Makhana Health Benefits
Uniquely, Makhana is ‘The Superfood for a Healthy Life’.
Highly nutritious and tasty, roasted Makhana is the perfect snack. It is also used raw as a food ingredient.
Free of the kinds of sugars and saturated fats found in most chips and snacks, Makhana is highly rich in protein, fibre, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron and zinc; whilst low in fat and high in carbohydrates. This makes it nutritionally distinct from other nuts and also healthier than dry fruits like almonds, walnuts, coconut and cashews in terms of sugar, protein, ascorbic acid and phenol content. It is also significantly lower in the glycemic index than most high carbohydrate foods like rice or bread – and gluten-free.
Newsweek also refers to a 2014 study in the journal Internet Archaeology, which stated that Makhana has “more essential amino acids than rice, wheat, soybeans or fish.” It is also generally believed, according to an article in The Frontiers in Plant Science, January 2017 that active components in Makhana “are responsible for biological or pharmaceutical activities, and a wide variety of pharmaceutically active secondary metabolites have been found, including flavonoids and alkaloids.”
Flavonoids are important antioxidants, promoting important anti-viral, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy (eczema, sinusitis, asthma, and hay fever) health benefits. Examples of foods that are rich in flavonoids include parsley, blueberries, dark chocolate and red wine. Whilst, Alkaloids are the emerging therapeutic alternative for the treatment of depression, providing antidepressant effects which promote well-being; reduce insomnia or hypersomnia; anorexia or bulimia; increase energy and libido; and improve body rhythms as well as many endocrine functions.
There are well over twenty significant health-related conditions that Makhana can help, including: boosting immune systems, heart disease, weight loss, diabetes, anti-ageing, arthritis, preventing diarrhoea, reducing blood sugar levels and blood pressure. (As well as those mentioned above.)
What is fascinating is that with research now ongoing, what other conditions could Makhana, this amazing Superfood, help to treat?