With more and more people realizing the ill-effects of junk food, there has been a surge in finding healthy alternatives for daily snacks. While granola bars, soy sticks, baked nuts are a favourite, there are several unique options available closer to home. Makhana or Phool Makahana is a popular snack during Navratri and finds significance in many religious ceremonies in India. Makhanas also called fox nuts, or lotus seeds, are derived from a plant called Euryale Ferox, native to Central and Eastern Asia. This aquatic plant resembles the water lily and flourishes in the stagnant water of wetlands and ponds. Extracts from different parts of this plant, including the leaves, stems, roots and seeds have been traditionally used in Ayurveda and Oriental medicine for their health benefits and are valued for their nutritional and healing properties.
Unlike other nuts and seeds, lotus seeds are distinct and provide a good source of protein, carbohydrates, fibre, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc. They are now gaining popularity because of their low sodium and high magnesium content. This makes them very helpful for those suffering from heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.
Lotus seeds also contain kaempferol, a natural flavonoid which prevents inflammation and ageing. In addition, they are also high in phytonutrients including alkaloids, gallic acid, and saponins, known to possess cancer-fighting properties. This gluten-free snack is highly recommended for diabetics due to their low glycemic index compared to other carbohydrate-rich snacks such as puffed rice or corn.
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In India, the puffed makhanas are used in curries, kheer, and puddings. The seed itself has a very neutral taste and takes on the flavours that are added to it. But the best way to snack on makhana is to dry roast them with a hint of salt and pepper. They can also be blended with other nutritionally dense legumes like daals and soybean or millets like bajra and jowar and can be made into rotis or parathas.