Do you have fond memories of munching on ghee-roasted Makhana during childhood?
The pale-coloured, crunchy and nutritious balls are indeed tasty and form an integral part of many Indian households.
So what exactly is Makhana?
Makhana is popularly known as Lotus Seed. Depending on the region, it is also called Gorgon Nut, Fox Nut or Phool Makhana.
If you are new to makhana, think of it as a snack just like popcorn. While popcorn is nothing but popped corn, Makhana is popped Lotus seed. To elaborate, it is the edible starchy kernel found inside the lotus seed.
Although making popcorn is simple, extracting makhana from hard-coated lotus seeds is a laborious and time-consuming job. But the good news is that you don’t have to worry about any of that. Popped makhana is readily available in the market, both in plain and flavoured forms.
Makhana is considered a pious food in India and is offered to the Gods during Navratri. For people who go on fasts, dry or ghee roasted makhana is a healthy yet tasty alternative over the usual sabudana and potato fries.
In its original form, makhana has a bland taste and takes on the flavour of the dish you add it to. This is the reason why it is used in several Indian foods and sweet dishes like Makhana Kheer, Khoya Makhana, Makhana Raita, Makhana Halwa, and so on.
Makhana paste is highly popular in countries like China and Japan, where it is widely used in pastries and desserts.
Where Does Makhana Come From?
As said earlier, Makhana is the popped seed of Lotus or makhana plant. The plant is a member of the water lily family and commonly grows on wetlands and ponds.
Makhana plants adjust well to the Indian tropical climate. While they grow naturally in some places, makhana plants are cultivated commercially in some parts of Bihar, central and eastern pockets of India by local folks. Bihar alone is responsible for 90% of India’s Makhana production.
Lotus or Makhana Plants bear fruits that hold the Makhana seeds inside. Once ripe, the seeds are extracted, cleaned, and assorted for further processing. The black (or brown), hard-coated makhana seeds go through repeated heating and cooling to prepare them for popping.
When ready, the tempered seeds are roasted in a traditional earthen pot or a cast iron pan at high temperature and popped manually using a mallet or hammer. The hammering requires skilled manpower as a few seconds delay in hammering would lead to poor quality popped makhana. In some places, Makhana popping machines are used for safety and efficiency.
Although Makhana is a seasonal crop, it is commercially available throughout the year because of excellent shelf life.
What is Makhana Made Of
These small, round balls are powerhouses of energy and are highly nutritious. Makhana is low in Fat and high in Carbohydrates, Proteins and Minerals; a combination eagerly desired by today’s health-conscious society. The nutritional profile is similar to wheat and other power-packed cereals.
A 32g serving of Makhana (daily recommended dosage for adults) approximately adds up to 106 kCal, which is very reasonable. Since they have high protein and low-fat content, they help one stay full longer after eating. For the same reason, makhanas are great for dealing with untimely hunger pangs, especially if you are trying to lose weight.
Apart from being a good snack, makhana also has immense medicinal value and is used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. It is neutral in nature and helps maintain a healthy balance in the body.
According to Ayurveda, makhanas have a Madhura (sweet) taste and are helpful for people with Pitta or Vata dosha. They also help increase strength and stamina, and provide nourishment to the heart, testes, uterus and ovaries.
More Health Benefits of Makhana
A Healthy Heart
Low in Sodium and High in Potassium, Makhana helps in regulating blood pressure. It is especially useful in helping pregnant women deal with Hypertension. Higher amounts of Magnesium in Makhana improve blood and oxygen levels and prevents the risk of heart diseases.
Diabetes? No Problem!
Makhana has a low Glycemic Index; which means it doesn’t spike your blood glucose levels immediately after eating. (If you are Diabetic, please consult a physician to know the healthy amount you can consume.)
Say Goodbye to Wrinkles
Makhana contains Flavonoids that help destroy free radicals in the body. This activity slows down the ageing process and prevents wrinkles, white and thinning hair. It also improves the circulatory system and lowers cholesterol levels.
Time For Some Detox?
Makhana is neutral in nature and helps in keeping your kidneys in good shape. It also helps in detoxifying the spleen.
High fibre content in Makhana eases passage of bowels and helps deal with constipation and indigestion. Makhana is easily digested by all age groups, which makes it suitable for children and the elderly.
Relieves Postnatal Issues
Makhana is recommended for women during pregnancy and postnatal weaknesses. Being an aphrodisiac, it is also useful in treating sexual problems in men and women.
So How are you planning on using Makhana?
Popped makhana seeds are a great addition to a cooked Indian breakfast, curry or raita. You can even replace heavy, oily fries with crunchy and nutritious ghee-roasted makhanas for tea-time snack.
With different flavours of Makhana available in the market today, your taste buds are definitely in for a treat. After all, what are the odds to resist a snack that is both healthy and tasty?
This article was originally published on the Nummy blog on May 17, 2020.