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Makhana (Fox Nuts): A superfood with many health benefits

The Fox Nut Foxtrot

Raise your hands if you feel like munching on something crunchy and salty and delicious with your cup of tea every evening! If you do, take my advice and instead of the disastrous chips or fried namkeen, snack on popped fox nuts (also called makhana). Not only will they satisfy you more, you’ll do your body a lot of good too.
Not many people know that the underrated seeds of many plants are extremely delicious and healthy, and makhana are a perfect example of that. These seeds of Euryale ferox (and not the lotus plant, as commonly assumed), an aquatic flowering plant that grows in stagnant water in wetlands, have always been very popular during religious rituals in India and have been a prominent fasting food since ancient times. And all for good reason!
Lightly roasted in just a little bit of ghee and seasoned simply with salt and pepper (some add a bit of haldi too), this chameleon food that takes on the flavour of the seasoning added to it, is a great way to satisfy the cravings that undo most good diets.
It’s loaded with fibre, so even eating a small amount of it satisfies hunger pangs, and along with its perfect crunch, it delivers multiple nutrients that are super hard to find. I am a huge fan, and to me, every bite is sheer pleasure!
Need more convincing to include it in your diet? Read on.

Low Glycemic Index

Makhana is a good source of protein and fibre, is moderately high in calories (50 gm will give you 175 calories) but as they are a low glycemic index food, they get digested slowly. And that makes them a better bet for diabetics over other crunchy snacks (yes, even popcorn).

Tame Your Blood Pressure

Makhana helps keep our electrolyte balance and blood pressure in tandem as they are high in potassium but low in sodium (just don’t add too much salt when you roast them).

Gluten-free

Makhana is gluten-free, and so, great for people who are gluten intolerant and even for those who just want to eat gluten-free for a while to give their body a break. This is precisely the reason why makhana flour is much in demand these days.

Reverse Ageing

Fox nuts deliver kaempferol (also found in tea, coffee, broccoli, bell pepper and cabbage), and antioxidants that helps cut inflammation and prevent ageing. For this reason, they are often called the age-locking, wrinkle-banishing seed. They also deliver phytonutrients, alkaloids, gallic acid and saponins, which protect us from common lifestyle disorders, and the high calcium in it helps keep our bones and teeth happy.

Delivers Magnesium

It helps to know that magnesium is found to be lower in those suffering from unhappiness. Makhana delivers a lot of magnesium, so consuming them regularly can help keep us happier. This mineral also helps reduce heart attacks by relaxing the blood vessels. Makhana also delivers zinc, phosphorus and some calcium.

The B1 Benefit

Makhana have vitamin B1 (thiamine), which is hard to find but plays a key role in nerve, muscle and heart function. They are the key to converting the carbohydrates we eat to energy in the body. Not getting enough B1 often leads to chronic fatigue. So, munching on a few fox nuts every day might help you stay charged all day, B1 deficiency has also been linked to vision trouble. Now we know why our grandmas used to tell us to eat these seeds for a super-sharp vision.

Did You Know?
Ayurveda and Unani medicine practitioners consider it an aphrodisiac and a boon for reproductive health.

Banish Insomnia

Makhana has a sedative and calming function too, thanks to the isoquinoline alkaloids found in these seeds. They are also known to improve appetite and detoxify the body.

Easy Tips to Eat Fox Nuts

There are multiple ways to eat makhana of course. You could dry roast them, or roast with a little ghee or coconut oil and flavour them with natural spices and condiments like mint leaves, curry leaves, coriander powder, garlic powder, turmeric powder, green chillies, etc.
They are perfect as a snack mix (just add some peanuts, cashews and/or almonds to them). Seasoned popped makhana is, of course, perfect. Try unusual flavours like wasabi, jalapeño, etc. to keep things interesting. I believe it is a perfect food to wean children (and even adults) away from processed, junk snacks.
I love to soak them overnight, and add them to salads, curries, pulao, raita and desserts. I grew up eating makhana kheer and even today, it is my comfort food.

At a Glance

The benefits of eating makhana include,

  • Tuning your body’s electrolyte balance
  • Preventing inflammation and ageing
  • Ensuring good nerve health
  • Giving a gluten holiday to your body
  • Banishing wrinkles
  • Keeping our heart and mind happy
  • Fighting sleeplessness
  • Staying supercharged and fatigue-free

Fun Fact
Chinese have been using fox nuts as medicine for almost 3,000 years now.


Excerpted with permission from Fix It With Food: Superfoods To Become Super Healthy, Kavita Devgan, Rupa Publications. Read more about the book here and buy it here.

 

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