Activist Michael Pollan reminds us, “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” But when we are young and cocky, we often rebel against everything familiar — including nourishing, healthy foods. C’mon! Fries, chicken nuggets, popcorn, chocolate shakes, and other processed foods — haven’t we all indulged in these junk food items at some point because they were addictive and popular?
Variations With Makhana
Growing up in a Hindu home, I saw my mom use makhana in religious ceremonies and cook it on the days she fasted. She would roast it in ghee, along with peanuts, rock salt, and black pepper. We would all wait to snack on this thing that crackled like popcorn. It tasted so good. Not just sautéed makhana; the beauty of these lotus seeds is in their versatility. I remember that my mother and nani (maternal grandmother) used makhana to make decadent kheer (dessert), pulao, and even a vegetable curry with peas or mushrooms. It was considered a great vegetarian option for parties.
Even though I have always enjoyed cooking and entertaining, for the longest time, I didn’t keep makhana in my pantry. It wasn’t a conscious effort to ignore this super food; it just never occurred to me. Perhaps because when we are younger, we tended to take everything for granted. Maybe, I just assumed mom would always be there. And that, if I wanted to eat makhana, she would make it for me when I visited India.
My mother would often say, “With age, our roots call out to us.” As a teenager, I would roll my eyes at her. What she didn’t tell me was that with age, we all become our mothers.
While the twenties took with them my arrogance and taste buds, the thirties took away my mother, who was an excellent cook and healer. The food was our connection. She shared Ayurvedic wisdom (without even realizing she was doing so) and talked passionately about the healing properties of food. So, after my mother died, I started to savor and re-create many of her recipes in my own kitchen.
As I pursued Ayurveda and became an Ayurveda health counselor, I turned toward what my grandmother and mother preached about food and their medicinal properties. I saw the merit in them. My food habits, and as a direct result my life philosophy, changed.
I have a postgraduate degree in Sports Nutrition, so my husband and I have always been motivated to eat healthy, while being mindful of including all the food groups and eating mostly plant-based meals. But over the years, the more old-school-go-back-to-your-roots cooking started to appeal to me. For instance, the dish ‘kitchari’ with root, stem, leafy vegetables, and spices started to replace pasta with veggies. Ghee, as opposed to olive oil, found a permanent place in my kitchen cabinet.
It was in my journey of discovering healing foods and keeping the essence of my mother’s cooking alive that I got reintroduced to makhana. Seamlessly, makhana became a popular afternoon snack in my home, instead of a protein bar or wasabi peas.
Makhana, also known as fox nut, comes from a plant called Euryale Fox. In both Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, makhana has been valued for its nutritional and healing properties.
Benefits Of Makhana
- Removes Toxins: According to Ayurveda, makhana has astringent properties. What does that mean? It removes toxins and, hence, can benefit the kidneys directly. It also aids in digestion and can be beneficial in controlling diarrhea.
- Lowers Heart Attack Risk: Given that it is low in cholesterol, fat, and sodium, regular intake of makhana can help lower the risk of heart attack.
- Controls Blood Pressure: Because of its high magnesium and low sodium content, makhana is also good for those suffering from high blood pressure and obesity.
- Beneficial For Diabetics: Makhana has a low glycemic index, which is why it is recommended for diabetics.
- Slows Aging: Experts believe that kaempferol, which is found in makhana, is an antioxidant – meaning it protects the body from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. It also helps prevent inflammation and slows down the effects of aging.
- Helps Lose Weight: Makhana is gluten-free, rich in protein, and low in calories. Therefore, it can aid in weight loss, as well as strengthen the hair and muscles.
- Increases Sex Drive: Both Ayurvedic and Unani medicine believe that makhana has aphrodisiac qualities.