Makhana, also known as gorgon nuts or fox nuts, are the popped seeds of the Euryale ferox plant. These crisp, puffy pops have been used for centuries in Asian cuisine and traditional medicine. Native to India and China, makhana is gaining recognition globally as a nutritious superfood. Here is an in-depth look at the many health benefits of this incredible food.
1. Excellent Source of Plant-Based Protein
Makhana is an excellent source of high-quality plant-based protein. A 100-gram serving contains 9.7 grams of protein, providing all 9 essential amino acids. This makes it a complete protein food. The protein in makhana has a high biological value, meaning it is easily absorbed and utilized by the body. Protein is vital to build and repair muscles, bones, skin and blood cells. Consuming makhana regularly helps meet protein needs, especially for vegetarians and vegans.
2. Rich in Antioxidants
Makhana contain a wealth of antioxidants including gallic acid, catechin, kaempferol and astragalin. These plant compounds neutralize free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to cells. By reducing inflammation, antioxidants may help lower risk of chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, atherosclerosis and neurodegenerative disorders. Antioxidants also slow cellular aging for youthful, glowing skin.
3. Excellent Source of Fiber
A 100-gram serving of makhana contains 10.5 grams of fiber, supplying over 40% of the daily recommended intake. Fiber is vital for healthy digestion, gut health and regular bowel movements. Soluble fiber in makhana helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and control blood sugar levels. Fiber also promotes satiety to help with appetite control and weight management.
4. Low in Calories and Fats
With just 81 calories per 100 grams, makhana is a low-calorie food. Its low fat content of 0.1 grams makes it suitable for weight loss diets and for people with heart problems or high cholesterol. Makhana is naturally gluten-free and low in sodium. It can be enjoyed freely without guilt by most people.
5. Provides Essential Minerals
Makhana are a good source of essential minerals like magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc and copper. 100 grams provide 11% magnesium, 12% potassium and 15% manganese of the daily values. Magnesium relaxes nerves and muscles. Potassium regulates fluid balance. Manganese and copper act as antioxidants. Zinc boosts immunity. These minerals are vital for optimal health.
6. Helps Manage Blood Sugar Levels
With a low glycemic index, high magnesium content and antioxidants, makhana may be beneficial for diabetics. Magnesium improves insulin sensitivity and secretion. The low glycemic index ensures blood sugar levels remain steady after eating. Gallic acid alleviates oxidative stress associated with hyperglycemia. Overall, makhana can help manage diabetes.
7. Boosts Heart Health
Several ways makhana may boost cardiovascular health are by lowering blood pressure, reducing LDL cholesterol and preventing plaque buildup. Magnesium and potassium act as vasodilators to relax blood vessels. The fiber, phytosterols and saponins lower LDL cholesterol. Gallic acid and astragalin inhibit platelet aggregation and atherosclerotic lesions.
8. Strengthens Bones
Makhana are a good plant-based source of calcium, providing 15% of the RDI per 100 grams. Calcium builds strong bones and teeth. Magnesium enhances calcium absorption while manganese and zinc are involved in bone matrix formation. The potassium helps neutralize acids that leach calcium from bones. Eating makhana regularly may prevent osteoporosis.
9. Improves Sleep Quality
The high magnesium content of makhana helps promote sleep. Magnesium induces the production of melatonin – the sleep hormone. It also binds to GABA receptors resulting in a sedative effect. People with magnesium deficiency often have trouble falling asleep and wake up frequently during the night. Makhana can help correct magnesium deficiency.
10. Boosts Immunity
Makhana contain several immunity boosting nutrients. Zinc stimulates the production of white blood cells that fight infection. Iron carries oxygen to cells and is needed to produce antibodies. Copper acts as an antioxidant while protein makes antibodies. With antioxidant activity as well, makhana can give a boost to the immune system.
11. Benefits Digestion
The fiber in makhana helps promote regular bowel movements and relieve constipation. It also acts as a prebiotic, feeding good bacteria in the gut for optimal digestion. The magnesium relaxes intestinal muscles for smooth passage of food. Makhana is easy to digest and considered good for sensitive stomachs.
12. Fights Cellular Aging
Antioxidants are the body’s defense against aging. By neutralizing free radicals, antioxidants in makhana help slow cellular aging and prevent disease. The rich supply of antioxidants protects cells from oxidative damage that can lead to premature wrinkling of skin. Eating makhana regularly can help you stay youthful as you age.
13. Protects Liver Health
Makhana may help cleanse and protect the liver due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Animal studies show antioxidant rich plant extracts from makhana inhibit lipid peroxidation and reduce liver enzyme levels indicating liver protection. The fiber also binds to toxins for elimination from the body.
14. Benefits Skin and Hair
With a rich supply of antioxidants, makhana can help achieve smooth, supple skin and strong, shiny hair. Antioxidants fight free radical damage that causes wrinkles and dullness. Protein is needed for collagen production while minerals like zinc and copper boost hair growth. Applying makhana face masks provides added benefits.
15. Supports Weight Loss
The high fiber and protein in makhana promote satiety, keeping you feeling full between meals for effective appetite control. With just 81 calories per 100 grams, makhana can be enjoyed freely without worrying about excess calories. The nutrients also help regulate fat metabolism for healthy, gradual weight loss when combined with exercise.
16. Alleviates Stress and Anxiety
Magnesium deficiency is linked to increased stress, anxiety, irritability and insomnia. Makhana is high in magnesium which relaxes nerves and muscles for a calming effect. Tryptophan, an amino acid in makhana, helps increase serotonin production in the brain for improved mood and reduced anxiety.
17. Enhances Cognitive Function
Animal studies show Euryale ferox seed extracts improve memory and protect against Alzheimer’s progression in rats. This may be attributed to antioxidants that prevent neurodegeneration along with neurotransmitter regulating minerals like magnesium. More human studies are needed, but makhana appears promising for cognitive health.
18. Provides Vitamins and Minerals
In addition to major nutrients, makhana contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. This includes B vitamins like folate, niacin and thiamine which are needed for energy metabolism. Makhanas also provide vitamin E, vitamin K, iron, selenium and calcium. As part of a balanced diet, they help meet essential micronutrient needs.
19. Versatile Ingredient in Recipes
Makhana offer a light, crispy, popcorn-like texture that makes them a versatile ingredient in both sweet and savory recipes. They can be dry roasted and added to trail mixes, granola and salads. In desserts, they provide crunch to cookies, fruit crumbles and ice cream. Makhana flour is also used to make flatbreads, pancakes and muffins.
20. Easy to Add to Diet
Makhana are readily available in both whole and powdered form. The dried whole pops can be eaten as a snack, added to yogurt or used in recipes. Makhana flour or meal can be used for baking gluten-free goods. Makhana tea, milk and porridge are popular ways to consume it in parts of Asia. Simply sprinkle makhana onto any dish for a boost of nutrients.
In summary, makhana offer an amazing array of health benefits supported by ancient medicinal practice and emerging scientific research. They provide high-quality protein and antioxidants with a stellar nutritional profile of fiber, minerals and vitamins. Regularly eating makhana can help manage diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and obesity while supporting heart, bone and liver health. Their delicious poppable texture also makes them a tasty, versatile superfood to include in your diet.