India's national flower, the lotus, holds a lot of cultural and religious significance in other Asian countries as well. Synonymous with prosperity and fertility, did you know that beyond its flower, the lotus plant serves several other purposes? The aquatic perennial plant offers several therapeutic and health benefits. Those who wish to follow mindful cooking practices will love the lotus as all its parts are edible thus ensuring no part of the plant is wasted. Earlier we shared with you how to use all the parts of moringa and banana while cooking. Now, here's how you can make the most of the incredible lotus with some tips on its health and nutritional benefits.
Lotus seeds are a great source of high-quality protein and essential amino acids. It can help combat blood pressure and diabetes. Payal Kothari, integrative nutritionist and life coach says, "Lotus seeds, also known as makhanas, is a favourite snack option for many people. It is a great substitute for popcorn which is usually genetically modified. So lotus seeds or makhana can be your go-to healthy substitute for popcorn as they are natural."
Make sure to prep them properly before consuming. Kothari suggests cleaning the seeds well before preparing to ensure you get rid of all the impurities. Sometimes there are worms inside, so cut the seeds in half to make sure you get rid of the worms. To lend some flavour, toss them in warm ghee and add a pinch of turmeric and salt. This can be your perfect before or after workout snack. In south India, lotus seeds are often fried and served as a side dish with meals.
Lotus seeds are also processed into a mooncake which is an indispensable delicacy made in China with red beans, lotus seed paste and salted egg yolks. It is served steamed or fried. Lotus seeds can also be used in gravies. You can also dry them and in powder form. "It is a great energy booster as it has folate, iron, magnesium, protein, zinc, calcium, copper, manganese," adds Kothari
Kothari refers to this as a cooling food and says it helps to restore the body's balance. Lotus leaves contain alkaloids which make the body alkaline. The nutritionist suggests a great hack to include it in your diet by using it in powder form as a super herb. You can also avail it in supplement form which can be easily slipped into your daily nutrition intake, otherwise, the lotus leaves are known to have a sharp bitter taste. A lot of people also make use of the leaves to brew tea to reap all the benefits. The leaves are also usually used for traditional Ayurveda and Chinese medicines to treat medical conditions such as epistaxis and hematuria.
“The lotus stem which is called kamal kakdi in Hindi is consumed as a vegetable in most Asian countries," says Kothari. "They offer a whole range of health benefits as they are rich in calcium, fibre, starch and iron boosting haemoglobin. It is great for those who are anaemic and is also recommended for healthy bowel movements."
Include lotus stem in your diet by putting it in your soup or adding boiled pieces to your salad. It has antioxidants, magnesium, iron, foliate and other micronutrients which we need to consume on a daily basis. In some regions, the lotus stem is also pickled in vinegar or stuffed with meats and preserved fruits. In south India, the lotus stem is sliced, marinated with salt and put away to dry. This is then served as a side dish along with meals.
The plant's root boasts of anti-ageing, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. It is actually a blessing for culinary experts because there are many ways to experiment widely with each and every part of the lotus plant, especially its roots. You can stir-fry the roots, broil, braise, boil, steam or deep-fry them. The crispy and starchy texture of the root makes it a popular ingredient and is used extensively in Asian cuisine.
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