Veganism is a growing trend. As of 2018, the size of the global vegan food market was calculated to be worth $12.69 billion and the numbers are growing every year.
For the uninitiated, a vegan diet is one that excludes any food that comes from an animal. This includes eggs, dairy, meat, fish, poultry, and even honey. A vegan diet is also called a plant-based diet.
While veganism has its benefits, vegans are faced with a dilemma when it comes to meeting their nutritional needs. If not careful, vegans can be deprived of essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins, which may impair certain bodily functions in the long run.
This has pushed food companies in pursuit of processed plant-based alternatives that are nutrition-rich and competent with their animal-based counterparts.
Considering that processed foods are not particularly healthy and are high in fat, the attention is now shifting to natural plant-based foods that can help vegans supercharge their diets. This is where makhana comes into the picture.
What is Makhana and How Can It Solve Your Nutritional Problems
Makhana is the popped seed of lotus plant or water lily. Commonly called fox nuts or lotus seeds, makhana is a completely plant-based, non-cereal snack, similar to popcorn in appearance.
Makhana is widely used in the preparation of curries, raita and sweets. With increasing awareness about health and wellness, people are now going back to the once-forgotten snack for its health and nutritional benefits.
Although makhana has been in use for many decades, it is a new addition to the list of superfoods. Unlike western superfoods like kale, blueberries and avocados, makhana is easily available in the country.
To understand the role of makhana in a vegan diet, let’s consider an example:
Phosphorus is vital for the formation of bones and teeth and plays an important role in how our body uses carbohydrates and fats. Non-vegans have no problem meeting their phosphorus needs as foods like dairy, seafood and meat are rich sources of the mineral.
Adding just 1 cup of makhana (32g) to your vegan diet will provide 20% of the body’s daily recommended percentage of phosphorus, which is higher than most plant-based food sources out there. When makhana is a part of a balanced plant-based diet, it can supercharge your body with a complete nutritional package and keep various health problems at bay.
Common Problems Faced by Vegans and How Makhana Comes to the Rescue
Junk Food Veganism
This is a highly used term in the vegan circle. Vegan junk food is the most mainstream vegan food option today.
Vegans are commonly caught off-guard when hit by untimely hunger pangs. This leads to dependence on processed and junk foods that are not particularly healthy.
To deal with the challenge, you can prepare a batch of roasted makhana and store it. With this, you have a nutritious, low-calorie snack ready for guilt-free binging when you feel hungry.
Also, makhana is rich in fibre and proteins which help in feeling full longer and prevent untimely snacking. This is helpful when you are trying to lose weight.
As mentioned earlier, choosing to stay away from dairy and meat can deprive vegans of essential vitamins and minerals. A busy lifestyle can lead to haphazard diet patterns and make the problem worse.
Are supplements the only solution? No.
Makhana can solve this problem as just one cup can provide 37% manganese, 20% phosphorus, 17 % magnesium, and 14 % of thiamin along with other vitamins and minerals. The percentage indicates daily recommended values of these nutrients.
All you have to do is snack on a handful of makhana and your body will thank you for it.
The Protein Challenge!
Protein is vital as our body needs it to build and repair tissues.
Although there are many plant-based protein sources to choose from, they are not all complete proteins. Complete protein sources are those which have all nine essential amino acids in them.
Another challenge with a vegan diet is ‘protein packaging’. When we eat protein-rich foods, we are not only consuming protein but everything else that accompanies it. For example, when you eat beans, seeds, and nuts, you are also consuming the fats that come with them.
Makhana is especially helpful in addressing both these problems. Research shows that lotus seed protein is nutritionally well balanced and significantly important for including in diets. Also, makhana comprises 19.8% protein and negligible amount of fats, which makes it an ideal protein package for a vegan diet.
Gluten? No Thanks.
Are you allergic to gluten?
Substitution of wheat flour with gluten-free flour has been receiving considerable attention lately.
Unlike wheat and barley, makhana is gluten-free. With the growing awareness about gluten-free foods, extensive studies advocate powdered makhana as a healthy and gluten-free alternative over wheat and refined flours.
Makhana powder can be blended with wheat or all-purpose flour in 1:1 proportion to make roti and parathas. This helps in cutting down gluten intake to almost half the original amount and increases the nutritional value of your meal.
Desi and Vegan Makhana Salad Recipe
Cucumber: 1/2 cup peeled & diced.
Onion 1/2 cup diced
Tomato 1/2 cup diced
1/2 cup potato boiled and diced
1/2 cup pomegranate arils
Fresh cilantro 2 tbs finely chopped
Fresh mint 2 tbs finely chopped
Green chilli 1 tsp finely chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
120 gms makhana/fox nuts: 4 cups
Peanuts roasted and salted – ¼ cup
1/4 cup chickpeas roasted and salted
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds roasted and salted
1/2 tsp salt– ½ tsp
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp chaat masala
1 tbsp mint green chutney
2 tbsp tamarind & dates sweet chutney
Dry roast makhanas on medium heat till crunchy. Keep stirring in between for even roasting. Makhana can be roasted in the microwave as well. (You can also use readily available roasted makhana)
Once roasted, let the makhana cool down a bit and roughly crush the makhanas using a rolling pin.
In a bowl add all the chopped vegetables and stir.
Then add roasted peanuts, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds. Add chopped green chilis, cilantro, mint, both the chutneys, spices and lime juice.
Give it a good stir.
Add the crushed roasted makhanas and voila! Desi and Vegan Salad Ready!
To summarize, makhana is a protein-rich, low-fat, and gluten-free superfood, ideal for including in a plant-based diet.
Makhana has diverse applications; while some people use it as a tasty tea-time snack, others use it in curries, sweets, and parathas.
By eating makhana, you are not only helping your health, but are also doing your part to support local farmers who are involved in makhana cultivation for their livelihood.