Why The Makhana Is Become The Evening Snack Of Choice
Image Credit: Makhana | Image Credit: Freepik.com

You come home after a long day at work, mentally exhausted, and you’re looking forward to that cup of tea or coffee that helps you shrug off the tiredness. But we’re never quite sure what snack to have with that drink. Peanuts? Too much fat. Cake...are you kidding? Biscuits? Too dry. Chips? Too much salt/spice/fat/oil. Fruit? Hmm...is there anything else? With the right amount of crunch, taste, and healthy nutrients? Enter, Makhana. This snack is quickly becoming the evening snack of choice in many urban Indian households.  

Makhana’s low-calorie content and health benefits make it the ideal choice as an evening snack. It's a great source of protein and rich in magnesium, fiber, and iron. For many, it’s the ideal snack on that merit alone, because it is a great way to combat obesity. If you can have a tasty protein snack daily when the evening cravings hit, you’ve nearly found the solution to your nutritional blind spot.  

Makhana is the Indian name for Fox Nut or Gorgon Nut. This superfood is a good source of thiamine, which is known for the benefits it provides for cognitive function. The astringent properties of these nuts help with kidney problems. They contain antioxidants that protect from the negative effects of free radicals and inflammation.

History of the Makhana

They were originally cultivated in the area we now know as Bihar, in the present-day districts of Madhubani and Darbhanga in the Mithilanchal region (north-eastern Bihar and Jharkhand.) Local folklore claims that three centuries ago, a king of the Darbhanga region persuaded the farmers in his kingdom to cultivate this crop, and that the farmers made a profit of three rupees per acre when they took him up on his offer. These nuts are also native to some regions in Japan, Korea, China (the Yangtze region), and Russia. However, Bihar produces 90% of all the fox nuts sold in the world.

The plant that yields makhana is the prickly waterlily. It grows in water and produces bright purple flowers. The makhana we consume is the starchy white seed of this plant. Across northern India, these seeds are roasted or fried, which makes them pop like, well, popcorn. That gives makhana the texture we have come to love. Sprinkle some mild spices and we have the evening snack. It is also added to kheer in some recipes.

Why Makhana should be on your table

Makhana is a great source of protein and other micronutrients. 100 grams of makhana contain around 350 calories. (100 grams of peanuts contain 550+ calories.) That also gives you over 9 grams of protein, 15 grams of fiber, 60 mg of calcium, 67 mg of magnesium, and 500 mg of potassium. This means it will keep you feeling full for longer periods of time. Magnesium promotes cardiovascular health, and potassium helps lower your blood pressure. Makhana also have a good amount of phosphorus, which is important for the body's ability to repair DNA. 

Makhana promotes the production of acetylcholine, a chemical that is essential for nerve function. Having too little of this chemical increases the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.  

Kaempferol, an antioxidant found in makhana, helps to reduce inflammation in the body. Antioxidants also reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. Makhana also contains folate, which is vital for the development of a child's brain and preventing neural tube defects in the fetus. Moreover, it ranks low on the glycemic index, meaning it will prevent your blood sugar from spiking when you eat it.

Adding Makhana to your diet

You can choose between roasted and dry-roasted varieties. Dry roasted makhanas are low in sodium, cholesterol, and fat, rich in antioxidants, and low in caloric content as well. While makhana can be eaten alone, it's best to combine it with other ingredients to create a flavorful snack. For example, some people like to add oregano while roasting makhana flakes.

Masala Makhana is a delicious and simple way to add variety to your diet. First, you'll need to purchase makhana from a good store. Buy organic if you can. Look for makhana that's not dried out or shriveled, which means makhana that hasn't been stored for too long. You can cook masala makhana in batches. When making the recipe, be sure to stir it often and to coat the seeds with the spices.

After preparing makhana, you can store it for up to a week in an airtight container at room temperature. This is a very good alternative to popcorn, especially when binge-watching the new series on Netflix during the holidays.

Fox nut chocolate cookies are easy to make and a fantastic way of adding makhana to your kids’ diet. This delicious ‘new-age’ snack consists of roasted "phool makhana" covered in dark chocolate. You can, of course, use any other type of chocolate you like. It takes 9–12 minutes to bake the cookies in a microwave oven. Once you remove them from the oven, allow them to cool down. As they cool, they will firm up. They can then be topped with sea salt to subtly balance the sweetness of the chocolate.