Take any article or post on healthy eating and you’ll find that seeds are a highly recommended food. Nearly all nutritionists suggest a handful of nuts and seeds as a high energy and healthy snack, that will keep your waistline slim. And most seeds are edible too – some, like those of jackfruit, are cooked first, while others like pumpkin and sunflower can be eaten as is. But many of us aren’t aware that it’s not just fruit or vegetable seeds that we can eat, but flower seeds too! Today, we’re going to talk about lotus seeds or makhana, and a common question most new Moms have – Can I give my baby Makhana?
What is Makhana?
Makhana are basically seeds from the lotus, also called fox nuts in English. Popped makhana is called Phool Makhana, and are known as Kamal Bee in Marathi and Thamara Vithu in Malayalam. Although they are available across India, cooking with Makhana is more popular in North and North East India.
Lotus seeds are harvested from the head of the lotus flower, Nelumbo nucifera. When tender, the seeds are still green, but change color as they mature. On drying, they turn brown or white, respectively. The seeds can be eaten fresh after harvesting, but they are mostly used after being dried. Lotus seeds are very popular in Chinese and Japanese cuisine. Lotus seed paste is commonly used in desserts, while the dried germ is used to make tea.
Nutritional Benefits of Lotus Seeds
While lotus seeds have traditionally been used in ancient Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, they are now gaining popularity as a health food, thanks to its numerous health benefits. While all parts of the lotus plant are nutritious, consuming the seeds is advantageous on its own.
- Lotus seeds are full of anti oxidants, making them ideal to combat premature ageing
- High in dietary fiber
- Very good source of protein
- Helps combat fertility issues in men and women
- Low in saturated fats and Sodium, helps maintain blood pressure
- Rich in Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium
- With a low GI, they are good for controlling diabetes
- Has anti inflammatory properties, soothes joint pain
Can I give my Baby Makhana?
Makhana can be given to babies after 6 months of age. Please remember to follow the 3 Day Rule before introducing any new foods for the baby.
Makhana has loads of health benefits for growing babies. 100 grams of lotus seeds yield about 350 calories of energy and 1 ounce has approximately 5 grams of protein, an essential nutrient required for growth. The high fiber content ensures that babies have smooth bowel movements without constipation. Makhana is also gluten free, making it ideal for kids with an intolerance to gluten.
Lotus seeds don’t have a strong taste, which means that they can be added to all kinds of dishes without affecting the flavor. Powdered lotus seeds are generally used for infants, while older kids can have them toasted in ghee with a pinch of salt and pepper or chaat masala. It is often consumed during various ritual fasts in India, like Navratri. Here are some more recipes you can try with makhana.
1. This No Cook Makhana Porridge for Travel is perfect for those days you want to take your baby out and still want to feed her home cooked food. (6 months+)
2. Or you can also try this Sweet Potato Makhana Laddu recipe from Spice Up the Curry, made with powdered makhana and mashed sweet potato. (1 year+)
3. Makhana Kheer is a lovely dessert for toddlers and little kids, and the roasting gives it a nutty flavor in this recipe from Tarla Dalal. (1 year+)
4. Spicy Phool Makhana Namkeen makes for a great snack for kids and adults, and this recipe from Raks Kitchen adds flavor with coconut and nuts. (1 year+, consider choking hazard)
5. Phool Makhana Curry is a great dinner idea, and goes well with rotis or puris. Tickling Palates has the full step by step recipe. (1 year+)
6. This Creamy Makhana and Mushroom dish from NDTV combines two healthy foods in one, and is a good idea for kids who don’t like spicy curries. (1 year+)
Where can I get Makhana?
Makhana can be found in traditional markets in most of North India, though it may not be as common in other regions. You can also find them in gourmet or specialty food stores. Whole Phool Makhana is available online at Amazon India, as well as in online groceries like Big Basket, Grofers or Nature’s Basket.
However, Makhana cannot be given to infants whole, and require a bit of prep work to get a fine powder that can be added to baby food. If using whole Makhana, you also need to cut the seeds to check for worms. You can either make it yourself, or you can save yourself the trouble and get organic powdered Makhana ready made. Here are some baby-friendly Makhana products to try.
- Organic Phool Makhana Kheer Mix – Packed with protein, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, this Makhana kheer is a great way for babies under one year to enjoy a delightful dessert, that is also hearty and nutritious.
- Organic Makhana Dalia Porridge Mix – This Makhana porridge mix contains the whole hearted goodness of broken wheat dalia and the protein rich makhana. You can mix fruit purees for a different taste every time.
- Banana Makhana Cereal – This super combo includes makhana along with the energy dense raw Kerala Bananas, making this is the best dish to gain weight and nutrition in one go.