What the Heck are Water Lily Seeds?
This is another blog topic from my early 2020 list, before the global pandemic disrupted the world’s focus for almost everything including our behaviours around food and eating patterns. As consumers continue to crave innovative healthy snacks from natural sources with few ingredients, that bring us to – what the heck are water lily seeds? And you know I love discovering new seeds!
Water Lily Seeds
Although new to mainstream Canada, sometimes confused with lotus seeds, water lily seeds have been consumed for centuries in India. Also known as makhana, fox nuts, or gorgon nuts, they come from the Euryale Ferox Salisb (water lily plant). The most common way to eat them is dried and popped into a white, bite-size puff. The plain water lily seed puffs have a mild, earthy flavour; however, they can be seasoned in a variety of savory, spicy, or cheesy flavours which companies like Bohana are doing commercially. In addition, popped water lily seeds can be ground into a flour and used as an ingredient in desserts, bread, and porridge.
Water Lily Seeds and Health
Overall, there are possible health benefits of consuming water lily seeds, however, there is a lack of substantial research for most claims and more clinical research is required to confirm the benefits. The seeds are gluten-free and based on the analysis of the dry seed (prior to the extrusion to puff it) it is 11% protein, with 13% fibre (1).
Water lily seeds have been associated with anti-fatigue effects (2). Also, there are general media claims that water lily seeds contain high levels of antioxidants to support a healthy immune system. This claim is not based on substantiated clinical trials.
Water lily seeds have been claimed to have a high amino acid index and low glycemic index (3). This is potential for water lily seeds to assist in blood glucose regulation. Additionally, the triterpenoids in water lily seeds have been shown to have a hypoglycemic effect (4). Although it is said water lily seeds have a high amino acid index, there is only a small amount of protein found within popped water lily seeds puffs in the marketplace.
Since the pandemic, we are more aware of the food supply from farm to retail. It’s important to understand how ingredients are grown and harvested. Heavy metals such as chromium, cadmium, lead, and copper have been found in water lily seeds and can cause toxicity. Also, some adverse side effects after eating water lily seeds have been reported including allergies, gastrointestinal distress (constipation, bloating, flatulence) and spikes in blood sugar.
It seems puffed water lily seeds can offer a healthier alternative to the typical higher fat, saltier, less nutritious options on the snack shelf. But remember no single food or ingredient is a silver bullet. Especially important now that we are in a global health crisis, a lifestyle filled with healthy habits including a balanced dietary pattern with nutritious snacks, exercise and restful sleep is the best approach for long-term consistent, mind body health. If you have added water lily seeds to your healthy diet, let me know your thoughts about them!
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- Mohammed HA, Uka UN, Yauri YAB. Evaluation of Nutritional Composition of Water Lily (Nymphaea lotus Linn.) From Tatabu Flood Plain, North-central, Nigeria. J Fish Aquat Sci [Internet]. 2013 Jan 1 [cited 2019 Aug 5];8(1):261–4.
- Wu C, Chen R, Wang X, Shen B, Yue W, Wu Q. Antioxidant and Anti-Fatigue Activities of Phenolic Extract from the Seed Coat of Euryale ferox Salisb. and Identification of Three Phenolic Compounds by LC-ESI-MS/MS. Molecules [Internet]. 2013 Sep 9 [cited 2019 Aug 6];18(9):11003–21.
- Jha V, Shalini R, Kumari A, Jha P, Sah NK. Aquacultural, Nutritional and Therapeutic Biology of Delicious Seeds of Euryale ferox Salisb. : A Minireview. Curr Pharm Biotechnol [Internet]. 2018 Oct 1 [cited 2019 Aug 5];19(7):545–55.
- Yuan H, Meng S, Wang G, Gong Z, Sun W, He G. Hypoglycemic effect of triterpenoid-rich extracts from Euryale ferox shell on normal and streptozotocin-diabetic mice. Pak J Pharm Sci [Internet]. 2014 Jul [cited 2019 Aug 6];27(4):859–64.