We all have atleast that one vegetable from childhood etched in our memory that made us cringe but our mothers shoved down our throat mercilessly and successfully! My mother was an expert of disguising and plating the most obnoxious vegetables for meals. I have been bulldozed by Kamal-Kakdi curry so much that I can perhaps sketch the cross-section image of this lotus Stem with greater precision than I can draw a lotus flower! But from the time it seemed holocaustic to now when I cannot stop singing praises for it, this extremely underrated veggie has travelled right up my ascending colon to my heart!
The splendid and majestic Lotus, taxonomically christened as Nelumbo nucifera, is not considered glorious (enough to be crowned as our national flower) just flippantly. It is indeed one of the most remarkable plants, coming close to the coconut palm, every part of which provides us with a plethora of benefits. The lotus plant has been used as core ingredient of East and Southeast Asian traditional medicines and cuisines for the longest time possibly known. The flower and leaves, apart from their ornamental charm are used as tea infusion for soothing gastric disturbances and lowering blood pressure. Lotus seed commonly known as makhana is an abundant source of proteins, vitamins and minerals, and is an excellent snack option for weight watchers, diabetics and health-conscious. And the lotus rhizome, the stem right down till its root, is a not-so-popular but nutritionally rich food.
The rhizome is plush with dietary fiber but low on fat, making it an amazing food choice for keeping calories in check. A 100g serving carries only 74kcals contributed by 3g of proteins, 15g of carbs and 7 g of fiber. Don’t be surprised if your stomach and intestines gurgle a bit for the first time. It is the acids and gastric juices getting into the assembly line. You will soon be rid of any constipation or acid reflux problems. So, try out a bowl of crunchy lotus stem for super smooth bowels!
Each serving of lotus stem provides us with essential minerals like magnesium (23mg) and phosphorus (100mg) for maintaining blood sugar levels and DNA integrity respectively, and, potassium (556mg) and iron (1.2mg) for controlling blood pressure and red blood cell formation. Amongst other phytonutrients, zinc and copper also constitute a large percentage of its mineral repertoire. High potassium content of lotus stem counteracts the sodium flux and prevents retention of excess water and keeps your kidneys flushed. How more magnificently ironical can nature be for bestowing on a plant growing primarily in water, the ability to drain out yours!
Containing 44mg of ascorbic acid that amounts to 73% of our daily dietary value, we surely cannot discount out the vitamin C quotient of the lotus rhizome. Bite into these succulent stems and see your skin and hair growing as luscious as a lotus bloom!
Pyridoxine of the vitamin B complex is involved in a signaling cascade with neural receptors that influence mood and behaviour. So, if you have been thinking all this while that it is the lotus flower symbolizing peace and tranquility, you know now where the peace of mind actually ‘stems’ from!
The lotus stem, though very delicately flavored, can be transformed into amazing cuisines. From sautéed dishes of Japan and Chinese soups and salads to spicy Indian curries and chips, it has carved a niche for itself in more than half of Asia. The only care we need to take is hygiene. Since it is grown in swamps, it is harvested and sold muddy. It stickers along aggregates of aquatic microflora which can compete with the natural intestinal microbiota and cause acute infections. It should not be consumed raw for this reason. And since it is a pretty sturdy and versatile shoot, you can explore different ways to cook it.
India is home to an extensive variety of classical vegetation which often don’t get their due credit. Staying ignorant about or underusing their potential is plain criminal! Despite the abundance of goodness this pocketed stem carries, it goes unnoticed. And if this versatile handsome fellow doesn’t slam the beauty-with-brains category, then who else will?
Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.