Lotus seeds are obtained from the lotus flower. They are a versatile food and can be eaten raw or cooked. The dried lotus seeds can be popped like popcorn and eaten. The seeds are harvested in the months of August and September and are then dried under the sun. There are two types of lotus seeds, white and brown peel. The shells, membranes and bitter germ of the seed of the white lotus seeds are removed during harvest. Brown lotus peels, which get their color from the ripened seed which attaches to the membrane, are cracked in order to remove the germ. Dried lotus seeds are sold widely in Asian markets. They are hardy and rough in texture and hence must be soaked in water overnight. They can be added to various dishes such as soups. Fresh lotus seeds are sold with the seed heads. They must be broken to remove each seed and then eaten. The shell of the fresh seeds should be removed before eating. Crystallized lotus seeds are made by cooking the seeds in syrup and then drying them. One of the most common uses of lotus seeds is lotus seed paste which is used in Chinese pastries and in Japanese cakes and desserts.
Nutritional Information and Properties
Lotus seeds are a rich source of phosphorus, protein, potassium and magnesium. They may also contain zinc and iron. The seeds contain low levels of sugar, sodium, cholesterol and saturated fat. One ounce of raw lotus seeds contains approximately 94.3 calories.
Health Benefits and Uses
Lotus seeds are popular for their nutritional benefits and healing properties. They are commonly used in Chinese medications and also in various recipes.
- Lotus seeds contain L-isoaspartyl methyltransferase, an enzyme with anti-ageing properties. It is known to help in repairing damaged proteins.
- The seeds contain kaempferol, a flavonoid known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It is known to help in repairing aging gum tissue.
- The astringent properties of lotus seeds make them beneficial for the kidneys. They help to regulate the energy levels of the body.
- Some studies indicate that lotus seeds may be used to treat various sexual conditions.
- Lotus seeds are used in Chinese medicine to relieve the problem of diarrhea. They are also used to improve the health of the spleen.
- Traditionally, lotus seeds were used to treat people with sleeping disorders such as insomnia. They are also known to be effective in alleviating restlessness. This is due to the natural sedative and calming effects of the seeds.
- The center of the lotus seed is known to be beneficial for the heart due to its cooling properties. The bitterness of the seeds comes from isoquinoline alkaloids which are believed to induce a calming effect and are also anti-spasmodic in nature. They cause dilation of the blood vessels and thus help in controlling blood pressure levels.
- Some medicinal researchers believe that lotus seeds help to strengthen the digestive process and relieve diarrhea.
- The seeds are sometimes combined with other herbs in order to treat urinary ailments such as prostatitis and reproductive diseases. However it is advisable to consult a doctor before using any natural remedies such as lotus seeds.
Lotus seeds also contain a powerful anti-aging enzyme which researchers are now trying to add to various anti-ageing products and cosmetics. The dried seed heads are sold for decorative purposes across the world. These seeds are commonly used in dried flower arranging.