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Phool Makhana ( Foxnuts) – a traditional Ayurvedic superfood

This post was last updated on May 7, 2022 by srinivas krishnaswamy

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in Sept 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Phool makhana is a traditional Indian food, that has been thoroughly studied from ancient times and offers a whole host of nutritional benefits.

Ayurveda tells us that fox nuts (also known as Euryale Ferox) have properties very similar to the padma beeja (lotus seeds). For example, the Charaka Samhita, compiled at least 2500 years ago, classifies fox nuts or phool makhana in the ‘shaka varga’ (a vegetable variety), and as an aquatic vegetable. This superfood also has a mention in Atharva Veda as ‘andika’ – an aquatic plant. 

In earlier times, uncommon superfoods like these found their way into our homes at least on two occasions; during vrat/ upvas (fasting), and in a prasad. Even today, traditional homes in India consume phool makhana during the Navratri vrat and ekadashi. It makes for a great supplement to cereals and grains. Phool Makhana, soaked and sweetened, is also very commonly offered as a prasad in Devi temples. 

Today, this native superfood is making a comeback mainly because it is a dietary powerhouse. Its crispy texture when shallow fried and bland taste makes it suitable to be transformed into both sweet and salty dishes.

Ayurvedic Properties of Phool Makhana 

Phool Makhana is said to have a ‘madhura’ (sweet) rasa after digestion and is described as having ‘sheeta veerya’ (cold potency). It is also ‘guru’ (heavy in nature) and ‘snigdha’ (oily or unctuous). It is considered ‘vrushya’ (vigour improving and an aphrodisiac), ‘balya’ (promotes strength and improves immunity), ‘grahi’ (absorbent and reduces watery diarrhoea), and ‘garba samsthapaka’ (ensures a safe pregnancy). Finally, makhana also has the ability to balance vata and pitta dosha because of these properties.

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Nutritional Benefits of Phool Makhana 

Makhana is rich in calcium and is said to have calming properties to bring down restlessness and insomnia (both of which are classic vata aggravation symptoms). It has a very high free radical scavenging activity and is a good antioxidant. Makhana is also said to contain anti-inflammatory and anti-aging flavonoids and anti-aging enzymes that help repair damaged protein structures within the body. Besides this, the seeds are a good source of protein, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc.

Benefits of Phool Makhana & who can eat it 

Phool makhana has a host of benefits and can be eaten even during pregnancy and lactation. This superfood is very safe and is also indicated for children. Makhana is also a good food to eat if you are trying to conceive (for both men and women) as it improves fertility and chances of conception.

This super snack is useful for those showing signs of excess pitta (premature greying, hair thinning, high BP, stress), or for those showing signs of excess vata (insomnia, restlessness, inability to sleep, fluctuating appetite, weight loss, dry hair and skin).

Makhana is also a good food to introduce to growing children. As it imparts balya (strength) and vrushya (vigour) , Phool makhana offers excellent benefits to growing children. It can be an good substitute for unhealthy, fried foods like chips and popcorn.

The only exception (that is, those who are advised not to eat Makhana) are those who have very high Kapha, are constipated or have a bloating disease.


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Some tips on to prepare and eat Makhana the right way

Recipe One: As a quick snack

To improve the vata and pitta quenching properties of Makhana, you can shallow fry it in ghee. Use 1 – 2 teaspoons of ghee and roast the Makhana in a frying pan (an iron kadai is best for this). As you roast, the Makhana takes on the colour of the fat (mild yellow if roasting in ghee) and crisp.

Roasting the Makhana in ghee or any fat pacifies its vata aggravating tendencies. We don’t recommend roasting Makhana in a microwave or air fryer as both these methods will contribute to vata aggravation. We also do not suggest fat-free roasting – the ghee or oil is required to bring down the Makhana’s light and vata aggravating nature. 

Add spices once the Makhana is at least partially roasted. You may need to drizzle a bit more ghee to ensure an even coating of spices on the Makhana. We recommend using saindhav namak and not commercial salt in all cooking and also in this recipe. 

Makhana is slightly constipating due to its vata aggravating tendencies – while this is mitigated somewhat by the cooking method, we do not recommend eating Makhana too often, especially if you are prone to constipation. This is a good way to help children get the benefits of phool makhana.


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Recipe Two: As a healthy alternative to breakfast cereals

​​Makhana makes a great substitute for hollow, processed breakfast cereals. After roasting the makhana in ghee for a couple of minutes, you can dunk it in warm milk and consume it like cereal. This is a surprisingly filling and satisfying breakfast.

Adding Makhana to milk balances its vata aggravating property and slightly reduces its tendency to cause constipation. You may also add ghee roasted or soaked dry fruits like almonds and raisins. If you’re making this in winter, remember that nuts produce a lot of ushna (heat) and should not be eaten in large amounts. 2-3 almonds per adult is a good thumb rule per day. Similarly, dates are also high in ushna guna and constipating – keep this also in mind while adding this to the dish.

You can also combine Makhana with ghee-roasted rice flakes – in winter you can choose rice flakes made from red or black rice as there is enough Agni to process this. Rice flakes are guru (heavy) and sweet and satiating – they counter the Vata in Makhana. 

Recipe 3: Makhana with powdered nuts 

Makhana can be added to roasted and powdered nuts as a healthy addition to Milk for children and adults. This can be made in bulk and stored for 1-2 months . Makhana here acts as a healthy filler and adds on to the Dhatu building and nourishing properties of the other nuts. But, the recipe should be primarily focussed on nuts and not on makhana. 

Note: While writing this piece on this superfood, we happened to talk to a family friend, a native of Khichen (in Rajasthan). They use makhana in some of their traditional recipes. For example, while their first resort, of course, is to make a snack of it by slow roasting it in ghee and addingspices for flavor, they also make atta from this superfood and use it to prepare makhana ka halwa and makhana laddoo (combined with nuts and dry fruits). They say the halwa and laddoo made with Makhana are very healthy and nutritious, especially for a new mother. 

What we’ve shared above is just a handful of suggestions. If you know any traditional Makahna-based recipes prepared in your family for generations, please write to us and share them with us. 

In Conclusion 

It comes as no surprise that a superfood like Makhana is making a comeback into Indian households. Loaded with nutrition and carrying a bland flavor, it gives ample freedom for us to make it into a healthy snack for children and adults, as well as a wholesome meal for pregnant women and new mothers. Having said that, remember that while Makhana can be eaten by everyone, when consumed in excess or when prepared without supplementary food items (like ghee or dry fruits), it does still have a tendency to cause constipation and bloating. The thumb rule here is to eat it optimally, and mix it with the right ingredients. 

Finally, as we always say, the key to achieving good health, great skin and great hair is three-pronged: the right food, the right regimen and the right set of products. We need all three to enjoy a healthy and disease-free life. 

If you would like our help customizing an Ayurvedic hair care, skin care or Abhyanga regimen for you, email us or send us a message on WhatsApp using this link.


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Preethi Sukumaran
Preethi Sukumaran

Preethi is deeply committed to the formal study and application of the timeless principles of right living as laid down in the Ayurvedic canon. At Krya, her synthesis of ayurvedic principles with botanical expertise drives R&D & Product development.

We have over 100 proprietary formulations in the market today which are trusted and loved by our consumers.

Preethi is also deeply passionate about building Krya based on the Indic principle that Dharma leads to Artha ; we call this "Dharmic Entrepreneurship". She works with the Krya team on establishing Krya as one of the most trusted wellness brands in the categories we operate in.

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