Homer told about the lotus eaters who deterred Odysseus's men on their epic journey and whose fare made people forgetful and apathetic. Truth divulging from legend, the seeds and leaves are edible and have been used in dishes for thousands of years without making anyone lose their memory. Besides being edible and ornamental, the lotus plant has many health benefits as well.
The lotus, Nelumbo nucifera, is a fresh water plant that has been cultivated in southeast Asia and the Mediterranean for over 5000 years, according to Plant Culture. China and Japan classify the lotus as a vegetable and regularly eat the roots, called rhizomes, as well as its stems and leaves. The petals are used to spice dishes and to make teas. The seeds, a major export from China, are prepared in many way for eating or healing applications.
The seeds can be eaten raw but are typically dried before export. Typically, Asians roast the seeds or use them to prepare traditional foods such as “moo pies,” as well as red bean and lotus seed soup for newlyweds, according to the Institute of Traditional Medicine. Inside of the seed is a bitter embryo. Many recommend removing the bitter part before cooking. It is the embryo and seed extracts which are often used for medicinal purposes.
One ounce of raw lotus seeds provides 94calories. While 1 ounce of seeds is a very small sample size, it is a low-fat, cholesterol-free snack. Lotus seeds contain no sugar but do provide 18.3 grams of carbohydrates and 4.4 grams of protein as well as 4.6% and 5.6% of the daily values of calcium and iron, respectively. Calorie Lab notes that the seeds are also a good source of thiamine, phosphorus, potassium and manganese.
Western research has found many uses for the whole of the lotus plant. The seeds are powerful antioxidants and help fight inflammation and aging, writes D. Tian, Ph.D., author of "The Versatile and Valuable Lotus," in the November 2008 edition of the "Water Gardeners International Online." He adds that good investigative evidence supports using the seeds as an antiviral; they can help fight the herpes 1 virus. Dr. Tian also reports that since the 1960s, research has found the seeds to be useful in lowering hypertension. Most of the studies have used animals in a lab setting, but there is good promise for human trials.
Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine view the seeds as astringent, meaning among other things that they can decrease abnormal fluid leakage from organs such as the spleen, kidney and heart, according to Dr. Tian. Men are given lotus seeds as part of treating deficient kidney function related to sexual problems. The inner part of the seeds, the bitter greens or embryos, are considered "cooling," and are used to treat the heart for "pathogenic heat."
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.