Lotus is a herbaceous perennial aquatic plant belonging to Nelumbonaceae family. Scientific name: Nelumbo nucifera. It is popular as renkon in Japan. Since centuries, lotus plant and its parts held high esteem in the far East societies, especially in the Chinese and Japanese cultures.
The edible rhizomes grow in the swamp, underwater environments. Lotus root is a modified tuber which stores energy in the form of starch. It develops into sausage-like three to five intersecting nodes measuring about 2-4 feet in length. Each rhizome segment features smooth, gray-white tube measuring about 10-20 cm in length, 3-7 cm in diameter. Internally, the root has white, crunchy flesh with mildly sweet, water-chestnut-like flavor. The cut sections reveal a visually appealing display of symmetrically arranged air canals (holes) traversing all along the length of the root.
The lotus fruit is an enlarged receptacle akin to sunflower head wherein numerous edible seeds embedded in its head.
Health benefits of lotus root
- Lotus root is one of the moderate calorie root vegetables. 100 g root-stem provides about 74 calories. Nevertheless, it composed of many health benefiting phytonutrients, minerals, and vitamins.
- Lotus rhizome is an excellent source dietary fiber; 100 g flesh provides 4.9 g or 13% of daily requirement of fiber. Dietary fiber together with slow digesting complex carbohydrates in the lotus root help reduce blood cholesterol, sugar, body weight and constipation conditions.
- Fresh lotus root is one of the excellent sources of vitamin-C. 100 g root provides 44 mg or 73% of daily recommended values. Vitamin-C is a powerful water soluble antioxidant. It is essential for the collagen synthesis inside the human body. Collagen is the main structural protein inside the body, required for maintaining the integrity of blood vessels, skin, organs, and bones. Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body protect from scurvy, develop resistance against viral infections, boosting of immunity, wound healing and to scavenge cancer causing harmful free radicals from the body.
- Further, the root contains moderate levels of some of the valuable B-complex group of vitamins such as pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), folates, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and thiamin. Pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) acts as a coenzyme in the neurochemical synthesis in the brain which influences mood. Adequate pyridoxine levels help control nervous irritability, headache, and tension. It also cuts heart attack risk by controlling harmful homocysteine concentrations in the blood.
- Further, the root provides healthy amounts of some essential minerals like copper, iron, zinc, magnesium, and manganese. Copper is a cofactor for many vital enzymes, including cytochrome c-oxidase and superoxide dismutase (other minerals function as cofactors for this enzyme are manganese and zinc). Along with iron, it is also required for the production of red blood cells.
- Crunchy, neutral yet delicate flavor of root lotus is because of its optimum electrolyte balance. It composes agreeable ratio of sodium to potassium at the value 1:4. While sodium gives a sweet taste to the root, potassium counters the adverse effects of sodium by regulating heart rate and blood pressure.