Eleocharis dulcis, commonly known as Water Chestnuts or specifically Chinese Water Chestnuts, are not actually nuts at all as the name suggests. They are aquatic corms or bulbo-tubers that grow in flooded areas, paddy fields, ponds, marshes and shallow, slow-moving water bodies.
They are native to the Asian countries like Southern China, India, Philippines, Taiwan and Japan, and other countries like Australia, Africa and on certain islands near the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean.
They are specifically called Chinese Water Chestnuts because they are a very popular part of the Chinese cuisine. They are known for being very crunchy even when cooked or boiled. This is because the cell walls of these corms are cross-linked and also strengthened by phenolic compounds and an antibiotic agent which is penicillin-like, called Puchiin. This allows the corm to remain crisp when cooked or boiled, and they add crunchiness to any dish they are added to.
What Makes Eleocharis Dulcis So Nutritious?
Water Chestnuts are 75% water and are a rich source of fiber. They also have a phenolic antioxidant called Ferulic Acid. It also has a good amount of B-complex Vitamins such as riboflavin, folates, pyridoxine, thiamine and pantothenic acid. The minerals present in the corm include Copper, Zinc, Magnesium, Potassium, Manganese, Phosphorus, etc.
Since the corms are the only edible bits, the rest of the plant is used as compost or cattlefeed.
Eleocharis dulcis should not be confused with Trapa natans, also called Water Chestnuts. This species of Water Chestnuts or Water Caltrops are shaped like bats and have a taste similar to that of potatoes or yams.
What Are The Benefits Of Eleocharis Dulcis?
1. Reduces Hypertension and Heart Diseases:
Heart strokes and high blood pressure are linked with low levels of Potassium in the body. Water Chestnuts provide 7% of Potassium that a person requires in his daily intake. Potassium counters the effect of excess sodium in the system, helping to reduce blood pressure and is good for the heart as well. It lowers cholesterol levels and reduces carbohydrate absorption in the body.
2. Low Calorie-High Fiber:
Water Chestnuts are nutritious, and are also very low on their calorie-content. About 100 g of Water Chestnuts contain a total of 97-100 calories. They are high on fibers though. This fiber regulates the blood sugar levels, healthy bowel movements, reduces cholesterol levels, and keeps your gut healthy. They are called "high-volume" foods. This means they keep you fuller for a longer time. Since they contain so much water and are low on calories, they make an excellent diet food.
Water Chestnuts have an abundance of Ferulic Acid, an antioxidant. Cancerous cells strive to grow in environments rich in free radicals. The antioxidant, Ferulic Acid, reduces oxidative stress and neutralizes free radicals in the system, reducing the risk of growth of cancerous cells.
4. Reproductive Health:
Water Chestnuts are a wonder food for women who suffer with irregular menstrual cycles. Vaginitis, where an abnormal discharge is seen from the vagina, can also be treated by consuming Water Chestnuts. For this purpose, they are consumed with milk. The same can be consumed to treat erectile dysfunction in men.
5. Battles Bacteria and Virus:
The juice of Water Chestnuts has amazing anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. It is an excellent cure for sore throat, phlegm, loose motions, etc. Water boiled with Water Chestnuts is one home remedy to reduce the symptoms of Measles and Jaundice. Drinking this water even helps ease nausea. Water Chestnuts help purify the skin. When mixed with lemon juice and applied, it cures skin ailments like eczema. Drinking Water Chestnuts water twice a day also cures hemorrhoids or mouth canker sores.
Water Chestnuts are available throughout the year. In Asian countries though, they are more readily available during winter. It is great for pregnant women, as it stimulates the mammary glands to secrete more milk for the baby. It is also good for the growth and development of the fetus.
How Can Eleocharis Dulcis Be Consumed?
Water Chestnuts can be consumed raw, boiled, cooked and ground. They are added mostly to dishes like chop suey, stir-fries, salads and curries because of their crunchy texture. These corms are also dried and ground to make flour, which is used to make cakes. When consumed raw, they don't have a very distinctive flavour of their own. They are white, fleshy, somewhat sweet and extremely crunchy. They go well with rice noodles, coriander, ginger oil, bamboo shoots, and other sauces and seasonings.
In India, the flour of Water Chestnuts is consumed during fasts. No grains are consumed during fasts, and since these are not grains, the flour of these is used to make flatbreads.
Water Chestnuts were an integral part of Ayurveda and Ancient Chinese Medicine. It was used to calm the aggravated pita dosha, as it is an excellent diuretic. It was a part of many rejuvenating formulas of ancient medicine too.
It is an age-old remedy with excellent benefits recommended by our ancestors. It should be a part of our diet to keep diseases at bay and stay fit at the same time.