Millet are a group of small seed grasses and is often referred as grain because of its grain-like consistency. These ancient crops can withstand dry and high temperature conditions and are grown in many developing countries.
Better growth even without fertilizers, low irrigation requirements, pest resistance, ability to withstand dry & high temperature condition make these climate-resilient millet as ‘smart crop’.
Millets have been part of our indigenous culture for a very long time. Bajra, jowar and ragi has remained a mainstream food in many parts of Indian states. Bajra kheech, Ragi koozu, kanji, bajra raab, Bajra rotla, akki roti, Jolada roti, mudde are some of the traditional Indian delicacies made with millet.
Causes of decline in millet consumption:
• Changing food habits, Modernization leading to adapting quick cooking grains like polished rice and wheat flour to save time.
• Taste and texture of millet; millet based recipes tend to be heavy on stomach and not as sweet as the wheat or rice based ones.
• Processing problems; millet grains are hard and coarse and need more processing and cooking time to make them palatable.
• Lack of market support; departmental stores started stocking more of easy to cook grains.
• Lack of value addition; Not many value added products of millet are out in the market.
Types of millet;
Millet are divided in two categories based on the size of the grain – major millet and minor millets. Pearl millet and sorghum are major millet while minor millet are represented by six millet (foxtai, finger millet, barnyard, kodo, little and proso millet).
Millet are also classified based on the presence of hard husk which covers the kernel. Ragi, jowar and bajra don’t have the hard husk and need no processing after harvest and can be used directly in cooking. While the other millet need processing to remove the indigestible hard husk before it is consumed.
According to research from NCBI “Minor millets are nutritionally superior to major cereals and possess therapeutic benefits for the modern lifestyle.”
1. Sorghum or Jowar; is rich in iron, calcium, protein, fiber and phytochemicals.
2. Finger Millet or Ragi; High in iron and calcium and is a good source of amino acids.
3. Pearl millet or Bajra; Rich source of magnesium and iron and contains eight essential amino acids.
4. Foxtail Millet; is rich in smart carbohydrate which doesn’t increase blood sugar levels immediately. It also has iron and calcium to strengthen immunity.
5. Barnyard millet; High in fiber, calcium and phosphorous.
6. Proso millet; it has significant amount of carbohydrates, protein, niacin and fatty acids.
7. Little millet; these are good source of vitamin B, calcium, iron zinc and potassium.
Benefits of millet
The tiny powerhouse of nutrients has been renamed as Nutri cereals by our government in a recent moves.
Vitamins ; these tiny gluten-free grains with lowglycemic index are packed wth water soluble B complex vitamins.
Minerals; Presence of minerals such as magnesium, copper, manganese, niacin and phosphorous in millets helps keeping the heart healthy, controls cholesterol, prevent diabetics, boost immune system and develop and repair body tissues.
Fiber; Millets are rich in insoluble fiber which prevent the occurrence of gallstone.
Antioxidants; millets have phytochemicals known as polyphenols which removes harmful disease causing free radicals from body.
Gluten free; millet is gluten free, so Celiac sufferers can turn to it as their source of grain.
“So next time you are looking for an alternative to rice or potatoes, serve millet instead. Do consult your doctor if you have thyroid related issues before consuming millets as these grains possess goitrogens, the anti-nutritional factor.” Says Payal Talesra, our consulting dietician.
Disclaimer; The following article is my interpretation of information I gathered from my nutritionist, internet references and friends working in the same field.The views and nutritional advice expressed here are not intended to treat or prevent any disease or to replace the advice of your doctor.