Millets are tiny, spherical grains. These come in different colors like white, gray, yellow and even deep red. The botanical name of millet is Eleusine Coracana. According to archaeologists, millet was first cultivated in East Asia as far as 10,000 years back.
Millets are one of the most important cereal grains. These are consumed by more than 1/3rd of the world’s population. It is the 6th cereal crop in terms of the world’s agricultural production. A majority of the world’s commercial millet crop is produced by China, India, Greece, Egypt and Africa. There are several varieties of millet available throughout the world. The most commonly found millets are Jowar (Sorghum), Sama (Little millet), Ragi (Finger Millet), Korra (Foxtail millet) and Variga (Prose millet). Bajra and Sama are high in fat while Ragi has the lowest fat.
Millet is filled with nutrients. It contains around 15 % of protein and is rich in fiber. It is a rich source of Vitamin E, B complex, niacin, thiamin and riboflavin. In addition, millet also contains essential amino acids like methionine and lecithin and minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.
Millet is also known as ‘Bajra’ in Hindi, ‘Sajjalu’ in Telugu, ‘Kambu’ in Tamil, ‘Bajri’ in Marathi, ‘Kambam’ in Malayalam, ‘Sajje’ in Kannada, and ‘Vari’ in Gujarati. Here are some of the benefits of millets and why they should be included in our diet.
Health Benefits of Millets:
1. Millet contains several health friendly nutrients that are required for proper functioning of the body. Iron and copper content in millet is needed for the production of blood cells and to improve blood oxygenation. It also contains phosphorus which is conducive to control blood pressure. These minerals, along with the phyto-nutrients can help build a formidable defense against all types of diseases and cancers.
Millet is rich in iron content, which makes it a perfect food for curing anaemia. It also contains natural calcium deposit which strengthens the bones if consumed on a regular basis. Consumption of Ragi helps prevent arthritis and to recover from fractures.
2. Consumption of millet in large amounts helps decrease triglyceride levels in the body. It thins the blood to prevent blood platelet clumping, thereby reducing the risk of sunstroke and coronary artery disorder.
3. Vitamin B in millet helps to break down carbohydrates and fat more efficiently. It reduces homocysteine level in the blood to prevent cholesterol from bonding and forming deposits. Niacin prevents cholesterol from getting into the blood stream and raises high density lipoprotein (HDL) in the blood. This protects the blood vessels from atherosclerosis and hemorrhage.
4. Millet is one of those food grains which are loved by vegans and vegetarians because of the high amount of protein in it. It helps to meet the daily protein requirement from a complex carbohydrate than animal sources. It doesn’t contain extra saturated fats and other unhealthy ingredients that the animal sources contain. The protein structure of millet is quite like wheat; the only exception is that millet is a non-gluten grain while whole wheat contains a high amount of gluten, making it hard to digest.
5. Millets contain tryptophan, an amino acid which lowers appetite and helps in managing weight. It digests at a slower rate and keeps stomach full for a longer period of time. Millets are high in fiber and satiate hunger quickly, preventing from overeating. People who want to lose weight should incorporate millets in at least one of their main meals.
6. Millet contains both fiber and phytonutrients, the combination of which is believed to reduce the risk of developing colon cancer. Lignan, a phytonutrient in millet, is converted into mammalian lignan in our intestine that protects us from breast cancer. In fact, consumption of millet can lower the risk of developing breast cancer by 50%.
7. Magnesium in millet relaxes the muscles that line the inside of the arterial wall, which helps to reduce blood pressure. It also reduces the severity of asthma and frequency of migraines.
8. Celiac is a disease which damages the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. People who suffer from this disease cannot tolerate gluten. This makes millet a perfect food for them since it is completely gluten-free.
9. The low glycemic index in millet slows down the digestion process and keeps the blood sugar level at a constant ratio. Millets increase insulin sensitivity for people suffering with diabetes and also helps to control the sugar levels for non-diabetics especially type2 diabetes. Thus, regular consumption of Ragi can decrease fasting glucose by 32 percent and can eliminate insulin resistance by 43 percent. Hence, Ragi is very beneficial for diabetic patients.
10. Millets are rich in fiber, which help in easy digestion. It is considered as one of the most digestible and non-allergenic grains. The laxative properties of millets make it an excellent remedy for constipation. Lecithin and Methionine help to flush out harmful fats from the liver. Consuming foods high in fiber also prevent the formation of gallstones, especially in women. Insoluble fiber speeds up intestinal transit time and reduces the secretion of bile acids that contribute to the gallstone formation. Several researchers have found that people who consume high amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber have 13% lower risk of developing gallstones when compared to those who don’t.
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11. The high amount of antioxidants present in millets fights free radicals present in the body which slows down the ageing process.
12. Millets are high protein grain and contain lysine, an amino acid which slows down muscle degradation and helps to build leaner muscles.
13. Tryptophan in millet raises the serotonin level in the body which helps with stress reduction. A cup of millet porridge every night can help you to get sound and peaceful sleep.
14. Pregnant and lactating women are advised to consume Ragi in high amounts to increase the production of breast milk in the body. This will enable the mother to feed the child for a longer period of time. Thus, ragi millet health benefits are quite amazing.
15. Because of its high level of magnesium, millet is a great food for women who suffer from unbearable pain and cramps during their menstrual cycle.
16. Phosphorus content in millet helps to structure the cells in the body. It is an essential component of numerous compounds including adenosine triphosphate or ATP, which enhances energy in the body. Phosphorus is also an essential component of lipid containing structures, such as cell membranes and nervous system structure. A cup of millet will provide you with 17% of your daily phosphorus intake requirement.
Benefits of Millets For Skin:
17. Millet comes packed with amino acids called L-lysine ad L-proline. These help to create collagen in the body, a substance which gives structure to the skin’s tissue. Thus, eating millet fortifies the collagen level to improve skin’s elasticity and makes it less prone to wrinkles.
18. Antioxidants in millets fight stress and neutralize free radicals in the body. This helps reverse the signs of ageing on the skin. It maintains proper health of the skin by rejuvenating skin cells. Ubiquinone in millet is also used in beauty products to reduce wrinkles on the face.
19. Scar tissue has a different cell structure than that of healthy skin, making it rigid. Alium, an antioxidant found in millet, boosts the blood flow to scar tissue. It blends in the development of new skin, minimizing the scars. It increases the speed of the skin repair system, firms the skin and prevents further damage.
20. Selenium, Vitamin C and Vitamin E in millet guards the skin against sun damage and skin cancer. Sun damage makes the skin dull and lifeless. These nutrients boost growth of new cells to make the skin appear younger and more radiant. It also helps to reduce discoloration and wrinkles associated with sun damage.
21. Millets are rich in Vitamin E, which is an amazing vitamin for the skin. It penetrates through the layers of the skin, assisting the body with the natural wound healing process. It even lubricates the skin and forms a protective layer that serves to keep the free radicals away from the wound. The high amount of vitamin E in millets can also enhance complexion.
22. Consuming millets in large amounts protects and preserves cells which give the skin a more youthful and supple look. It helps to renew damaged cells and makes them stronger by reducing stress.
23. Consuming millet helps to retain the natural moisture content in the skin. It makes dull looking, dry skin, healthier and fresher.
24. Lipoic, an antioxidant found in millet, produces valuable anti-inflammatory results by increasing cell metabolism and circulation. This anti-inflammatory property increases blood circulation in the body to reduce acne and fine lines on the skin.
Benefits of Millets For Hair:
25. Millets are rich in protein, a nutrient highly recommended for people suffering from hair loss. Healthy hair requires sufficient intake of protein, as most of the hair itself is made of protein. The protein found within hair cells is known as keratin, which is directly responsible for the composition of each strand of hair. Lack of protein can lead to severe hair loss. Thus, an adequate intake of millets strengthens hair, making it stronger and less prone to breakage.
26. Magnesium in millets reduces inflammation in the scalp to treat scalp conditions like eczema, psoriasis and dandruff. Millet is also beneficial for treating premature balding. Consuming millet will help in ameliorating metabolic syndrome, a health condition which causes premature balding.
27. Millets promote the circulation of blood circulation in the scalp and promote hair growth.
28. Stress increases cortisol level in the body leading to massive hair shedding. Magnesium present in millets control hair loss by reducing cortisol level in the body.
29. Premature graying of hair is caused mainly due to oxidation of the tissues. The potent antioxidants in millets effectively prevent the corrosion of tissues, thereby reducing the possibility of premature graying.
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Millet is one of the most ignored food grains in India. The health benefits of millets are much more in comparison to the other food grains consumed here.
- Millet (Ragi) is available in your nearest supermarket as Ragi seeds, flour, multigrain flour and ready-made breakfast mixes.
- Its flour is used in India to make breads, chapatti and dosa.
- If stored properly, millet can be kept for more than a year. You can store it an airtight container, in a cool and dry place.
- Millet flour deteriorates easily so purchase it just before using.
- Millet has no characteristic flavor and adopts the flavor of the food it is prepared with.
- Cooked millet is creamy and fluffy and has a sweet and nutty taste.
- It can be easily cooked using three parts of water to one part of millet.
- Add millet to boiling water and 1 teaspoon of oil and simmer until the water is completely absorbed.
- Remove from heat and steam for another 10 minutes.
- Less water will give it a fluffy texture while more water will give it a dense texture.
- Millet porridge makes a delicious and healthy breakfast.
Millet is also fermented into gluten-free beer, and is further distilled to make hard liquor. The sweet tasting, malt drink Boza is also made from millet. For a pleasant change, cook millet with apple juice instead of water and top it with raisin, almonds and brown sugar for a tasty treat.
Food Safety Profile:
Millet contains a small amount of goiterogenic substance which restricts iodine absorption in the body leading to goiter and other thyroid complications. Goitrogens in foods are usually reduced by cooking. But in the case of millets, cooking or heating actually increase the goiterogenic effect. Hence, people suffering from hypothyroidism should be careful with their millet intake.
It takes only a few weeks for our body to adapt to new kind of food. Be a little patient and soon you’ll start liking the taste of millets, if you don’t already. Incorporate millets into your daily food intake in some form or the other and experience the benefits for yourself.
Don’t forget to share your experience and valuable comments.