Millets, a popular superfood, have been gaining popularity in recent years. Every dietician and nutritionist is vouching for millets for their remarkable health benefits. In this article, we will read in detail about the benefits of adding millets to your diet. This will act as your ultimate guide to millets.
Millets are one of the oldest crops known to mankind. They have long been used as traditional staple foods due to their nutritional value. Millets such as foxtail millet, finger millet, pearl millet, sorghum millet, buckwheat millet, barnyard wheat, Kodo millet, etc., are amongst the healthiest grains available today. Whole organic millets can easily replace rice, wheat, and other grains. While best known as a birdseed ingredient, millet is a nutritious, ancient pseudo cereal considered a staple throughout India, China, Africa, Ethiopia, and Nigeria. It has multiple advantages over other crops, including drought and pest resistance. It can also survive in harsh environments and less fertile soil.
Let’s launch into the Ultimate Guide to everything Millets!
What Are Millets?
Millets are cereal crops and small seed grasses widely grown around the world. They are naturally gluten-free and have a low glycemic index (GI), making them ideal for wheat allergies/intolerance in humans.
Millets are amongst the most nutritious grains. They are an excellent source of fiber and protein. Millets are rich in iron, calcium, copper, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and B vitamins. They also come with antioxidants, flavonoids, certain amino acids, and tryptophan.
Millets are an ancient grain. Traditionally, they are used both for human consumption and livestock and bird feed. They are easy to grow and tolerant of drought as they require significantly less water to cultivate than their western counterparts. They have a lot of scientifically proven health benefits.
Millets are divided into two categories, namely major and minor millets. Major millets are the most popular or commonly cultivated varieties.
Major millets include:
- Pearl millet
- Foxtail millet
- Sorghum millet
- Finger millet
Minor millets include:
- Kodo millet
- Barnyard millet
- Buckwheat millet
- Browntop millet
Ultimate Guide to Millets: Nutritional Profile
Pearl millet is the most widely produced millet variety intended for human consumption. Still, all types are renowned for their high nutritional value and health benefits. And like most cereals, millet is a starchy grain — meaning that it’s rich in carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. In addition, millet provides more essential amino acids (these compounds are the building blocks of protein) than other cereals.
One cup (174 grams) of cooked millet contains:
Carbohydrates: 41 grams
Fiber: 2.2 grams
Protein: 6.1 grams
Fat: 1.7 grams
Phosphorus: 25% of the Daily Value (DV)
Magnesium: 19% of the DV
Folate: 8% of the DV
Iron: 6% of the DV
Finger millet boasts the highest calcium content of all cereal grains, providing 13% of the DV per 1 cooked cup (174 grams).
Calcium is necessary for optimum bone health, blood vessel and muscular contractions, and proper nerve function.
Ultimate Guide to Millets: Health Benefits of Millets For Kids
Following are the excellent health benefits of millet for kids:
1. Promotes digestion
A good amount of dietary fiber in millets works nicely to improve digestive system function. It combats constipation, flatulence, bloating, and cramping and regularizes bowel function.
2. Regulates blood glucose levels
A high amount of dietary fiber, proteins, essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals present in millets, helps in stabilizing blood sugar levels and promoting insulin sensitivity.
3. Supports the cardiovascular system
Millets are loaded with several antioxidants, namely beta-glucans, flavonoids, anthocyanidins, tannins, lignans, and policosanols. These antioxidants play a crucial role in lowering bad cholesterol and helping maintain healthy blood vessels healthily, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
4. Improves iron deficiency
Millets are an excellent source of iron, and recent studies show that regular consumption of millets benefits hemoglobin and serum ferritin levels to reduce anemia.
5. Promotes bone development
Millet contains a high proportion of calcium and regulates the bone development process of small and growing children.
6. Fits a gluten-free diet
Gluten is a protein that occurs naturally in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity must avoid it because it triggers harmful digestive symptoms, such as diarrhea and nutrient malabsorption. Millet is a gluten-free grain, making it a viable choice for people with celiac disease or those following a gluten-free diet.
7. Helps prevent asthma symptoms
Recent studies show that the high levels of magnesium found in pearl millets helps alleviate respiratory issues in asthma patients while also reducing migraines.
8. Helps detoxify the body
Millets are possibly a rich source of phenols and antioxidants like quercetin, curcumin, ellagic acid, and various other beneficial catechins. These can help clean up toxins and foreign agents from your body by promoting proper excretion and neutralizing enzymatic activity in specific organs.
9. Reduces the risk of cancer
Oxidative substances trigger the formation of cancerous cells in the body. Antioxidants present in millets, like selenium, can block the formation of oxidants in the body and help reduce the risk of developing cancer.
10. Reduces obesity
Millets are high in fiber and satiate hunger quickly, so they prevent overeating. Millets contain amino acids like tryptophan which lowers appetite and helps in managing weight.
Ultimate Guide to Millets: Potential Side Effects
Despite millet’s multiple health benefits, it also contains antinutrients. Antinutrients are compounds that block or reduce your body’s absorption of other nutrients and may lead to deficiencies.
- Millets contain certain catalyst inhibitors and phytic acid. Phytic acid is a compound that does not permit the body to assimilate the supplements and minerals. It mainly interferes with potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium uptake.
- Millet contains goitrogens, and studies have shown that goitrogenic polyphenols may impair thyroid function, causing goiter — an enlargement of your thyroid gland that results in neck swelling.
- Millet such as pearl millet is exceptionally high in oxalates, which can lead to the formation of kidney stones.
- Millets are high in fiber, and overconsumption may prompt stomach hurt, swelling, and obstruction. Thus, creating blockages in your body system.
- Consuming millets daily and in large doses can lead to a deficiency of iodine, which can cause severe health issues like anxiety, enlarged glands, thyroid, and kidney stones.
Antinutrients in millet are harmful to our body, and this is unlikely to affect you if you consume a balanced diet. You can significantly lower millet’s antinutrient content by soaking it overnight at room temperature and then draining and rinsing it before cooking. Even sprouting the millet is equally effective in reducing antinutrient levels.
Ultimate Guide to Millets: Different Types
The most widely consumed millets around the world are:
1. Finger Millet (Ragi)
Finger Millet, popularly known as Ragi, is a staple in South India. The most notable nutritional feature is that it is a rich source of calcium. It is a healthier alternative to rice and wheat. It is a gluten-free variant of Millet, rich in proteins and amino acids. In growing children, finger millet is intended to facilitate brain growth. Ragi porridge is highly recommended as a weaning food for babies.
2. Foxtail Millet (Kakum/Kangni)
Foxtail Millet, also known as Kakum/Kangni, is a powerhouse of nutrition like other millets. It is usually available in Semolina or rice flour. They are rich in Vitamin B12, and they can offer you a daily dose of ample protein, good fat, carbs, and amazing dietary fiber content. It also provides copious amounts of calcium.
3. Sorghum Millet (Jowar)
Sorghum Millet, also locally known as Jowar or the “Great” Millet, is another popular type of Millet in India. Organic jowar is a rich source of iron, protein, and fiber and, because of the presence of policosanols, can help lower cholesterol levels. It has the highest iron content of all millets.
4. Pearl Millet (Bajra)
Pearl Millet, also known as Bajra, is perhaps the most famous and widely available millet. Bajra is rich in iron, fiber, protein, and minerals such as magnesium and calcium.
5. Buckwheat Millet (Kuttu)
Buckwheat, also known as Kuttu in India, is one of the most common types of Millet. Like all other millets, it also has a high fiber content, is good for our heart, and prevents diabetes. What separates it from all other millets is its slightly elevated protein content, making digestion easier than wheat-based products.
6. Barnyard Millet (Sanwa)
Barnyard Millet is popular in the millet’s name list and is known as Sanwa. It is stacked with high amounts of dietary fiber (6 times that of wheat). It is low in calories, has a low glycemic index, is rich in calcium, and is a good source of iron.
7. Kodo Millet
Kodo Millet, also known as cow grass, is a repository of nutrients and an excellent substitute for rice and wheat. It is also a rich source of proteins, fiber, and carbohydrates, besides the impressive presence of calcium, iron, polyphenols, and various other nutrients.
8. Browntop Millet
Browntop Millet is the rarest of all millet varieties, and it is a storehouse of nutrition like other millets. They can deliver a daily dose of proteins, healthy fats, carbs, dietary fiber content, and essential minerals, including calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, manganese, copper, sodium, and zinc.
Millets are one of the best ancient grains that are very high in nutritional content. They can be eaten like any other grain, and each variety of millet is three to five times nutritionally better than highly processed rice and wheat. They are packed with vitamins and minerals and are gluten-free, non-allergic, and non-acidic – the perfect combination for children’s demanding but sensitive digestive systems.
Millets are gluten-free, versatile, and easy to cook, so you can be as creative as you want while cooking them. You can choose from different types of millet, and every kind of millet has its unique taste. Millets are safe when consumed in a moderate amount. Excessive consumption of millet might cause adverse side effects. You can make side dishes, appetizers, or desserts or include them in the main course. Millets provide multiple health benefits and give your kids the energy to get through the day. Including millets in your kid’s diet is one of the best decisions you can make!