The past few decades have seen a march towards healthy food habits and an increasingly healthy lifestyle. This expansive awareness about health among people has seen a rising demand of food and cereals with higher nutritional content.
Cereals rich in complex carbohydrates have replaced the age old simpler and easier sources of the macronutrient and hence, the healthier alternatives of food like muesli, oats, brown rice, etc. are getting widely popular. One such cereal to be in the good books of the Millenials is millets – cereal crops which are extensively cultivated in the Asian and the African continents.
Millets are small seeded grasses which have both been used for human consumption and as food for the livestock. Due to the advantage of temperature conditions and of the soil, Asia and Africa produce about 97% of the world’s total yield of millets.
Millet is an extremely versatile and durable crop that can be cultivated with lesser quantities of water than what is required by the other crops. They can efficiently grow in arid to semi-arid, dry to tropical and even in tough conditions which makes it to go-to cereal in the developing countries in the world. Though mostly being popular to be fodder for the animals, millets started finding a greater place in the regular meals of humans once the nutritional benefits of millets started to get noticed.
India is identified to be the country with the second-largest population of diabetic people in the world and since, millets are gluten free cereals, the crop has achieved huge popularity in our country.
It is likely that millet was first cultivated in Africa which then travelled throughout the Asian and the Middle Eastern continent 10,000 years before the present era. Among the myriad varieties of millet, the most famous one is the ‘Pearl Millet’, scientifically known as Pennisetum glaucum. India alone produces around 8 million tons of millet each year, closely followed by the African continent and China.
The versatility of millets makes it consumable as a traditional cereal along with being eaten as porridge, as a healthy snack and in a different preparation of bread.
Nutritional benefits of Millets:
Packed in with the bounty of nature, millets are enriched with carbohydrates, fiber, consist of minerals like magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, calcium, zinc, potassium, iron, are rich in vitamins, and in organic compounds. Not only do these help you to keep you immunity up and running but also these gluten free alternatives of grains help in the active prevention of diseases. In addition to being high in starch, millets also do contain high amounts of dietary fiber, which further add up to the nutritional benefits of millets.
Other the nutritional benefits of the millets, they are extremely low-maintenance as they can be cultivated with very less water and can be kept in the store for years. Millets like the other nutritious grains ragi, jowar, and bajra make for both nutritious and delicious meals and snacks, the daily intake of which increases the consumption of protein too along with the other nutrients. Out of the myriad health and medical benefits of millets, five are mentioned below:
Millets aid in treating coronary diseases
Since millets are such nutrient rich cereals, they help in keeping coronary diseases at bay. Millets improve the health of the heart and is packed in with the mineral magnesium that has the power to effectively bring down blood pressure, the risk of stroke and consequently, heart attacks. Millet can also function as a vasodilator because the millets are great sources of potassium too. Millets can eradicate diseases like atherosclerosis in a person and can keep chronic diseases in the likes of cancer and other coronary diseases at bay as the plant lignans present in millets can be easily transformed into animal lignans.
Millets improve digestive abilities:
Enriched with fiber, millets help in getting rid of bowel issues. Millets aid in digestion and works to abate gastrointestinal issues. They work wonders in cleansing the liver and the kidney of diseases and fight off the perils of colon cancer. Hence, a daily intake of millets can work wonders for your body.
Millets help to curb diabetes:
As already mentioned, millets help in maintaining a proper balance of sugar and insulin levels in the body. Millets carry a sizeable amount of magnesium in them that brings down the chances of type 2 diabetes in a person as they can regulate the levels of insulin.
Detoxifies the blood:
Millets come in packed with nutrient components like curcumin, quercetin, catechins and ellagic acid. These help to flush the toxins in the body and balance the enzymatic reactions by eradicating the foreign agents and the free radicals from the body. All these lead to detoxifying the blood naturally.
Helps prevent Celiac disease:
Millets provide ample nutrition to people suffering from Celiac disease as millets are gluten-free cereals. Millets are great alternatives for the conventional source of energy – wheat and rice. People with Celiac disease heavily suffer from bad reactions in their body after the consumption of gluten heavy food. Millet is thus the most preferred food for people affected with the Celiac disease as they mostly draw their energy as well as vitamins and minerals from the millets.
Kinds of Millets found in India:
Jowar – Originally used to make chapattis and flatbreads, jowar is rich in iron, protein and dietary fiber which contribute effectively towards bringing down the cholesterol levels in a person. Also known as Sorghum outside India, it consists of a kind of wax called policosanols which helps in the easy digestion of food for people with wheat intolerance and also aids in regulating the cholesterol levels in the body.
Bajra – Pearl millet is the most popular form of millet among the Indians. It supplies the body with a myriad of macronutrients and micronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, iron, fiber and important minerals like calcium and magnesium. Bajra is known for its versatility and its amazing nutritional benefits.
Barnyard Millet – This millet is heavily rich in fiber content and in minerals like calcium and phosphorous. The fiber content helps to fight obesity and helps keep the weight in check. Calcium actively contributes towards bone strengthening and building and phosphorous plays an active role in keeping off bone diseases.
Foxtail Millet – Foxtail millet is widely found in the market in the form of rice flour and semolina. This millet works immensely to boost the immunity system in the body as it has essential minerals like iron and calcium. Foxtail millet also consists of healthy carbohydrates which balance the sugar levels in the body and hence is advised to be taken regularly by diabetic patients.
Proso Millet – Like foxtail millet, proso millet to help in effectively balancing the blood sugar and the insulin levels in the body. Proso millet has low glycemic index which has made it a popular cereal among the people who count and watch their calorie intake and their weight. Proso millet has also gained popularity as a bird feed.
Little Millet – Little millets are a hit among weight watchers due to the goodness of the essential nutrients provided by them. They are great sources of B-vitamins, of macronutrients like carbohydrates and dietary fiber and are found in minerals like zinc, calcium, iron and potassium. It is a great replacement for rice and is found in most of the traditional culinary delights of the southern part of India.