Millets are small seed grasses widely grown as cereal crops or as fodder for animals. Because millets have a short growing season, they can withstand dry and high-temperature conditions yet yield well. They are mostly cultivated in semi-dry areas of Asia and Africa.
Millet is one of the main ingredients in birdseed; this wonderful grain is technically a seed and not a grain but is commonly clubbed in the grain section. It is a delicious grain whose consistency varies depending upon cooking method; it can be creamy like mashed potatoes or fluffy like rice. Since millet is gluten free, it is a wonderful grain alternative for people who are gluten-sensitive.
Millets are tiny in size and round in shape and can vary in colour from white to grey to yellow to red. Millet, in general, refers to a variety of grains, the most widely available form of millet found in stores is Sorghum -Jowar, Finger Millet – Ragi or Pearl Millet – Bajra and of course couscous, which is made from cracked millet. Foxtail Millet is the second-most cultivated millet also known as Korralu in Andhra Pradesh, “Thinai” in Tamil Nadu, “Navane” in Karnataka and “Rala” in Maharashtra.
Foxtail millets are available in the form of cereal, semolina or as flour. Foxtail millet is rich in smart carbohydrates and does not increase the blood sugar levels immediately after eating due to its rich dietary fibre.
Health Benefits of Millet Grain
Millets are not just the new fad for weight loss but have a wide range of health benefits that should be taken advantage of in today’s world. Millets, packed with nutrients, vitamins, minerals and organic compounds, can significantly boost human health in various ways.
- Millets against Type-2 Diabetes
Millets are a rich source of magnesium, a mineral which is extremely important for starch digestion. Research finds that magnesium-rich whole grain consumption can help lower the risk of type-2 diabetes. So having an energetic morning with a bowl of millets cooked in milk is beginning your day with the right nutrition.
- Millets against Heart Disease
The high fibre levels in millet are ideal for lowering cholesterol. It eliminates dangerous “bad cholesterol” (LDL) from the system while promoting the effects of “good cholesterol (HDL). Being a rich source of magnesium and potassium, it reduces blood pressure and acts as a vasodilator. Reducing your blood pressure and boosting your circulation is one of the best ways to protect your cardiovascular health.
- Millets for Digestive Health and Detoxification
The rich fibre in millet moves along the gastrointestinal system to eliminate problems like constipation, flatulence, bloating, and cramping. This improves the nutritional retention and reduces chances of gastric ulcers. Proper digestion and elimination of waste help to improve your kidney, liver, and immune system health.
The antioxidants found in millet, neutralise free radicals and the beneficial catechins present can help rid the system of toxins by promoting proper excretion and neutralising enzymatic activity in the organs.
- Millets in Cancer Prevention
- Recent research has revealed fibre to be one of the best and easiest ways to prevent the onset of breast cancer. Also, one of the phytonutrients amply present in millets is lignans. Upon fermentation in the intestines by bacteria, they yield ‘enterolactone’, a product which is known to protect against some forms of breast cancers.
- Millets in Asthma Prevention
Research has shown that millet can considerably improve the quality of life for people suffering from childhood asthma and can also prevent it from developing. It has been shown to reduce wheezing and asthma attacks in children who had large intakes of millet.
How to Select the right millet
When purchasing millet in bulk or a packaged container, make sure of its freshness and that there is no moisture present. Always choose organic millets, free from chemical fertilisers and artificial sprays.
How to Enjoy Your Meals with Millet
- Millet can be cooked as a breakfast porridge to which you can add nuts and fruits to make it more nutritious.
- Millet flour can be proportionately added in bread and muffin recipes.
- Cooked millet grains added to a tossed vegetable and chicken salad is a filling and a nutritionally complete meal.