Millets: Types, Benefits and Recipes

More and more people around the world are waking up to the uses of millets and consuming a diet rich in them. Speak to any fitness enthusiast, and they will vouch for the miraculous benefits of eating millets. They boost your health and improve weight loss, besides being gluten-free.

Eating healthy can seem like a task with the easy availability of junk food all around us. However, consumption of junk food on a long-term basis, as we are all aware is incredibly harmful to our health. A good way to get on the path to good health is to replace your unhealthy eating habits with healthier options. Millets are available in a variety of types, with each having its own health benefits. You can walk into a supermarket at any time of the year and still be able to find whole grain millets in stock. Why? They are cultivated across seasons.

Consuming millets as part of your daily diet is not a new concept. In fact, the population of central and southern India would consume millets almost regularly as a staple food until the Green Revolution made rice and wheat more accessible. They became sidelined as a staple food grain in India due to the government’s lack of recognition. The government proactively pushed rice and wheat in the subsidised public distribution system, deincentivising farmers from cultivating millets.

However, ditching rice or wheat bread completely for millets would not be healthy for your body. Practice grain diversity in your diet for wholesome nutrition.

Table of Contents

What are millets?

Millets are coarse grains which have been traditionally grown and eaten in the Indian subcontinent for the last 5000 years. They contain high nutritional value and are rich in proteins, vitamins, minerals and fibres. Unlike other cereals, millets require little water and ground fertility. They have long enjoyed the tag of “poor man’s food grain” due to its sheer affordability. However, of late, it has come into the notice of fitness-centric youngsters who are learning the wellness potential of this humble food.

Millets are generally divided into two broad categories –

Naked grains

Naked grains refer to the three popular millet types which are devoid of the hard, indigestible husk that some millets have. Namely, Ragi, Jowar and Bajra. These millets don’t require processing after harvest; they can simply be used after being cleaned. These are the major millet types which are largely cultivated and quite popular because of this ease of use.

Husked grains

Foxtail millets, Little millets and Kodo millets belong to this second type. These millet types consist of an indigestible seed coat. The husk on them needs to be removed before they are fit for human consumption. Once done by hand, these millets soon fell out of favour since the processing of these grains was never mechanised the way it was done for rice and other types of cereals.

Millets contain a host of micronutrients such as iron, calcium and phosphorus. Also, they take time to digest, which don’t cause the blood sugar spike associated with easily digestible food. Introducing millet into your diet can help you control diabetes for the same reason.

Millets are not only good for us but the environment too, as they are largely rain-fed crops and do not put pressure on our already diminishing water resources. Additionally, these grain crops do not attract pests and so, can grow perfectly well without the use of pesticides.millets

Types of Millets

Millets come in different shapes and sizes. The two broad categories of millets discussed above contain numerous kinds of millets. We will take a look at some of these different types of millets below –

Foxtail millet

Foxtail millet, or as it is indigenously called, kakum/kangni is commonly available as semolina or rice flour. Foxtail millet contains blood-sugar balancing healthy carbohydrates. Its iron and calcium content also helps strengthen immunity. What more? It helps regulate your blood cholesterol and increases HDL cholesterol levels in your body.

Finger millet

Finger millet, i.e. Ragi, is used as a healthier cereal substitute for rice and wheat. The millet variant is gluten-free and rich in protein and amino acids. Finger millet is supposed to aid brain development in growing children.

Pearl millet

Pearl millet or bajra is incredibly nutrient-dense. It contains minerals such as calcium and magnesium, protein, fibre and iron. Practising daily consumption of pearl millet can be very beneficial for your health, such as helping you fight against Type II Diabetes.

Buckwheat

Buckwheat is the millet type you should consume if you want to lose weight. It makes for a healthy food option for diabetics, helps lower blood pressure and improves cardiovascular health. Buckwheat also fights against diseases such as gallstones, childhood asthma and breast cancer.buckwheat is a type of millet

Little millet

Little millet is also a great millet option for those looking to lose weight. You can eat it as a rice replacement. It is high in fibre and filled with numerous minerals such as potassium, zinc, iron and calcium. It is also packed with the health benefits of vitamin B and works as an antioxidant for your body, once consumed.

Millet benefits

Millets are rich in several beneficial nutrients such as phosphorus, magnesium, copper, manganese, and so on. Incorporating millet into your diet can help because of the following millet benefits –

Aids weight loss

The calorie content of millets is incredibly low, and so, they are a great food product for weight loss hopefuls. Not just those looking to lose weight, millet benefits people who are conscious of their fitness too. It helps them maintain their energy level throughout the day without having to keep eating constantly to refuel themselves.

Millets also keep you satiated for longer than other carbohydrates which are digested within a couple of hours of being consumed. When you consume millets, you feel fuller for longer as they take some time to get digested and absorbed into your body. You don’t have to reach out for unhealthy snacks, as a result.weight loss

Keeps your blood sugar levels low

Consuming millets can pre-empt people from developing diabetes, because of its low glycemic index.

It boosts your immunity

Our body’s immunity is built on the protein we consume. Millets provide a great source of protein and can help build and strengthen our immunity. The stronger our immunity, the less disease-prone we will be.

Reduces cardiovascular risks

Millets contain essential fats, which provide our bodies with natural fat. It also helps excess fat from being deposited over our muscles, which then effectively lower our risk of high cholesterol, strokes and other heart complaints. The potassium content in millets regulates your blood pressure and optimise your circulatory system.

Prevents asthma

The magnesium contained in millets can reduce how frequently you experience migraines and bring down the severity of your asthma complaints. Unlike wheat, millets don’t contain the allergens which lead to asthma and wheezing.millets help prevent asthma

Helps your digestion

Millets are a rich fibre source which can benefit digestion by helping alleviate bloating, gas, cramping and constipation. Good digestion keeps digestive complaints like gastric/colon cancer and kidney/liver complaints away.

Acts as an antioxidant

Millets can help your body detox because of its antioxidant properties such as quercetin, curcumin, ellagic acid and other useful catechins which help flush out toxins from your body and neutralise the enzymatic actions of your organs.

Millet recipes

The uses of millets are diverse. You can cook millets for breakfast, as lunch serving or for dinner. You can use millet rice instead of white rice in your recipes, and your food preparations will be significantly healthier. Below we share a rice-substitute millet preparation recipe. Hope you like it!

Vegan Millet Sushi with Roasted Root Vegetables and Broccoli Cream

Serving Size – 5 sushi rolls
Preparation Time – 45-50 minutes

Ingredients

For the Roasted Root Vegetables

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 100g each of carrot, turnip, root celery and beet strips

For the Broccoli Cream

  • 50 g each of peeled sunflower seeds and broccoli florets
  • 180 ml cold water
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce

For the millet

  • 250 g uncooked millet
  • 1.2 l water
  • ½ tsp salt

You will also need 5 nori sheets and tamari sauce for serving.

Instructions

  1. You will have to bake the vegetables first. Preheat the oven to 400F and then put your vegetable strips onto a covered baking tray with a sprinkling of oil. Sprinkle some salt over the vegetables and bake the vegetables in the oven for 35 minutes or until lightly browned. Take the tray out of the oven and allow the baked vegetables to cool.
  2. Now, prepare the millet by mixing the millet with water and salt and bringing it to a boil. Boil this mixture on medium heat for about 15 minutes. Once the millet has softened, keep it aside and let it cool down.
  3. Boil the broccoli florets and sunflower seeds in water for 15 minutes and then drain and rinse these boiled vegetables with cold water. Add this boiled broccoli and sunflower seeds to a blender along with cold water, soy sauce and vinegar. Blend for a handful of minutes until you obtain a smooth mixture and set aside.
  4. Take a rolling mat and your nori sheets and prepare to make your sushi! Add about a tablespoon of millet and spread it out, then add some roasted veggies and a little of that broccoli cream. Moisten the top of the nori sheet with some water and then, roll it into a tight sushi roll. Repeat it five times. Use a sharp wet knife to cut the sushi into pieces. Serve this sushi with leftover broccoli cream and tamari sauce. Enjoy your millet rice sushi and don’t forget to pass on the recipe!

Summary

Millets are a coarse grain, cultivated in the Indian subcontinent, for ages now. Yet, it always flew under the radar with the presence of more popular cereals like rice and wheat. Suddenly, health and fitness aficionados from across the world have sat up and taken notice of the immense health benefits that this humble food grain offers.

Millets, once a staple in India, fell out of favour as the government popularised the cultivation of other cereal grains. Unlike wheat and rice, millet cultivation is incredibly sustainable. Millets can grow in any climate; they are mainly rain-fed and are not prone to pests. So, millets can be grown in areas where water resources are not easily available too. They are not expensive to farm as they do not require expenditure on pesticides.

The world has recently realised the wealth of nutrients that millets contain. It is being hailed as a superfood, even called as a miraculous food product. Why? Millet benefits our bodies by strengthening our immunity, keeping diseases in check and also aiding weight loss. Unlike other cereals, millets take longer to break down in the body and so, keep us satiated for longer.

Millets are available in a range of options. Each type of millet carries its own health benefits. Largely, all millet types promote good health and wellness. They contain antioxidants, micronutrients, protein and a host of other beneficiary vitamins for our body.

If you are planning to introduce millets into your daily diet, you don’t need to worry about how. You can use millets as a cereal substitute, prepare lunch out of it, make porridge, infuse it into your cupcake – the uses of millets in cuisine can be endless.

Don’t be taken in by health fads. If you’ve spent money on Quinoa, know that millets will provide you with much the same health benefits for a much lesser price. Also, millets are far more versatile and can adapt itself to more dishes than quinoa. Why wait, include millets into your everyday diet and notice the little positive changes it brings to your life.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

Q. Is millet carbohydrate or protein?

A: Millet are carbohydrates, not protein.

Q. Which is better oats or millet?

A: Both of them are high fiber grains. However, rolled oats being processed may take the second place compared to whole millets as they are not processed.

Q. Is Millet bad for thyroid?

A: Millet are goitrogenic, that means it might interfere in the iodine absorption in the body. Hence it is necessary to limit millet in people suffering from Hypothyroidism condition.

Q. Which is the best millet?

A: All varieties of millet have their own positives. Consuming them in the right amounts can only help improve your overall health.

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