Forgotten Treasures, Rediscovered Heritage- Millets
Unlocking the Secrets of Millets: Enhance Your Health Naturally
Millets have a long and rich history in India, dating back thousands of years. They have been an integral part of Indian agriculture and cuisine, particularly in regions with dry and arid climates. Millets have been cultivated in India for over 5,000 years, the earliest records of millet cultivation in India can be traced back to the Harappan civilization (2600-1900 BCE). Millets were one of the primary staple crops in ancient India, alongside rice and wheat. They were grown extensively in regions such as the Deccan Plateau, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and parts of South India.
Cultural Significance: Millets hold cultural significance in many Indian states. For example, finger millet (ragi) is a staple crop in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh, where it is used to prepare traditional dishes like ragi idli and ragi dosa. Bajra is popular in Rajasthan and Gujarat and is used to make rotis (flatbreads) and other regional delicacies.
Decline and Resurgence: With the advent of the Green Revolution in the 1960s, the focus shifted to high-yielding crops like rice and wheat. As a result, millets gradually lost their prominence, and their cultivation declined. However, in recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in millets due to their nutritional value, resilience to climate change, and sustainable farming practices.
What is Millet?
Millet is a type of small grain that is grown and eaten by people in different parts of the world. It is a healthy and versatile food that can be used in various dishes. Millet grains are small and come in different colors such as white, yellow, or red. People cook millet to make porridge, bread, cookies etc. It is also used as a rice substitute in some countries. Millet is known for its nutritional value and is enjoyed by many cultures around the world.
10 Health benefits of Millets.
- Rich in nutrients: Millets are packed with essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They provide a good source of protein, dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and B vitamins.
- Gluten-free alternative: Millets are naturally gluten-free, making them a suitable choice for individuals with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease. They can be used as a substitute for wheat and other gluten-containing grains.
- Digestive health: Millets are high in dietary fiber, which promotes healthy digestion, prevents constipation, and aids in maintaining a healthy weight.
- Heart-healthy: Millets contain a high amount of soluble fiber, which can help reduce cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease. They are also low in saturated fats, further benefiting heart health.
- Helps in Diabetes management: Millets have a low glycemic index, which means they are digested and absorbed slowly, resulting in a gradual release of sugar into the bloodstream. This property can help regulate blood sugar levels, making millets a suitable choice for individuals with diabetes.
- Weight management: The fiber content in millets provides a feeling of fullness, which can aid in weight management by reducing overeating and promoting a healthy metabolism.
- Nutritional value for vegetarians/vegans: Millets are a valuable source of plant-based protein, making them an excellent choice for individuals following vegetarian or vegan diets.
- Antioxidant properties: Millets contain antioxidants that help protect the body against free radicals, which can damage cells and contribute to chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
- Improved immunity: The nutrients present in millets, such as vitamins and minerals, help boost the immune system and promote overall health and well-being.
- Lower risk of certain diseases: Regular consumption of millets has been associated with a reduced risk of certain diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and certain types of cancer.
When it comes to millets, there are two common classifications based on the grain’s outer layer
- Naked Grains– It refers to grains where the outer husk or hull is loosely attached to the grain and can be easily removed during processing. This term is commonly used in the context of certain types of millets and other grains. When the husk is easily removed, it exposes the edible part of the grain, making it more convenient for consumption or further processing. E.g- Barley, Finger millet, Proso etc.
- Husked grains– It refers to grains where the outer husk or protective layer remains attached to the grain even after processing. These grains require additional steps to remove the husk before they can be consumed or further processed. Husked grains are commonly found in different types of millets and other grains. E.g- Little millet, Kodo millet, Barnyard millet etc.
Types of Millets
–Pearl Millet (Bajra): High in fiber, protein, and minerals like iron and magnesium. Helps in digestion, promotes heart health, and provides energy.
–Finger Millet (Ragi): Rich in calcium, iron, and antioxidants. Supports bone health, aids in weight management, and helps regulate blood sugar levels.
–Foxtail Millet: Gluten-free and rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Promotes heart health, aids in digestion, and helps control blood sugar levels.
–Little Millet: High in fiber and antioxidants. Supports weight management, promotes digestion, and provides essential nutrients.
–Kodo Millet: Good source of dietary fiber, minerals, and antioxidants. Supports weight management, aids in digestion, and helps control blood sugar levels.
–Barnyard Millet: Rich in fiber, phosphorus, and iron. Supports weight loss, aids in digestion, and promotes cardiovascular health.
–Proso Millet: Low in calories and rich in protein. Supports weight management, aids in digestion, and provides essential nutrients.
–Browntop Millet: High in fiber and antioxidants. Supports weight management, aids in digestion, and provides energy.
–Sorghum Millet (Jowar): Rich in antioxidants, fiber, and minerals. Supports heart health, aids in digestion, and helps control blood sugar levels.
Conclusion– Today, there is a growing awareness of the health benefits and ecological significance of millets in the world. They are being incorporated into diverse culinary preparations, health foods, and snacks, contributing to their revival and renewed appreciation among consumers.