Are Millets the next Superfood?
The health food industry is a highly competitive world, with new titles being bequeathed to foods at the drop of a hat. One such overused term is ‘superfoods’. No sooner, the Western world identified some of the benefits of vegetarianism and has been trying to find a substitute for animal protein. Grains are the easiest alternate; but with rising menace of gluten intolerance, the buck seemed to stop with the ancient grains. One such class of foods is the ancient Indian grain family of Millets. Let’s delve deeper into understanding Millets and their health benefits!
Millets are also known as ‘Bajra’ in Hindi, ‘Sajjalu’ in Telugu, ‘Kambu’ in Tamil, ‘Bajri’ in Marathi, ‘Kambam’ in Malayalam, ‘Sajje’ in Kannada, and ‘Vari’ in Gujarati. They are tiny spherical grains that come in different colors like white, grey, yellow and even deep red. The botanical name of Millets is Eleusine Coracana.
As for some history, Millets likely originated in Africa but then spread through Asia and the Middle East as early as 10,000 years ago. The plant’s ability to survive in harsh conditions made it the perfect crop and it is still preferred today for that very reason.
Did You Know?
– India is the biggest manufacturer of Millets in the world
– Millets are drought resistant and can even grow in infertile areas
– It was not only consumed by men in the ancient world but also by their pets
– Millets can be used for flatbreads but can’t be used for leavened bread
There are numerous varieties of Millets available throughout the planet. The most commonly found Millets are Jowar (Sorghum), Bajra (Pearl Millets), Sama (Little Millets), Ragi (Finger Millets), Korra (Foxtail Millets) and Barri (Proso Millets). Bajra and Sama are high in fat, while Ragi has the lowest fat content.
Millets are filled with nutrients. They are a rich source of Vitamin E and B complex vitamins such as niacin, thiamin and riboflavin. In addition, Millets also contain essential amino acids like methionine and lecithin and minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. One type of phytonutrient especially abundant in Millets is lignans. They are thought to protect against breast and other hormone-dependent cancers as well as heart disease.
Millets are used for the preparation of fermented alcoholic beverages in Asia and Africa. Green leaves and early tillers of Millets are used as animal fodder in Asia. Some types of Millets are cultivated as grazing crops for sheep and cattle. Millets are used mostly as food for birds in America.
Millets can be consumed as part of breakfast cereals, in the form of porridge, or as an ingredient of soups, stews and breads. Finger Millet is a type of Millet that can be popped and turned into popcorn-like snack. Candied puffs of Millets are traditionally prepared and consumed in Japan for at least 1,000 years. Here are some of the health benefits of Millets and why they should form a part of your diet.
Aids in weight loss
Millets contain tryptophan, an amino acid which lowers appetite and helps in weight management. Millets are high in fiber and satiate hunger quickly, preventing us from overeating. They also digest at a slower rate which helps keep the stomach full for a longer time. Individuals who want to lose weight could include Millets in any one of their main meals.
Reduces risk of Colon Cancer
Millets contain both fibre and phytonutrients, the combination of which is believed to reduce the risk of developing colon cancer. Lignan, a phytonutrient in Millets, is converted into mammalian lignan in our intestine that protects us from breast cancer.
Helps decrease high blood pressure
Magnesium present in millets relaxes the muscles that line the inside of the arterial wall, which helps in reducing blood pressure. It also reduces the severity of asthma and lowers the frequency of migraines.
Helps in Celiac disease
Celiac disease is a medical condition which is characterised by damage to the small intestine. This interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. People who suffer from this disease cannot process gluten. Since millets are completely gluten free, it is a perfect food for individuals suffering from celiac disease.
Slows down muscle degradation
Millets are high protein grains containing lysine, an amino acid which slows down muscle degradation and helps to build leaner muscles.
Antioxidants present in Millets fight stress and neutralize free radicals in the body. This helps in reversing the signs of ageing on the skin. It also helps in maintaining proper health of the skin by rejuvenating skin cells. Ubiquinone naturally present in Millets is also used as an anti-ageing ingredient in beauty products to reduce wrinkles on the face.
How can you include Millets in your diet?
Millets are commonly cooked as a porridge to enjoy in the morning (great when you are tired of oatmeal!), but there are many other ways to use Millets. You can toss raw Millets into cookies, muffins or quick breads for extra crunch. You can use it to thicken soups, or as a base for warm grain salads of your choosing. You can also use Millets as a binder for veggie burgers and instead of rice in a stir-fry. Millets make a wonderful dessert, when mixed with non-dairy milk, nuts and sugar.
Now you know the incredible benefits of Millets, so what are you waiting for? Include Millets in your diet and reap its benefits. Don’t forget to share your experience and valuable comments.
100g of Millets provides 382 Calories, Carbohydrates – 75g (Dietary Fibre – 3.5g, Sugar – 1.7g), Protein – 11mg, Fat – 4.3g (saturated fat – 0.5g), Sodium – 4mg, Potassium – 195mg
And a percentage daily value of Iron – 22%, Calcium – 1% (based on a 2,000 Calorie diet).