Super Grain- Millet
Millets are small-seeded grasses that are hardy and tolerate dry zones well and grow as rain-fed crops, under marginal conditions of soil fertility and moisture. Millets are one of the oldest food crops and probably the first cereal grain used for domestic purposes. The most widely grown millet is pearl millet, which is an important crop in India and parts of Africa. Finger millet, proso millet, and foxtail millet are also important crop species. In the developed world, millets are less important. For example, in the United States only proso millet is significant, which is mostly grown for bird seed.
The varieties of Millets include Barnyard, Finger, Foxtail, Kodo, Little Millet, Pearl, Proso, Sorghum, etc.
Millets are very nutritious and considered to be one of the most digestible and non-allergenic grains available today. The Hunzas who live in remote areas of the Himalayan foothills enjoy millet as their staple diet and are known for their excellent health and longevity. It has a sweet nutty flavor and one of the few grains that is alkalizing to the body.
[Read: Delicious Bread & Dessert Super-Grain Millet Recipes]
Refined Grains v/s Millets
Refined grains and flours have no bran in them. Refined foods increase glucose and blood sugar levels after they are consumed which is countered by the body producing excess insulin to lower blood sugar levels. If the body keeps pumping out large quantities of insulin for a long time, it usually develops insulin resistance. The pancreas may also stop producing insulin. Either way, glucose levels start to jack up, resulting in diabetes.
Millets are highly nutritious, non-glutinous and non-acid forming foods, thus making them soothing and easily digestible Compared to rice, especially polished rice, millets release lesser percentage of glucose but at a slow rate over a longer period of time decreasing the risk of diabetes.
Millets are rich sources of minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium. Finger millet (Ragi) has very high calcium content, about 10 times that of rice or wheat.
Amazing Health Benefits of Millets:
. Alkaline, easily digestible.
. Contains phytonutrient lignans which are converted by friendly flora in our intestines into mammalian lignans, that protect against breast and other hormone-dependent cancers as well as heart disease.
. Hydrates your colon and keeps you from being constipated
. Acts as a prebiotic feeding microflora in your internal body ecosystem.
. Serotonin in Millet acts as a mood-enhancer
. Smart carb with lots of fiber and low simple sugars. Takes longer to release the sugars reducing risk of diabetes.
. Has a low glycemic index and shown to produce lower blood sugar levels than wheat or rice.
. Magnesium in millet helps reduce the effects of migraines and heart attacks. Also reduces the instances of childhood asthma.
. Niacin (Vitamin B3) in millet helps lower cholesterol.
. Decreases triglycerides and C-reactive protein.
. Phosphorus in Millets is critical in forming the mineral matrix of the bone, building block of the genetic code, and an essential component of lipid-containing structures such as cell membranes and nervous system structures..
Nutritional Food during Pregnancy and for Babies:
Millets are ideal for pregnant mothers since several millet varieties like ragi and bajra are a rich source of iron and calcium. Mothers having gestational diabetes would benefit from substituting millets in place of other grains. Millets also help in building immunity for the baby growing in the womb.
Babies can be fed popped or malted millet powder which is a very good substitute for generic store-bought baby foods. Traditionally, children were given different forms of millets from 6 months onwards.
How to Cook Millet?
Most millets (except for foxtail millet which must be soaked for an hour before cooking) can be cooked like rice and can replace rice in any traditional preparations. It can also be used as flour to make breads. Millets may also be slighty roasted (until you get a nutty flavour) before cooking them in boiling water as they will retain their firmness better.
Wash and clean your millets, remove any grits. For 1 cup of millets, boil 3 cups of water. Add your millets and once the water starts to boil, simmer and close the lid. Cook for 10 minutes and switch off the flame. Let it sit for 20 minutes in the pot as it will cook completely in that time.
You can occasionally stir while cooking. Millets are best cooked in a mud/clay pots, however, you can use other utensils too.
No Agro-Ecological Conflict
Rice and wheat require many inputs in terms of soil fertility and water, whereas millets grow well in dry regions as rain-fed crops. Thus by eating millets, we will be encouraging farmers in dry land areas to grow crops that are best suited for those regions. This is a huge step towards sustainable cropping practices. By encouraging diversity in our diets, we respect the biodiversity in nature rather than forcefully changing cropping patterns to grow wheat and rice everywhere.