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Discover the Goodness of Millets


 

 

We see many articles in newspapers on millets and hear friends and relatives talk about incorporating millets into their diet. Why are millets becoming a hot favourite in health and wellness columns? Have food scientists discovered something new or are they rediscovering the benefi ts? Read on to fi nd out more about millets and more importantly, how you can introduce them in an acceptable format to your children!

What are Millets?
Millets (ragi, bajra, jowar) like cereals (rice, wheat) belong to the grain family, but are small seeded and one of the oldest forms of human food, with cultivation of millets going back to almost 7000 years ago! Wheat and rice need fertile soil and adequate rainfall, so in some sense are pampered crops, while millets can grow in poor soil with very little rain. Hence they are a favoured crop in many parts of Asia and Africa. In fact, our country is the world’s largest producer of millets but unfortunately there has been an alarming decline (50-75%) in their consumption, from the 1970s to the present.
An introduction to the main millets
Here is a ready reckoner of millets for those of us who have grown up on a diet of wheat and rice:

English and vernacular names of common millets

How millets disappeared from our diets

While the Green Revolution helped India become self-sufficient in food production, the easy availability of wheat and rice led to millets moving away from our dining tables to being used as feed for livestock and for alcohol production.

While health enthusiasts in India are embracing quinoa (a grain-like crop with edible seeds from South America), millets are sought after in the USA, selling at ten times that of Indian retail prices!

Why the sudden fuss about millets?

A comparison of the nutritional values of millets versus wheat flour and polished white rice will give you the answer:

Here is a ready reckoner of millets for those of us who have grown up on a diet of wheat and rice:

Nutrition facts of Main Millets vs. Cereals

Millets are predominantly starchy; they can form the main component of any meal, and occupy the slot at the base of the food pyramid. The carbohydrates in rice, wheat and millets are’complex,’ but the extent to which they are refined affects the speed at which they are utilised by the body. As a thumb rule, if it takes long for the body to use carbohydrates, it means the food source is less refined and offers more fibre, satiety and delivery of nutrients. Hence whole millets are healthier than white rice. It is important to note that you derive more benefits from millets if you use the grain as is or coarsely milled than as flour. We lose some nutrients during milling of cereals and millets as the outer layers, where the nutrients are concentrated, are removed.

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