Millets : The nutritional power houses

September 9, 2016

Millets are very hardy crops that grow even in extreme conditions. And like any agricultural product from hardy plants, millet grains are packed with an amazing array of nutrients.

Nutrition table comparing millets with other cereals

Here are some nutritional highlights of millets that we can see in the table above …

  • Its not just one !: As one can see from the highlights, each millet is good from one nutrient component’s perspective or the other. So, adding millets into one’s diet will inherently nurture  diversity - on the plate and in the farms.
  • Rich in minerals: Almost every millet is rich in at least one essential mineral. (Kodo millet appears to be an exception , but is still nutritionally, very balanced)
  • High fibre: Almost all millets have much higher fibre content than paddy or wheat. This single characteristic makes these grains a much needed addition to one’s diet. The high fiber also helps regulate the change in blood sugar levels after a meal - highly beneficial for diabetics and those with insulin issues.
  • ‘Quinoa! Quinoa!’ Why the fuss?: Millets are local, they have been grown in almost all parts of the Indian subcontinent for ages now. Foxtail and Barnyard millet, individually rival the nutritional content of Quinoa- an exotic grain that has evolved in the Andean highlands of South America, and has gained popular aspirational appeal world-wide and hence wide acceptance in the urban Indian diet. (If one were to include just three of the millets into one’s diet, the net improvement in nutritional intake would beat what one would gain by switching to Quinoa completely. We are not even considering the carbon footprint of Quinoa procurement, in the comparison!)
  • Filled with essential fatty acids: Millets have amazing fatty acid profiles. One might have heard about rice bran oil - the oil extracted from the bran of paddy rice. The fatty acid content in each of the millets is much higher than that in paddy or wheat and the composition of the fatty acids are way more beneficial than what is found in paddy.

One has to keep in mind an important aspect of cereal grains - almost all the mineral and fatty acids and a good proportion of the fibre content is found in the bran layer. So one needs to make sure that the millet grains are unpolished, sometimes also referred to as whole grain millet rice, and have suffered minimal bran loss. Polishing millets removes the bran layer leading to major loss of nutrients. But it makes the over-all processing easier and allows for larger scale processing.