Millets are the group of small seeded grasses which are widely grown in different parts of the world. They are grown as cereal crops or grains for fodder purpose or as human food.
These are the important crops of semiarid tropics of Asia and Africa. Most of the millet crops are native of India and are popularly known as Nutri-cereals as they provide most of the nutrients required for normal functioning of human body. Millets are classified into Major Millets and Minor Millets based on their grain size. These are highly tolerant to draught and other extreme weather conditions.
Millets are nutri cereals consisting of Sorghum, Pearl millet, Finger millet (Major millets), Foxtail millet, Little millet, Kodo millets, Proso millet and Barnyard millet (minor millets). These are one of the oldest foods consumed all over the globe. These are one of the several species of coarse cereal grasses in the family poaceae, cultivated for their small edible seeds. These are also known as Pseudo millets because they are not a part of Poaceae family, to which ‘true’ grains belong, however they are nutritionally similar and used in similar ways to ‘true’ grains.
Nutritional Composition Of Millets
Millets serve as good source of Proteins, Micronutrients and phytochemicals. They approximately contain 7-12% of protein, 65-75% carbohydrates, 2-5% Fat and 15-20% Dietary fibre. They have essential amino acids required to maintain good health.
They are also excellent source of Vit A, Vit B, Phosphorous, Potassium, Niacin, Antioxidants, Iron and Calcium.
Health Benefits of Millets
Millets are rich inniacin, which helps the body manage more than 400 enzyme reactions. Niacin is also important for healthy skin and organ function. In fact, it’s such an important compound that it’s often added to processed foods to enrich them.
Millets, especially the darker varieties, are excellent source of beta-carotene. This natural pigment acts as both antioxidant and as a precursor to vitamin A, which helps to maintain health of eyes.
Similar to cereal proteins, the millet proteins are poor sources of lysine, but they complement well with lysine – rich vegetables (leguminous) and animal proteins which form nutritionally balanced composites of high biological value. Millets are more nutritious compared to fine cereals. Small millets are good source of phosphorous and iron.
They control Blood Sugar level, Improves Digestive health, protect heart etc.
They are rich in potassium, a mineral that supports healthy kidney and heart function. Potassium also plays a role in nerve signal transmission.
Sorghum – Sorghum bicolor
Sorghum is also known as Jowar or Grain millet or Indian millet. It is one of the major millets which plays a vital role in certain diets. It rich in Phenolic compounds which acts as an antioxidant.
A quarter cup of whole grain sorghum contains 36g of CHO’s, 5g of Proteins, 2g of Fat, 3g of Fibre and 163 kcal of energy.
It is rich in Iron, Vit B6, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Folic acid, Carotene and other micro and macro nutrients.
Major portion of sorghum protein is prolamin (kaffirin) which has a unique feature of lowering digestibility upon cooking. Sorghum proteins upon cooking are significantly less digestible than other cereal proteins, which might be a health benefit for certain dietary groups.
Finger Millet – Eleusine coracana
Finger millet is also known as Ragi. It is a most popular food grain of South east asia (South India) and Africa which is gaining popularity worldwide because of its easy growing habits and health benefits.
Finger millet is the richest source of calcium (300-350 mg/100g), minerals, lower levels of protein (6-8%) and fat (1.5-2%). Its proteins are unique because of the sulphur rich amino acid contents.
The grains have excellent malting properties and are widely known for its use as weaning foods. Most famous food of South India (Karnataka) are Ragi balls, Ragi roti, Ragi malt, Ragi dosa, Ragi cookies etc which has gained popularity.
It provides vitamins, minerals and fiber required for proper functioning of our body.
It is an excellent source of Vit B which plays a role in everything from brain function to healthy cell division. The potassium found in finger millet helps to keep proper functioning of kidney and heart It has low glycemic index (lower levels of simple sugars and higher levels of complex carbohydrates which take longer time to digest). This property helps to prevent blood glucose level from spiking after a meal and inturn helps the people suffering from diabetes by managing their blood glucose level.
Pearl Millet – Pennisetum glaucum
Pearl millet is also known as Bajra, cattle millet, candle millet, dark millet, spiked millet etc.
It is having highest quantity of minerals(2.7%) among the cereals, high proportion of proteins (12-16%) as well as lipids (4-6%). It contains 11.5% of dietary fiber. It increases transit time of food in the gut. Hence, reduces risk of inflammatory bowel disease. The niacin content in pearl millet is higher than all other cereals. It also contains folicate, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc and vitamins E and B- complex. It has high energy content compared to other millets. It is also rich in calcium and unsaturated fats which are good for health.
Foxtail millet (Kakum/Navane) – Setaria italica
- It is rich in carbohydrates, has double quantity of protein content compared to rice.
- It is rich in Vit B12 which is essential for maintaining a healthy heart, smooth functioning of nervous system, and is good for skin and hair growth. It also contains minerals such as copper & iron.
- It provides a host of nutrients, has a sweet nutty flavour and is considered to be one of the most digestible and non – allergic grains.
Kodo millet (Kodon/Harka) – Paspalum scorbiuculatum
- It has high protein content (11%), low fat (4.2%) and very high fibre content (14.3%).
- It is rich in B vitamins especially niacin, pyridoxin and folic acid as well as the minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc.
- It contains a high amount of lecithin and is an excellent for strengthening the nervous system.
Barnyard millet (Sanwa/Oodalu) – Echinochloa esculenta
- It is one of the important minor millets as it is the rich in crude fiber and iron.
- Its grains possess other functional constituents i.e., Gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) and Beta – glucan, used as antioxidants and in reducing blood lipid levels.
Little millet (Kutki/Saame/Shavan) – Panicum sumatrense
- It is smallest among all the millets, hence the name little millet.
- It is high in iron content and has high antioxidant activities.
- It contains about 38% of dietary fiber and other nutrients helps for body functioning.
Proso millet (Chenna/Baragu/Barri) – Panicum miliaceum
- It contains the highest amount of proteins (12.5%).
- Health benefits of proso millet come from its unique properties. It has significant amounts of carbohydrate and fatty acids.
- It is cheaper source of manganese as compared to other conventional sources like spices and nuts.
- It contains high amounts of calcium which is essential for bone growth and maintenance.
- It reduces cholesterol levels and also reduce the risk of heart diseases