The Benefits of Millets: A Nutritional Security Perspective

The Benefits of Millets: A Nutritional Security Perspective

Millets is extremely diverse set of small seeded grasses, broadly full-fledged around the world as cereal crops for fodder and social food. Most species mostly referred to as millets belong to Pinaceae community, but some millets also belong to various other taxa.

In case of nutritional composition of various types of Millets serve as decent source of protein, micronutrients and phytochemicals. It encompasses 65-75% carbohydrates, 2-5% fat, 15-20% dietary fibre and 7-12% protein. The essential amino acid profile of the millet protein is healthier than various cereals such as maize. Millets contain fewer cross-linked prolamins, which may be an additional factor contributing to higher digestibility of the millet proteins. 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. Millets contributes to antioxidant activity with phytates, polyphenols, tannins, anthocyanins, phytosterols and pinacosanols present in it having important role in aging and metabolic diseases. All millets possess high antioxidant activities.

Major Millets: Important traits about millets

Pearl Millet (Bajra) Pearl millet contains considerably high proportion of proteins (12-16%) as well as lipids (4-6%). It contains 11.5% of dietary fiber. For the reduce risk of inflammatory bowel disease needs to be rises transit time of food in the gut. 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.

Finger Millet (Ragi) Finger millet is the richest source of calcium (300-350 mg/100g) Ragi has the highest mineral content. It contains lower levels of protein (6-8%) and fat (1.5-2%) Finger millet 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. It has high antioxidant activity.

Sorghum (Jowar) Major portion of sorghum protein is prolamin (kaffirin) which has a unique feature of lowering digestibility upon cooking which might be a health benefit for certain dietary groups. Sorghum proteins upon cooking are significantly less digestible than other cereal proteins, which might be a health benefit for certain dietary groups. It is rich in protein, fibre, thiamine, riboflavin, folic acid, and carotene. It is rich in potassium, phosphorus and calcium with sufficient amounts of iron, zinc and sodium.

Foxtail Millet (Kakum) It is high in carbohydrates. It has double quantity of protein content compared to rice. It 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 It has high protein content (11%), low fat (4.2%) and very high fibre content (14.3%).Kodo millet 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.

Why one should eat millets?

Millets are gluten-free, highly nutritious and rich in dietary fibre. They are rich in micronutrients, including calcium, iron, phosphorus, etc. They are low in Glycemic Index (GI) as such don't cause huge spike in blood sugar. Millets should ideally be an integral part of our daily diet. Dietary fibre in millets has water absorbing and bulking property. It increases transit time of food in the gut which helps in reducing risk of inflammatory bowel disease and acts as detoxifying agent in the body.

What are the Health Benefits of Millets? 

Millets are anti acidic and gluten free, it helps to prevent type 2 diabetes. Its effective in reducing blood pressure. Reduces risk of gastrointestinal conditions like gastric ulcers or colon cancer. Eliminate problems like constipation, excess gas, bloating and cramping. Millet act as a probiotic feeding micro flora in our inner ecosystem.5 fact important related to millet.

Powerhouse of nutrition: Millet’s rich in minerals and plant-built nutrients type phyto-nutrients. Essential phytonutrient as lignans present in millets which helps lessen the peril of heart diseases. Pearl millets are rich in insoluble fibre and aid in better digestion, and are also known for their anti-cancer properties. Foxtail millets are not just rich in magnesium that assists to regulate blood pressure levels, they are also high in iron and calcium that help boost immunity levels. Sorghum, on the other hand, is a gluten-free variant of millets that is beneficial for those suffering from celiac disease. Overall, millets are tiny power-packed nutrient foods and are a must for a healthy lifestyle.

Defences as of Diseases

By swelling cases of obesity, diabetes and early heart strokes, there is a sudden rise in health consciousness among people. There is a need to make healthy diet choices, and for those who are aware, millets are making quite an impact Millets are gaining ground as healthy options for those suffering from lifestyle diseases, be it diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, intestinal disorders or allergies towards gluten.

Resilience towards climate change

Millets are also resistant to the cold, drought and salinity and thus, are suitable for cultivation on dry and arid land. The prevalence of stress conditions and their consequences are circumvented by several traits such as short stature, small leaf area, thickened cell walls, and the capability to form dense root system Also, the C4 photosynthetic trait is highly advantageous to millets. In the C4 system, carbon dioxide (CO2) is concentrated around ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RuBisCO), which in turn suppresses ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate (RuBP) oxygenous (RuBisCO), which in turn suppresses ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate (RuBP) oxygenation and photorespiration.


Read also: Hybrid Seeds and Vegetables

Dr. Atul Pachauri
Department of Genetics and Plant Breeding
Assistant Professor, School of Agriculture
SAGE University, Bhopal (M.P)

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