‘What’s trending in fashion this season?’ is a common question but “What’s trending in nutrition and foods?” is an often-quoted one these days as people are growing to be health-conscious. The instant answer to the latter question is millets!
Millet is the name given to a whole group of small-seeded grains in the grass family that needs minimal water and tends to be resistant to pathogens and pests that affect important crops like corn and wheat. As millets can withstand arid temperatures, dry spells and has a short growing season, it is one of the most-preferred crops in the tropics of Asia and Africa, especially India, Nigeria and Niger. In fact, millets overpowered rice as the universal grain in China and was the staple grain in Europe during the Middle Ages. These tiny grains have been consumed since the start of the ancient civilization dating back over 7,000 years. But these traditional foods were eclipsed by processed or ‘convenience’ foods until recently and its only now that all our healthy ancestral foods are regaining value for their nutritional benefits. Also, the past several decades have witnessed frequent periods of drought that led to poor crop yields and hence, farmers in drought-prone regions have also shifted their focus towards harvesting of drought-resistant crops such as ancient grains. Millets find their use as animal fodder, cereal crop or are also used as an ingredient in birdseed.
While proudly we can say that India is the world’s largest producer of millets, there are not many who utilize it for culinary purpose and the traditional millet dishes have been long forgotten which need to be revived.
The tiny millet seeds are packed with high nutrition content. They contain vitamins, minerals, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium and zinc. It is gluten-free and has a low-GI value which makes millets a suitable dish for people with gluten intolerance or wheat allergies. One cup of cooked millet contains 20% or more of the daily value of copper, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus along with B-complex vitamins such as niacin, folacin, thiamine and riboflavin.
Magnesium in millets helps reduce blood pressure, risk of heart disease and migraine problems. The fiber in millets acts as a natural prebiotic (dietary fiber that helps in the growth of good bacteria in gut). The gluten-free grain carries a subtle, sweet, corn-like flavor that varies in texture depending on how its cooked. Millets cooked with less oil can be fluffy and light like rice/quinoa while those cooked with more oil seem like a porridge or mashed potato.
Millets are not a temporary diet fad and these versatile grains are only going to be increasingly used. Popular millet varieties include:
Millets cater to the diverse needs of individuals.
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.