From Weight Loss To Stronger Bones: 5 Health Benefits of Millets
Millets are “tiny grains” that are not just packed with minerals and vitamins, but are also gluten-free.
Ask people about the most eaten foods in India, pat comes the reply, wheat, rice and pulses. Yes, these food grains are an intrinsic part of our lives, but there are healthier options out there.
The first time I was served a ragi ball with a curry, it took me a good two minutes to get the hang of picking it up, dipping in the curry and swallowing it. Yes, swallowing it, no chewing.
Still clueless about what it was, I checked with my aunt who listed more than a dozen health benefits of ragi and was surprised that I had never tried it earlier.
What Are Millets?
Millets are “tiny grains" that are not just packed with minerals and vitamins, but are also gluten-free. A millet is actually a seed and it’s generally referred to as a grain because of its grain-like consistency.
Once considered a poor man’s food, millets are slowly finding its way into one’s diet with a wide variety of recipes available.
Some of the common millets available in India are Ragi (Finger millet), Jowar (Sorghum), Sama (Little millet), Bajra (Pearl millet), and Variga (Proso millet).
Millets are sustainable crops in comparison to rice and wheat. A rice plant needs at least 3 times more water to grow in comparison to millets.
Millets can also sustain high temperatures. They can grow in higher temperatures, of almost up to 46 degrees C.
What Are The Health Benefits of Millets?
If you are health conscious and wary about what you consume, you can opt for millets as a regular part of your diet.
Millets are non-glutinous and non-acid-forming foods which makes it easy to digest when eaten in the right quantity.
Each millet comes with its own nutritive value. Some millets like sama and bajra are high in fats, while ragi is low on fat content. Millets are also rich in calcium and magnesium.
In fact ragi is known to have the highest calcium content among all the food grains. If you are still contemplating a switch to millets, you need to know that millets are armed with loads of health benefits.
Here are some health benefits of millets:
- Rich in anti-oxidants: All varieties of millets are rich in antioxidants that help to flush out harmful free radicals from the body and keep several health issues at bay. Millets are also known to boost the immunity levels.
- Maintains digestive health: If indigestion is your companion, then introduce millets into your diet in small quantities. Digestive issues occur because of less consumption of fibre. Millets are loaded with starch and significant amounts of fiber – soluble and insoluble. This helps to regulate the digestion process. Since millets are also gluten-free, they help to reduce the occurrence of celiac disease that can upset the stomach.
- Good for babies and children: There are brand that make 100% natural millet based foods for infants and children. These include porridge, biscuits, cereals and more. So if you are looking at opting for millets for your children, you could start with these options.
- Keeps your bones healthy: Our body does not make calcium on its own. And since calcium is required to keep your bones strong, you need to include foods in your diet that is rich in calcium. Ragi is a millet with the highest content of calcium. Some millets are also rich in magnesium that can reduce the instance of osteoporosis and bone damage.
- Helps with weight management: Millets have a high fiber content that makes it an excellent food option to manage your weight. Millets are heavy foods that helps to decrease hunger pangs and keep you from snacking. Millets also helps to lower your cholesterol levels and keep your weight in check.
How Much of Millets is Actually Good?
Just like every fad that seems to hit a crest and then a trough, millets when not used the right way can cause health issues. While there are a variety of recipes that are available that talk about the benefits of millets, it is also important to know that anything in excess can be detrimental to your health.
People are turning away from millets after experiencing digestive distress and headaches because they are opting for millets as a replacement for the refined flours and polished grains that has been a part of their diet so far.Sangeeta Khanna, Nutrition Coach and Culinary Consultant, Delhi
She adds, “Home cooks and bakers are replacing refined flour with some millet to create cookies and cakes for everyday consumption. Sometimes it finds its way in the regular breads and rotis as well. Most of us consume way more grains than required and when we also consume millets in the same meal, we are burdening the digestive system. This triggers a chain of minor health issues.”
While consuming millets and adding it to your diet is certainly healthy, what is also more important is how much you consume.
So if you are actually starting with including millets in your daily diet, do so with small quantities. Add some ragi flour to the dosa batter or some bajra and jowari ka aata to your regular wheat flour.
Introduce them in small quantities and increase it as your digestive system gets adjusted to it.
(Pratibha Pal spent her childhood in idyllic places only fauji kids would have heard of. She grew up reading a variety of books that let her imagination wander and still hopes to come across the Magic Faraway Tree. When she's not rooting for eco-living or whipping up some DIY recipes to share with her readers, Pratibha is creating magic with social media. You can view her blog at www.pratsmusings.com or reach to her on Twitter at @myepica.)
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