Properties and Benefits of Millet: In countries with an arid or semi-arid climate, millet is a staple crop of significant economic importance, taking the place of wheat and corn. Millet is a true grass or cereal, just like wheat, maize and rice, and a great source of essential nutrients.
It is rich in folic acid, niacin and vitamin B6, all of which support carbohydrate synthesis and contribute to the good functioning of our nervous system. Being a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, millet promotes bone and muscle health and supports the immune function. Rich in fiber and low in fat, it is an excellent constipation remedy with cholesterol-lowering properties. More important, millet is gluten-free.
What does millet look like? Millet is a tiny, round or slightly oval pointy seed. It comes in a variety of colors, namely white, yellow, golden yellow, light grey, red-orange, brown, even purple-blue and dark grey. However, usually white and yellow millet is available on a large scale outside its areas of production. There are several major millet species which differ slightly in protein, fiber and nutrient content:
1) Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum).
2) Proso millet, white millet or broom corn millet (Panicum miliaceum).
3) Foxtail millet (Setaria italica).
4) Finger millet (Eleusine coracana).
What does millet taste like? Millet is one of those foods that take after the main flavor in the dish it is put in. Its somewhat sweet, nutty taste quickly dissipates when cooked, making it ideal as a neutral base for meat or vegetable dishes. This West African cereal is ideal as a rice substitute in risotto, stuffed bell peppers, mushrooms or eggplant. It can be made into flatbread and pilaf or successfully paired with carrots, beans, potatoes, lentils, chickpeas and fish. You can even use millet flour for pizza or enjoy millet flakes for breakfast.
Here are 8 reasons why you should include millet in your diet:
1) High protein content. Millet provides 11 g of protein/100 g of raw product, a considerable amount, suited for vegetarian and vegan diets.
2) Rich source of fiber. With 8.5 g of fiber/100 g of raw seeds, millet is ideal for treating constipation naturally. Also, research suggests that a fiber-rich diet is protective of colon health. By promoting easy, effortless and regular defecation, fiber limits our colon’s exposure to waste which is thought to reduce colon cancer risks.
However, because it absorbs great amounts of water when boiled, fiber (and nutrient) ratio may drop significantly so you may want to turn to millet flour or millet flakes in order to increase your fiber intake.
3) Cholesterol-lowering properties. The high fiber content in millet prevents fats from being absorbed by our intestines and this indirectly contributes to reducing blood cholesterol levels. Moreover, millet contains tocotrienol (a form of vitamin E) and phytosterols, two natural compounds known to lower blood cholesterol levels.
4) Good source of magnesium. With 19% of the RDA of magnesium per serving, millet supports the activity of important muscles such as the heart. A good daily dietary intake of magnesium is said to reduce heart attack risks in people suffering from atherosclerosis and diabetes. Moreover, magnesium helps increase calcium absorption in bones and has been shown to alleviate allergy symptoms and reduce migraine frequency.
5) Good amounts of phosphorus. The phosphorus in millet contributes to increasing bone mineral density, thus ensuring strong, healthy bones and teeth. Moreover, phosphorus-rich foods contribute to hormonal balance, help treat lack of appetite and prevent heartbeat abnormalities such as extrasystoles.
6) No gluten. Millet is gluten-free and can be safely consumed if you are suffering from Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity or intolerance. Other gluten-free cereals are amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, white rice, brown rice, red rice and black rice and can be found on this page.
7) Good B vitamins content. Millet is a good source of folic acid (vitamin B9), niacin (vitamin B3) and vitamin B6. Folic acid is especially recommended during pregnancy because it helps prevent spinal cord defects called neural tube defects in newborn babies.
8) Whole grain millet was shown to play a part in the prevention of atherosclerosis, ischemic stroke, insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity.
All in all, millet is an above-average nutritious cereal, with great health benefits, provided it is consumed with regularity, as part of an overall healthy, varied diet. Its generous nutrient profile makes it a great choice for anyone wanting to look after their general wellbeing and improve their health.