Year Of Millets: What Makes Millets Rule Over Other Grains

Year Of Millets: What Makes Millets Rule Over Other Grains

Incorporating millets into your diet works wonders for your health with its high nutrional value

Dr Priya AugusthyUpdated: Saturday, December 16, 2023, 04:10 PM IST
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The United Nations General Assembly declared 2023 the International Year of Millets (IYM 2023). Millets can grow on arid lands with minimal inputs and are resilient to changes in climate. They are, therefore, an ideal solution for countries to increase self-sufficiency and reduce reliance on imported cereal grains. Even though the carbohydrate content of Millet (78%) is almost equal to that of rice (82%) and wheat (76%); its unique properties makes it stand apart from all other grains.

Vitamins and minerals

Here are some antioxidants commonly found in millets:

Vitamins:

B vitamins: Millets, particularly bajra (pearl millet) and ragi (finger millet), are rich in B vitamins such as thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), and folate (B9). These vitamins play crucial roles in energy metabolism, nerve function, and red blood cell production.

Vitamin E: Millets contain vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps protect cells from oxidative damage. Foxtail millet is known for its relatively higher vitamin E content.

Vitamin K: Some millets, like finger millet (ragi), are good sources of vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting and bone health.

Vitamin A: Certain millets, like ragi, contain provitamin A compounds that the body can convert into vitamin A, supporting vision health and immune function.

Minerals:

Iron: Finger millet (ragi) is notably high in iron, a mineral essential for oxygen transport in the blood and prevention of anemia.

Calcium: While not as high as dairy products, certain millets like ragi provide calcium, which is crucial for bone health and muscle contractions.

Selenium: Millets can contain trace amounts of selenium, an antioxidant mineral that supports immune function and thyroid health.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are compounds that help protect cells from oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals. Here are some antioxidants commonly found in millets:

Phenolic compounds: Millets, including finger millet (ragi) and sorghum (jowar), are rich in phenolic compounds such as ferulic acid, caffeic acid, and quercetin. These compounds have potent antioxidant properties that help neutralise free radicals and reduce oxidative damage.

Flavonoids: Quercetin and catechins are types of flavonoids that can be present in millets, contributing to their antioxidant capacity.

Tocopherols (vitamin E): Tocopherols are a type of vitamin E and serve as antioxidants in the body. Foxtail millet, in particular, is known for its relatively higher content of tocopherols.

Carotenoids: Some millets contain carotenoids like beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids act as antioxidants and can be converted into vitamin A in the body, supporting vision health and immune function.

Superoxide dismutase (SOD): Certain millets have been found to contain enzymes like superoxide dismutase (SOD), which is an important antioxidant enzyme that helps neutralize harmful superoxide radicals.

These antioxidants play a crucial role in maintaining cellular health and protecting the body against oxidative stress, which are associated with various chronic diseases and aging.

Protein Content

Different millet varieties have varying protein content. But in general, millets are relatively higher in protein compared to rice and wheat.

Pearl millet (bajra): Around 8-12 grams of protein

Foxtail millet: Around 10-12 grams of protein

Finger millet (ragi): Around 7-10 grams of protein

Other millet varieties like little millet, kodo millet & barnyard millet contain around 7-12 grams of protein.

(Dr Priya Augusthy is the medical officer of Prakriti Shakti - Clinic of Natural Medicine by CGH Earth)

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