What is considered as a humble meal can give the foreign imports a run for their money in terms of health benefits. The small seed grasses have seen an entire lifecycle, so to say, in how they have been consumed.
Not knowing the enormous health benefits, the millet grains were first offered as food to animals and birds. Much later, human beings started consuming them and in between, the millets ceded ground to wheat and rice. But, now thanks to the ‘eat local’ movement, the Indian superfoods are back in the reckoning.
Their goodness is now brought home to us with the organic food markets, food festivals curated by chefs and so on. One such millet food festival was recently organised by Savya Rasa, a city restaurant. The festival was curated by Annavi Khot, a nutritionist and fitness trainer.
The millets, far from being a poor man’s meal, can be cooked in a variety of ways — from porridges, rice, rotis, gravies, desserts and so on.
“We have rasams, rotis, biryanis and desserts — all a part of South Indian meals — as a part of the menu. You get your calories, fats, proteins from these preparations...you know exactly what you are putting into your mouth,” says Khot.
If you want to cook the millets at home, you can make rotlas, pulav, masala pulav, sabjis. “What’s exciting is that millets are grown everywhere. So you have easy access to them. In Maharashtra, for instance, you can easily buy ragi (finger millet) and bajra (pearl millet),” she adds.
For traditional food grains such as these, there are certain rules regarding the seasons and timings when we are supposed to consume them. However, Khot says that what matters more is your body type and the ailments that you might be suffering from.
“We have to remember that every body type is different. For some people, it might help if they eat millets in the afternoon, for others, it may not. Millets are high in fibre, so people will feel full for a long time. Millets also help in regulating blood sugar and so on. Some people are also replacing oats with millets for their breakfast cereal. The quantity you are consuming is also important,” she explains.
While those from the countryside still include millets in their meals, city dwellers have made a switch to wheat flour, refined flour, polished rice, and so on. That was so because we were informed about their benefits and how they were good for us. Turns out, the claims are not fully correct. Says Khot, “I won’t say that wheat isn’t healthy at all. But millets definitely are more healthy. They have high fibre and protein. They are rich in Vitamin D, B6, magnesium, zinc, potassium. Plus they also contain a lot of anti-oxidants. Since they are rich in fibre, your bowel movements are smoother. Millets are loaded with components such as curcumin, which naturally help in detoxifying your blood. Millets such as jowar (sorghum) kanngani or kakun (foxtail), cheena (proso) kodo, sawa or sanwa or jhangora (barnyard) also tick the boxes when it comes preventing inflammation or reducing the chances of colon cancer, keeping diabetes in check.”
Millets benefit people who have poor bone health. “In addition, they help control diabetes because they manage the sugar levels in body. They also reduce the risk of colon cancer, reduce blood pressure. Automatically the chances of your getting heart attacks are minimised. Wheat doesn’t offer these health benefits, at least in this proportion,” adds Khot.
The nutritionist also points out that nowadays, we know many people who are gluten or lactose-intolerant. Millets like ragi are a super substitute for them.
Time to make the switch, isn’t it?