Present junk food available to us is more over like pizza, burgers, pastas etc. These foods may give good taste to our tongues but no health beneficiaries. Owing to their busy schedules people needed instant foods that can fillup their tummy! But a change is occurring people are getting back to past foods items concentrating on millets which are really power house of proteins, nutrients etc.
Millet can be traced as far back as the Stone Age and in fact, many types of millet have even been found in Mohen-jo-daro and Harappan archaeological sites. Interestingly it was this group of cereals and not rice that was a staple in Indian, Chinese Neolithic and Korean diets.
There are about 6,000 varieties of millet throughout the world, and since they are not fussy about soil and water, they are a major source of energy and protein for more than a billion people in arid and semi-arid regions. Unlike our over-cultivated wheat-rice-corn which need a whole lot more pampering to survive.
Think Jolada roti, ragi mudde, bajra khichidi, nachni dosa, thinai pongal – sound familiar? These are all food that we’ve heard of and perhaps grown up on. Yet millets, like many traditional foods have been sorely neglected. Pity! Because they are highly nutritious, non-glutinous and non acid forming grains. Properties which make them soothing and easy to digest. In fact it is a food often cooked during fasting in India.
Types of millets
Grown and consumed extensively in the African and Indian subcontinent from ancient times, pearl millet is rich in phosphorus which helps cells store energy, and many other vital minerals. Often cooked in winter, pearl brings warmth to the body and increases energy levels. The millet recipes include kamban koozh, an old-time porridge from Tamil Nadu and bhakri roti, eaten across India, from Maharashtra to Gujarat and Karnataka.
Has the highest calcium content of any millet and grows easily in arid areas. Often referred to as an anti-diabetic grain, its high fiber content also checks constipation, cholesterol and intestinal cancer. The millet recipes include Ragi balls or ragi mudde as they’re locally known, are a staple in Karnataka. Ragi malt, or porridge being highly nutritious and easy-to-digest is a common weaning food.
Note: Both bajra and ragi contain goitrogens that could aggravate the thyroid gland, if taken too many times in a day
Fox tail millet/Navane
Possibly the oldest cultivated millet, it is thought to have originated in Northern China, where it is highly regarded as a healing food for postpartum and digestive health. Foxtail millet has a rich mineral content, and is specially high in iron. A popular fasting food in some parts of India, it is interestingly called xiaomi, or little rice in Chinese. The millet recipes include Idli, upma, payasam, biryani. Commonly made into porridge in the northern parts of China.
The smallest of the millet family, little millet is yet another reliable catch crop grown across India. It is very easy to cook and is often simply used as rice and in fact, can be used in any recipe that demands rice. Higher iron content gives it an edge over rice specially for those with anemia.
Barnyard millet grows faster than you can say samvat ke chawal. One of the highest fibre and iron content amongst fellow millets, it has a low carb content is a good source of B-complex vitamins. The millet used to make different types of porridges. Slightly sticky when cooked, samvat ke chawal is popular during navratras, when they are used to make upma, khichdi and pulav during fasts.
Though its protein content is similar to that of wheat, it is considered a far higher quality protein source because it is not only rich in essential amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and methionine), it is also gluten-free. About as old as foxtail, proso is one of the more delicious and temperate millet varieties. The millet recipes include Upma, pulau/biriyani and porridge.
As with other varieties, kodo was domesticated several thousands of years ago. It has a high amount of lecithin and is excellent for strengthening the nervous system. It is also rich in B vitamins, especially niacin, B6 and folic acid, as well as the minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc. The millet recipes: Upma, idli, pulau/biriyani and porridge.