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What is Millet

While many people include millet in their diet, some are still doubtful about what millet is and its nutritional value. Millet is an easily digestible and non-allergenic cereal, listed as the sixth most valuable food grains in the world. Read on to know more.
When we discuss healthy diet, whole grains, pulses, fresh fruits and vegetables form the bulk of daily meal plan. A highly nutritious food grain that remains unknown to many of us till date is millet. Rich in essential nutrients, and mildly sweet and nutty in taste, including this grain in the meal menu is definitely a prompt approach for healthy eating. More information on what is millet along with its types, nutrition and cooking methods is given in the upcoming paragraphs.

Millet: What is it?

Millet is used to refer both the cereals and the plant that bears these edible grains. Studies concerning the origin of food grains reveal that millet is indigenous to Africa. Its origin dates back to about 4000 years ago. In fact, it is one of the oldest food crops known to us. Similar to other types of grains, millet is a grass that bears edible, small-sized grains. Previously, millet was consumed as a staple food crop in India, Korea and China. Till today, this cereal remains a main crop in several parts of India, Nigeria, Africa and many other countries.

The best part with millet is adaptability in arid climatic regions, where growing of other food grains is practically not possible. Hence, it is a preferred grain of choice for planting in desert regions. Basically, four types of millets are cultivated on a mass scale. They are pearl (most cultivated variety), foxtail, proso and finger millets. After threshing food grains, the leftover stalks are used for bedding, burning as fuel and feeding livestock. To get a better idea about millet, check out the following products based on millet grains.
  • Millet Seed: In appearance, whole millet seeds are small-sized, rounded in shape and look like corn. They are steamed or boiled until cooked for consumption like steamed rice.
  • Millet Spray: This refers to finger or foxtail millet grains that are still not removed from the inflorescence stalk (about 6-18 inch long). Millet spray is preferred over threshed grains for feeding pet birds.
  • Millet Flour: Flour made from whole millet grains can be used in making cakes, cookies and breads. In short, you can use millet flour in baking goodies, just like wheat flour.
Speaking about millet nutrition facts, this food grain is equivalent to the popularly consumed wheat grain in protein content. It is found that both millet and wheat contain somewhere about 11 percent protein. Millet also contains high percentage of carbohydrate, dietary fiber, vitamin B, potassium, iron, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. What makes millet more popular in planning restrictive diet is lack of gluten. Needless to mention, people who are allergic to this protein form are suggested to have gluten-free diet. In such a case, wheat and wheat products can be replaced with millet.

How to Cook Millet?

Moving to consumption part, nutrition experts encourage the consumption of fiber rich organic millet instead of white rice for a more nutritive meal. What's more, millet is more flavorful and tasty as compared to rice products. Prior to actual cooking, you can consider toasting millet seeds to increase its flavor. When it comes to millet preparation, you can try various recipes, depending on whether you are using whole grains, cracked millet or flour version. If you love the taste of porridge, try making it plain or sweet with millet seed. You can serve it alone with milk and honey, or as side dish to vegetable and meat stews.

While boiling, use one part millet with 3 parts of water. The more water you add, the denser will be the thickness of steamed millet. With proper cooking, you will get something like boiled and mashed potatoes. Another healthy way of eating millet grains is to make sprouts. Serve millet sprouts in salads and sandwiches. Also, you can bake scrumptious millet bread, cookie and cake by using millet flour. Besides regular way of millet preparation, it is fermented to make beverages.

As you see, healthy millet grains are easy to cook, and are worth including in the diet plan. One word of caution with consumption of millet is to minimize serving frequency for people, who are diagnosed with hypothyroidism. For farmers, growing millet is advantageous in many ways, especially in terms of adaptability to poor soil, resistance to major pests, quick-setting of grains (ready to harvest within 3 months) and inexpensive cultivation.
By Ningthoujam Sandhyarani
Last Updated: 9/28/2011
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