Millets – Storehouses of Nutrition

Let’s find out what’s millets and the benefits of using millets in our diets. Especially when India is facing some kind of nutritional emergency. (Source Balaji VR)

Millets are a group of highly variable small-seeded grasses, widely grown in India as cereal crops or grains for fodder and human food. Millets are important crops in the semiarid tropics of Asia and Africa, with 97% of millet production in developing countries. The crop is favored due to its productivity and short growing season under dry, high-temperature conditions.

If there is any single factor that should tilt the scales in favour of millets in the food and farming landscape, it is nutrition. By any nutritional parameter, millets are miles ahead of rice and wheat. In terms of their mineral content, millets dwarf rice and wheat. Each one of them has more fibre than rice and wheat – some millets have as much as fifty times that of rice. See the table below and you will discover this amazing quality of millets.

Finger millet has thirty times more calcium than rice, while every other millet has at least twice the amount of calcium compared to rice. In their iron content, foxtail and little millet are so rich that rice is nowhere in the race. While most of us seek a micronutrient such as Beta Carotene in pharmaceutical pills and capsules, millets offer it in abundant quantities. The much privileged rice, ironically, has zero quantity of this precious micronutrient.

In this fashion, nutrient to nutrient, every single millet is extraordinarily superior to rice and wheat and therefore is the solution for the malnutrition that affects a vast majority of the Indian population. Remember in the Global Malnutrition Index, India occupies a position far below that of sub – Sahelian Africa, a region known as the poorest in the world. Therefore, experts say that India is in a state of Nutritional Emergency.

Apart from the poverty-induced malnutrition in the disprivileged rural belts, the nutritional crisis that the urban world faces is also a matter of grave concern. Obesity, diabetes, heart diseases among the urban populations of the world can be traced back to their dietary imbalance and the presence of carbohydrates and absence of other nutritional elements in their diet. To overcome these problems, increased use of millets in our diets can be the answer. In fact, with their low glycemic index millets can be a dietary panacea for the diabetics.

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