Medically reviewed by Krupa, A Postgraduate in Food Science & Nutrition
Millets are loaded with fibre. They are the best source of complex carbohydrates and have numerous health benefits. Grown in semi-dry areas of Asia and Africa, millets have been widely cultivated as cereal crops or as fodder for animals.
Since millets have a short growing season, can withstand dry and high-temperature conditions yet yield well, they are popularly grown in the developing nations.
It is now a well-proven fact that consuming whole grains on a regular basis may help lose weight, owing to the rich content of fibre and bioactive compounds in them.
They are gluten-free grains and hence it can be consumed by everyone.
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Types of Millet’s in India
Millets in India enjoy prime importance since India is one of the largest producers clocking 11 million tonnes every year followed by Africa and China.
In this article, we’ll bring you the different types of millets and its health benefits.
1. Sorghum (Jowar)
We all are familiar with jowar and jowar rotis. Jowar is very popular millet and research has revealed that it is very beneficial for weight loss.
If we remember, many grandmas prefer jowar rotis over regular wheat rotis, all thanks to its benefits. The calcium content in jowar is closely similar to the calcium content in wheat and rice.
It is also packed with iron, protein, and fibre. Research has found that a typical sorghum wax is rich in policosanols which helps in reducing the levels of cholesterol.
Since jowar is a gluten-free grain, even people who are gluten intolerant can have it. It is worth mentioning that millets solve nutrition-related problems since it is a rich source of micronutrients.
2. Foxtail millet
Foxtail millets are available in the form of rice, semolina (Rava) or fine-textured flour.
Like other millets, foxtail millet is rich in complex carbohydrates – the kind which doesn’t increase the blood sugar levels immediately but slowly releases glucose into the bloodstream.
It is rich in dietary fibre and minerals like iron and copper.
Due to this, it helps to reduce the levels of bad cholesterol and keeps the immune system strong as well.
Recommended Read: Healthy Lunchtime with Tomato Foxtail Millet
3. Finger millet (ragi)
Ragi is one of the most popular and commonly consumed millets. Due to its nutritional value, it can be considered a good replacement for rice and wheat.
It is also a rich source of calcium and other essential minerals.
Ragi is a storehouse of protein and amino acids that make it a good inclusion in porridge and even wheat flour.
Studies have suggested that Ragi has a positive effect on blood glucose level and hence, it is a great option for people with diabetes. 
4. Pearl millet (Bajra)
A study has revealed that Pearl millet or Bajra has iron content 8 times higher than rice. 
Bajra is also rich in protein, fibre, and other minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
Since it has good fibre content, pearl millet/Bajra will help ease constipation issues and any problems with digestion.
Because of its nutritional value, it can also make for a good lactagogue. Therefore, it induces lactation and helps in efficient milk secretion. 
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5. Barnyard millet
Barnyard millet is one of the best millets to include in our everyday diet. It has a considerable amount of fibre that helps maintain satiety.
Apart from this, this millet is a rich source of bone-building minerals like calcium and phosphorus.
Its good antioxidant profile helps in improving the complications of non-communicable diseases and degenerative disorders like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, etc. 
Therefore, it can be considered as an ideal replacement for rice in dosa/idli/dhokla batters.
6. Kodo millet
If you are looking for millet that closely resembles rice, then it is the Kodo millet.
It is easy to digest and is rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants, all of which help prevent major lifestyle diseases.
For weight loss enthusiasts, this is the millet that will assist in healthy weight loss. Cook it like rice once in a while and relish it without any guilt.
Kodo millet has shown to reduce knee and joint pain and helps regularise menstrual cycle in women among others. This is attributed to high mineral content like calcium, magnesium, and iron.
Recommended Read: Korra Rice Khichdi
7. Little Millet
The little millet may be called little but in no means its nutritional content is little. It is a rich source of B-vitamins, minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, potassium among others.
Little millet contains around 5.2 grams of fat with a good content of unsaturated fat that ensures a healthy metabolism and subsequently, a healthy weight loss. 
Its high fibre content is yet another advantage making it an ideal replacement for rice in foods like Pongal or even kheer.
8. Proso Millet
Proso millet is rich in protein and has complex carbohydrate. This millet is of low glycaemic index.
It has a high content of antioxidants and minerals like magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. This helps in preventing conditions like osteoporosis.
However, the developed world cultivates this millet to use it as bird feed. It is yet to be consumed as a mainstream millet.
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Health Benefits of Millet Grain
Millets are not just for weight loss. Before you think that millets are just an alternative to regular cereal grains, we let you in on the health benefits of millets.
1. Millets help to fight Type-2 Diabetes
As you must have seen, millets are all a rich source of magnesium, a mineral which is extremely important for starch digestion.
Magnesium makes many carbohydrate-digesting enzymes, even the ones which manage insulin’s action.
Researchers find that magnesium-rich whole grain consumption can help lower the risk of type-2 diabetes.
In addition to this, due to the presence of complex carbs, the glucose release in the bloodstream is also well-regulated.
So have a good morning with a bowl of millets cooked in milk for health. This is impressive millet nutrition.
2. Millet’s are as nutritious as Fruits and Vegetables
We aren’t pitting one food group against the other but this is what research has to say.
Scientists from Cornell University have found that millets have a good amount of antioxidants just like fruits and vegetables. 
According to their research, most of the studies have explored the ‘free’ forms of antioxidants seen amply in fruits and vegetables.
But the difference is that these antioxidants in millets are in the bound form which needs to be released on fermentation by bacteria. Thus the health benefits of millets are on par with vegetables.
3. Millet’s fight Heart Diseases
One of the phytonutrients amply present in millets is lignans. Lignans are known to be pre-biotic fibre which is fermented in our gut by bacteria.
As per studies, upon fermentation, they yield enterolactone, a product which is known to protect against heart disease and also some forms of breast cancers. 
4. Millet’s help to prevent Gallstones
Studies have shown that consuming foods high in insoluble fibre has the ability to prevent the occurrence of gallstones.
According to a study by the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, people eating both soluble and insoluble fibre reported a 13% lower risk of undergoing gallbladder surgery. 
However, those who ate more of insoluble fibre reported a 17% risk reduction of undergoing gallstone surgery. So you can eat the millet grain to prevent gallstones in the future.
5. Millet’s role in childhood asthma
Studies have found that a combination of whole grains like millets and fish helps reduce the incidence of wheezing in children.
The positive aspect is that millets are gluten-free grains too so it can be well tolerated by many.
5 Tasty Millet Recipes
Now that you have known the multiple benefits of including millets in the diet, we give you some great recipes that are both healthy and delicious.
1. Millet instead of rice
- It’s really easy, millets get cooked just like rice.
- All you have to do is pressure cook or pan cook 1 glass of millet with 3 cups of water.
- When pan cooking you can observe the progress. Just when the water evaporates, take it off the flame and let it stay. It will cook some more in the remnant heat and fluff up, looking just like rice.
- You can now eat this cooked millet with sambhar or rasam.
- Cook millets instead of rice once a week but make sure to check with a dietician if you have thyroid issues before consuming millets.
2. Millets in khichdi or Pongal
Rice and dal make for a good combination in khichdi. So replacing rice with millets does not make a big difference in taste but a world of difference in the nutritional profile.
Take this Bajra khichdi, jowar khichdi or foxtail millet khichdi for instance. You could use millets in sweet or salty Pongal too. Simple yet salivating millet recipes can be made.
3. Millet for upma
Millets are available in different forms, even in the semolina version.
So you can use millets to replace traditional wheat Rava and make upma. We even found ragi vermicelli and made a ragi vermicelli upma out of it.
4. Salads with millets
Don’t rub your eye in disbelief, we mean it. We made this bajra salad with lime seasoning and the result was finger-licking. Try it for yourself.
5. Millet’s incorporated in the wheat flour
Most of you are familiar with Chapatis made using wheat flour. For healthier Chapatis, you can incorporate millet flour in wheat flour.
You can have your own combinations too to make healthy rotis.
Nevertheless, we suggest you check with your dietician about the ideal millet to wheat flour ratio especially if you have thyroid troubles.
Millet Side Effects: Do Not Consume too many Millets
Though millets have a number of health benefits, Millets are known to possess goitrogens, the anti-nutritional factor if you have thyroid problems.
Hence it would be advisable to include them weekly and not eat it every day like rice or wheat. Do check in with a dietician or a nutritionist before you go overboard on millets.
If you are wondering what can be safely consumed and what to be avoided if you have thyroid issues, you can check our thyroid diet food list.
Keeping aside thyroid, millet, in general, is a great replacement for rice. It is rich in complex carbohydrates, fibre, antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals. They help people with diabetes and PCOS.
So, if you haven’t tried millets yet, grab one and eat them once in a while. We are sure you won’t be able to stop raving about it!
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1. Can celiac patients consume millets?
Yes. The millets do not contain gluten protein and therefore, safe for consumption in case of gluten sensitivity.
2. Is millet healthy for consumption by infants or aged people?
Millets are easy-to-digest with full of nutrients and therefore, fit for consumption by every age group.
3. Is millet safe for thyroid patients?
Millets should be avoided by people suffering from thyroid issues as it contains goitrogens that suppress thyroid activity causing goitre.