All About Millets and Its Health Benefits
Medically reviewed by Krupa, A Postgraduate in Food Science & Nutrition
Millets are a group of small seed grasses grown in semi-dry areas of Asia and Africa. Millets have been widely cultivated as cereal crops or as fodder for animals.
Because 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 fiber and bioactive compounds in them.
In the developed nations, millets have been relegated to be used as bird feed.
However, in developing nations like India, are enjoying rising popularity due to a variety of health benefits of millets.
They are gluten-free grains and hence it can be consumed by everyone. We will elucidate on the types of millets.
Millets are supernatural foods for weight loss, Are you still looking for a sustainable weight loss, so you don’t put it back again?
Types of Millet’s in India
Millets in India enjoy prime importance that is because India is one of the largest producers clocking 11 million tonnes every year followed by Africa and China.
So let us know a bit more about the types of millets grown in India and millet nutrition that will convince you to stock them.
1. Sorghum (Jowar)
The very mention of millet and you would have picturized jowar or jowar rotis in your mind.
Well, it is one of the most popular, much-researched millet for weight loss.
Due to jowar roti benefits, many grandmas prefer it over regular wheat rotis. The calcium content in jowar is closely similar to the content in wheat and rice.
It also packs in a neat iron, protein, and fiber punch. Researches have found that a typical sorghum wax is rich in policosanols which helps in reducing the levels of cholesterol.
Being a gluten-free grain, it is also much preferred by those who can’t tolerate wheat-based products. And also Millets solve nutrition-related problems, as a rich source of micronutrients. Are you aware of your health?
2. Foxtail millet
Foxtail millets are available in the form of rice, semolina (like rava) or as fine textured flour.
Like other millets, foxtail millet is rich in smart carbohydrates, the kind which doesn’t increase the blood sugar levels immediately but releases slowly release glucose into the bloodstream.
It is rich in dietary fiber, 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)
One of the most popular and commonly consumed millet there could be. Due to ragi’s nutrition, it can be considered a good replacement for rice and wheat.
The most notable nutritional feature is that it is a rich source of calcium and other minerals.
It is a storehouse of protein and amino acids that make it a good inclusion in porridges and even wheat flour.
Studies have suggested a beneficial role of finger millet on blood glucose level and hence, its positive effect on diabetics patients. 
4. Pearl millet (Bajra)
The study has shown that Pearl millet or bajra is said to be a miracle millet with iron content which 8 times higher than that present in rice. 
Other facts about pearl millet nutrition are that it is also rich in protein, fibre, and minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
Consumption of pearl millet will help ease constipation issues and any problems with the digestion as well.
Because of the nutritional line-up, it can also make for a good lactagogue. Therefore, induces lactation and help in efficient milk secretion. 
So I hope all these bajra benefits will make it a staple in your kitchen.
5. Barnyard millet
Barnyard millet, with its nutritional profile, should belong to our tables already. It has a considerable amount of fiber that helps maintain satiety.
Apart from this, millet is rich sources of bone-building minerals 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 a 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 helps prevent the occurrence of 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 without any guilt.
Kodo millet has shown to reduce knee and joint pain, helps regularize menstruation 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 fats that ensures healthy metabolism and subsequently, a healthy weight loss. 
Its high fibre content is yet another positive making it an ideal part of pongal or even kheer instead of rice.
8. Proso Millet
Like it’s millet cousins, proso millet is rich in protein and low glycemic index carbs.
The developed world cultivates this millet to use it as bird feed. It is yet to be consumed as a mainstream millet.
Also, because of the high content of antioxidants and minerals like magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, it helps in preventing conditions like osteoporosis.
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Health Benefits of Millet Grain
Before you think that millets are just an alternative to regular cereal grains, we let you in on the health benefits of millets.
Similarly, millets for weight loss shouldn’t be the only thing you should be searching for!
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 are not any lesser than fruits or vegetables in their antioxidant activity.
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 at par with vegetables.
3. Millet’s fight Heart Diseases
One of the phytonutrients amply present in millets is lignans. Lignans are known to be prebiotic fiber which is fermented in our gut by bacteria.
As per the 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 fiber has the ability to prevent the occurrence of gallstones.
According to a study by Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, people eating both soluble and insoluble fiber reported 13% lower risk of undergoing gallbladder surgery. 
However, those who ate more of insoluble fiber reported a greater risk reduction of surgery for gallstones that is around 17%. 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.
A DIY diet is not something that you can sustain for a long period of time without seeing health-related repercussions
5 Tasty Millet Recipes
Now that you have known the multiple benefits of including millets in the diet, we give you some great ways they can be a part of your food and yet loved.
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.
- You can 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 do 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
So most of you will be comfortable with chapatis made of wheat flour.
We give that comfort to you but you can make it healthy by incorporating millet flour in wheat flour.
You can have your own combinations to make healthy rotis. 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
Ok, so millets are not all painted in white as well. Millets are known to possess goitrogens, the anti-nutritional factor if you have thyroid problems.
Hence it would be advisable to include them in batters 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 blog titled the thyroid diet food list.
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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.