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Types of Millets And Their Benefits on Health and Weight Loss

Medically reviewed by  Krupa,  A Postgraduate in Food Science & Nutrition

Grown in semi-dry areas of Asia and Africa, millets have been widely cultivated as cereal crops or as fodder for animals. They are loaded with fibre and are the best source of complex carbohydrates with numerous health benefits.

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.

Millets in India enjoy a prime importance, since India is one of the largest producers clocking 11 million tonnes every year followed by Africa and China. They are not difficult to utilize and are cooked and used the same way as rice.

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In this article, we will bring you the different types of millets and its health benefits.

Types of Millets That You Should Add In Your Daily Diet Plan

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.

Sorghum or jowar
Sorghum or jowar is one of the most popular millets for weight loss

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.[1]

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 micro-nutrients. 

2. Foxtail millet

Foxtail millet is 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.

foxtail millet
foxtail millet for weight loss

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

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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.[2]

finger millet
finger millet for weight loss

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. [3]

4. Pearl millet (Bajra)

A study has revealed that Pearl millet or Bajra has iron content 8 times higher than rice. [4]

Bajra is also rich in protein, fibre, and other minerals such as calcium and magnesium.

pearl millet
pearl millet flour for weight loss

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. [5]

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. [6]

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
little millet for weight loss

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. [7]

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.

Proso millet
Proso millet for weight loss

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

Millets are gluten free grains and also rich in antioxidants
Millets are gluten free grains and also rich in antioxidants

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. [9]

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

Millets fight Heart Diseases
Millets 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. [10]

4. Millet’s help to prevent Gallstones

Have good digestive health with millets. Millets also help in weight loss
Have good digestive health with millets. Millets also help in weight loss

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. [11]

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 Indian Dishes Which You Can Infuse Millets

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.

Millet recipes for weight loss
Millets can be used to make khichdi or pongal

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.

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Millet Side Effects: Do Not Consume too many Millets

Though millets are gluten free food sources and have a number of health benefits, it comes with some disadvantages as well.

  • Millets are known to possess a goitrogen substance. Goitrogens interferes with the production of thyroid hormones, suppresses thyroid activity and results in Goitre.
  • Goitre causes enlargement of thyroid glands that resides in the throat and develops dry skin, anxiety, depression and slow thinking.
  • It would be advisable to include millets, weekly and not consume every day like rice or wheat in your diet. Check with your dietician or 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.

Millets for Thyroid
Millets are high in thyroid affecting goitrogens

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!

Conclusion

In a journey of healthy living or if you are making your way towards losing weight, you do not starve by not eating anything, instead you replace certain foods that don’t aid in weight loss to better foods that induce good health.

Millet is one such superfood that you can replace with rice or wheat. With all the benefits and the types of millets that are known to you today, you can make way to a better living. These millets are easily available in the markets and the usage instructions are on our blogs.

Rebooting is important to our body in switching our diets to gain better health as it is important to gadgets. As I say this, I leave it to you to choose better grains over better medics!

Learn more about other weight loss mistakes you might be made by following certain diet plans.

Quick Bytes

1. Types of millets good for health/weightloss?

A. Millets such as sorghum (jowar), pearl millet (bajra), foxtail millet (kangni), finger millet (ragi), Barnyard millet, Kodo millet, Little Millet, Proso Millet are amongst the healthiest millet grains available.

2. Is it safe to eat millet everyday?

A. No. Although Millets are rich in fibre and are most essential for your body, you cannot overeat them. Overeating of millet daily can suppress the thyroid activity and lead to goitre because of goitrogen present in them. Hence restrict millets in your diet to 2-3 times a week

3. Will eating millets increase weight?

A. No. It is now a well-proven fact that consuming whole grains like millets 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.

4. Which millets should be avoided if we have thyroid?

A. Among all the millets one of the exceptions can be pearl millet. Because some studies have found that pearl millet might interfere with thyroid function, even if you do not have an iodine deficiency. But in general overeating of millets can lead to goitre due to the goitrogenic substance present in millets.