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.
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In the developed nations, millets have been relegated to be used as bird feed. However, millets in 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.
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Types of Millets in India
Millets in India enjoy prime importance that is because India is one of the biggest producers clocking 8 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 millets 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. Compared to rice and wheat, jowar has a high proportion of calcium.
It also packs in a neat iron, protein, and fibre punch. Researchers 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.
2. Foxtail millet
Foxtail millets are available in the form of rice, semolina (like rava) or as flour. As with other millets, foxtail millet is rich in smart carbohydrates, the kind which doesn’t increase the blood sugar levels immediately.
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.
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 as 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. This ragi benefit can be derived from patients with diabetes.
4. Pearl millet (Bajra)
Pearl millet or bajra is said to be a miracle millet with iron content 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.
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 on our tables already. It has 6 times more of fibre than wheat making it an ideal weight loss millet.
The fibre will help maintain satiety. Apart from this, millet is rich sources of bone-building minerals calcium and phosphorus. The good antioxidant profile makes it an ideal replacement to 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.
Weight loss enthusiasts, this is the millet you have to watch out for. Cook it like rice once in a while but without the guilt accompanied by it. Kodo millet has shown to reduce knee and joint pain, helps regularize menstruation in women among others.
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.
It also provides essential fats to the body, the kind that helps in 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.
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, low-fat dairy was also shown to reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes owing to the presence of calcium. So have a good morning with a bowl of millets cooked in milk for health. This is impressive millet nutrition.
2. Millets 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. Millets fight Heart Diseases
One of the phytonutrients amply present in millets is lignans. Lignans are known to be prebiotic fibre which is fermented in our gut by bacteria. Upon fermentation, they yield enterolactone, a product which is known to protect against heart disease and also some forms of breast cancers.
4. Millets help to prevent Gallstones
Studies have shown that consuming foods high in insoluble fibre has the ability to prevent the occurrence of gallstones. The Nurses Health Study found that people eating both soluble and insoluble fibre reported 13% lower risk of gallstones. However, those who ate more of insoluble fibre reported a greater risk reduction in the occurrence of gallstones that is around 17%. So you can eat the millet grain to prevent gallstones in the future.
5. Millets 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 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 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.
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. Millets 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.