Millet provides a host of nutrients, has a sweet nutty flavor, and is considered to be one of the most digestible and non-allergenic grains available. It is one of the few grains that is alkalizing to the body.
Millet has always been a favorite grain of mine since I discovered it in my hippy days in the 70’s!
Read about millet’s 12 health benefits, some interesting trivia and history, 10 tips how to use it, and 3 delicious millet recipes.
12 Health Benefits:
1. Millet is alkaline and it digests easily.
2. The Hunzas – who live in a remote area of the Himalayan foothills and are known for their excellent health and longevity – enjoy millet as a staple in their diet.
3. Millet will hydrate your colon to keep you from being constipated.
4. Millet acts as a prebiotic feeding microflora in your inner ecosystem.
5. The serotonin in millet is calming to your moods.
6. Millet is a smart carb with lots of fiber and low simple sugars. Because of this it has a relatively low glycemic index and has been shown to produce lower blood sugar levels than wheat or rice. (Kamari and Sumathi, 2002)
7. Magnesium in millet can help reduce the effects of migraines and heart attacks.
8. Niacin (vitamin B3) in millet can help lower cholesterol.
9. Millet consumption decreases triglycerides and C-reactive protein. Scientists in Seoul, South Korea concluded that millet may be useful in preventing cardiovascular disease. Nutrition Research. April 2010; 30(4):290-6.
10. All millet varieties show high antioxidant activity. A team of biochemists analyzed the antioxidant activity; all varieties showed high antioxidant activity. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 9 June 2010; 58(11):6706-14.
11. Millet is gluten-free and non-allergenic. A great grain for sensitive individuals.
12. Millet’s high protein content (15 percent) makes is a substantial addition to a vegetarian diet.
Next page: Trivia & Nutritional Information
Trivia / Interesting Facts:
- Millet was the main grain in China before rice.
- In North America and Europe, millet has been grown primarily for animal fodder, pasture grass and birdseed.
- The majority of the world’s commercial millet crop is produced by India, China and Nigeria.
- Millet grows in stalks 1 to 10 feet high, and ripens in 60 to 90 days.
- It will grow in relatively infertile areas, is drought resistant and matures in such a short time; great for growing in less agriculturally developed areas
- Millet ranks as the sixth most important grain in the world, sustains 1/3 of the world’s population and is a significant part of the diet in northern China, Japan, Manchuria and various areas of the former Soviet Union, Africa, India and Egypt.
- China, India and Niger are the world’s largest growers of millet today.
Millet Nutritional Information:
(for 1 cup cooked millet)
Carbohydrate (g) 57
Total fat (g) 2.4
Cholesterol (mg) 0
Saturated fat (g) 0.4
Sodium (mg) 5
Monounsaturated fat (g) 0.4
Thiamin (mg) 0.3
Polyunsaturated fat (g) 1.2
Niacin (mg) 3.2
Dietary fiber (g) 3.1
Magnesium (mg) 106
Protein (g) 8
Zinc (mg) 2.2
Data from wholehealthmd.com
Next page: History & 10 Tips for Eating or Cooking
- The exact origin is not known but research says millet was most likely cultivated simultaneously in Asia and Africa over 7000 years ago.
- It has been a staple in India and Africa for thousands of years. In the Old Testament millet is mentioned as a grain for making bread.
- Chinese archeologists found a 4000 year old bowl containing long noodles made from millet. The earliest written record of millet, “Fan Shen Chih Shu” 2800 BC, gives detailed instructions for growing and storing the grain.
- There is even evidence that millet was eaten and grown in the Stone Age in Switzerland.
- Millet first came to the U.S. in 1875, was consumed and grown by early settlers like corn, then fell into obscurity
How to Buy and Store:
- When purchasing from bins in the bulk section, make sure the bins are covered and that there is a good product turnover ensuring it is fresh. Also, make sure that there is no moisture.
- Store millet in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place; it will keep for several months.
10 Tips for Eating or Cooking:
- Instead of rice or potatoes, serve millet.
- Add millet to your favorite chopped vegetables; make a stir fry.
- Add millet to your salad (I like warm millet).
- Make breakfast porridge with cooked millet; add your favorite nuts and fruits.
- Add ground millet to bread and muffin recipes.
- The Hunzas use millet as a cereal, in soups, and for making dense, whole grain bread.
- In Indian flat bread called roti are often made from millet flour.
- In Eastern Europe, millet is used in porridge and kasha, or is fermented into a beverage.
- In Africa it is used to make baby food, and as breakfast porridge.
- In some countries it is used as a stuffing ingredient for cabbage rolls.
Next page: Safety Tips & Delicious Millet Recipes
Food and Safety Tips:
Millet contains small amounts of goiterogenic substances that limit uptake of iodine to the thyroid. The “thyroid function inhibitors” can cause goiter when consumed in large quantities; this may explain the correlation between millet consumption and goiter incidence in developing countries where millet constitutes a significant part of the diet. Also, in some of these countries there may be a lack of sufficient dietary iodine.
What would life be like without millet? Fortunately it is readily available for me as it grows right here in my home province of Alberta. For those of you who thought that millet was just bird food, it is actually also a powerfood for us. Other powerfoods in this category include:
- Brown Rice: Why it is better than white rice?
- Oatmeal: 10 smart reasons to enjoy oatmeal and how to find the best.
- Quinoa: This nutty flavored powerfood is pronounced keen – wa.