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  • Dr Pooja Sharma

Millets for Everyone!

All about this seed-size nutritional powerhouse.

Anyone who has been following me knows how much I love millet. They are part of my every diet plan and I have introduced these amazing nutritious seed-size grain/cereals to a lot of my patrons over the years. Amazingly, millets are gaining a lot of popularity these days, thanks to the government of India, who have taken it upon themselves to make 2023 the year of Millets!

Millets are a group of small-seeded grasses that have been grown for food for thousands of years. They are typically grown in dry regions and are known for their high tolerance to heat and drought. Some common types of millet include pearl millet, finger millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, and sorghum millet. They are highly nutritious and contain high levels of fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In addition to being used as a staple food in many developing countries, millets are gaining popularity as a healthy alternative to wheat, rice, and other grains in developed countries.

What is Millet and why should we include it in our diet?

Millets are a group of small-seeded grains that are highly nutritious and offer a wide range of health benefits. Here are a few reasons why it is important to include millet in our diet:

  1. Nutritional Benefits: Millets are rich in nutrients such as fibre, protein, vitamins, and minerals. They are also a good source of antioxidants, which help protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

  2. Gluten-free: Millets are naturally gluten-free, making them a great option for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.

  3. Promotes Digestive Health: Millets are high in fibre, which helps improve digestion and prevent constipation. They also promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, which is important for overall health.

  4. Lowers Cholesterol: Millets are low in fat and high in fibre, which makes them effective at lowering cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease.

  5. Regulates Blood Sugar: Millets are a low glycemic index food, which means they release sugar into the bloodstream slowly and steadily. This helps regulate blood sugar levels and prevent spikes and crashes, making them a good option for people with diabetes.

  6. Supports Sustainable Agriculture: Millets are hardy and drought-resistant, making them well-suited to growing in regions with low rainfall. This helps support sustainable agriculture and reduces the impact of farming on the environment.

Including millet in your diet is an easy and effective way to improve your health and support sustainable agriculture. With their high nutritional value and many health benefits, they are a great addition to any diet.

Popular Millets and their dishes

Here are some of the most popular millets in India and how they can be consumed:

  1. Sorghum (Jowar): Sorghum is a versatile grain that can be ground into flour and used to make roti, porridge, and other dishes. It is also a popular ingredient in soups and stews.

  2. Pearl Millet (Bajra): Pearl millet is a staple food in many parts of India and is often used to make roti, porridge, and flatbread. It is also a popular ingredient in dishes such as khichdi and dosa.

  3. Foxtail Millet (Kangni): Foxtail millet is a small-seeded grain that is often used to make porridge and puddings. It is also a popular ingredient in soups and stews.

  4. Finger Millet (Ragi): Finger millet is a staple food in many parts of India and is often used to make roti, porridge, and flatbread. It is also a popular ingredient in dishes such as dosa and idli.

  5. Little Millet (Kutki): Little millet is a small-seeded grain that is often used to make porridge and puddings. It is also a popular ingredient in soups and stews.

These millets can be consumed in various forms, such as flour, whole grains, and flakes. They can be used to make a wide range of dishes, including roti, porridge, puddings, soups, stews, and more. By incorporating millets into your diet, you can enjoy their many health benefits and support sustainable agriculture.

How to start eating Millet?

Here are some tips for incorporating millet into your diet in a healthy and effective way:

  1. Gradual Introduction: Start by gradually introducing millets into your diet, as your body may need time to adjust to the new food. You can start by adding millet flour to baked goods, such as muffins or pancakes, or using millet flakes in porridge.

  2. Variety is Key: Try incorporating different types of millets into your diet to take advantage of the unique nutritional benefits each one offers. For example, you could have finger millet roti for breakfast, sorghum porridge for snacks, and pearl millet khichdi for dinner.

  3. Combine with Other Foods: Millets can be combined with other ingredients, such as vegetables, legumes, and spices, to make delicious and nutritious meals. For example, you could make a millet stir-fry with vegetables and spices, or add millet to a lentil soup.

  4. Use in Place of Rice or Pasta: Millets can be used in place of rice or pasta in many dishes. For example, you could use millet in place of rice in a pilaf, or use millet flour to make pasta.

  5. Experiment with Recipes: There are many delicious and healthy millet-based recipes to try, from sweet to savoury. Experiment with different recipes to find the ones you love, and be creative with your own ingredients and seasonings.

Properly washing and soaking Millets before consumption is very important

Washing and soaking millets before consumption is important for several reasons:

  1. Removes Dust and Dirt: Washing millets helps to remove any dust, dirt, or other impurities that may be present on the grain.

  2. Reduces Phytic Acid: Soaking millets in water can help to reduce the level of phytic acid, which is a naturally occurring compound that can interfere with the absorption of minerals such as iron, zinc, and calcium.

  3. Increases Nutritional Value: Soaking millets for several hours before cooking can help to increase the nutritional value of the grain. This is because soaking activates enzymes that break down the starches and proteins in the grain, making them more easily digestible and nutritionally available.

  4. Improves Texture: Soaking millets before cooking can also improve the texture of the grain and make it more tender and fluffy.

  5. Reduces Cooking Time: Soaking millets can reduce the cooking time, as the grains will have absorbed some of the moisture and will cook more quickly.

In summary, washing and soaking millets before consumption is important for removing impurities, reducing phytic acid, increasing nutritional value, improving texture, and reducing cooking time. By properly washing and soaking your millets, you can enjoy the full health benefits of this nutritious food without any adverse digestive issues.

Drinking adequate water is a must

Drinking enough water is important when consuming millets for several reasons:

  1. Improves Digestion: Millets are a high-fibre food, and consuming them without enough water can lead to digestive discomforts, such as bloating, gas, and constipation. Drinking enough water helps to prevent these symptoms by keeping the digestive system hydrated and functioning properly.

  2. Increases Absorption: Water helps to increase the absorption of nutrients from the millets, ensuring that your body can make the most of the vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds found in the grain.

  3. Regulates Body Temperature: Consuming millet can increase the body's metabolism, and drinking enough water helps to regulate body temperature and prevent overheating.

  4. Aids Weight Management: Drinking water before, during, and after consuming millet can help to control appetite and support weight management, as water can help to make you feel full and satisfied.

In summary, drinking enough water is important when consuming millet for improved digestion, increased nutrient absorption, regulation of body temperature, and support for weight management. Aim to drink at least 8 cups of water (2.5 to 3 litre) per day, and more if you are physically active or in a hot environment.

In conclusion, millets are a highly versatile food that offers many health benefits and should be included in everyone's diet. They are a good source of fibre, which helps to maintain a healthy digestive system and lower cholesterol levels. Millets are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, including iron, magnesium, and B vitamins, which are important for maintaining overall health. Additionally, millets are gluten-free, making them an ideal food for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. They are also low in glycemic index, which means they are slowly absorbed by the body and do not cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels, making them a good choice for people with diabetes. Furthermore, millets are sustainable and environmentally friendly, as they are able to grow in harsh climates and require less water and fewer inputs compared to other staple crops. Overall, including millet in your diet is a great way to improve your health and support sustainable agriculture.

Indian Government Initiatives

Millet is a group of traditional and highly nutritious grains, and in an effort to improve the health and nutrition of the population and revive traditional agricultural practices, the Indian government is taking several initiatives to popularise this. Here are a few ways the government is working towards this goal:

  1. Promotion of Millets in PDS (Public Distribution System): The government has included millets in the PDS to make them accessible and affordable to everyone. This is aimed at increasing the consumption of millet and making it a staple food in households across India.

  2. Encouragement of Millet Cultivation: The government is providing financial and technical support to farmers for growing millets. This includes subsidies for inputs such as seeds and fertilisers, and training programs to improve the production and marketing of millets.

  3. Research and Development: The government is investing in research and development to improve the yield, quality, and marketability of millets. This includes developing new varieties of millet and promoting their use in food processing industries.

  4. Awareness Campaigns: The government is conducting awareness campaigns to educate the public about the health benefits of millet and encourage their consumption. This includes workshops, seminars, and demonstrations on the preparation of millet-based food.

  5. Support to Millet Producers: The government is providing support to small and marginal farmers and self-help groups to promote the production and marketing of millet. This includes providing loans and marketing assistance to encourage the growth of the millet sector.

By implementing these measures, the Indian government aims to revive traditional agricultural practices and improve the health and nutrition of the population through the consumption of millet.

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