Millet adds flavor and nutrition to your diet and work as a versatile alternative to staples like rice and wheat. It is gluten-free, has a low glycemic index, and is a good source of antioxidants. Millet can help reduce the risk of diabetes, prevent heart disease, promote weight loss, lowers cholesterol and fights aging. It may also have a role to play in the prevention and treatment of several cancers.
Millet is a good source of protein, high in fibre and is rich in multiple vitamins, phosphorus, potassium, iron, and magnesium.
One cup of cooked millet contains the following nutritional values:
Millet also contains trace amounts of copper, zinc and manganese.
Thanks to its nutritional profile, millet offers several health benefits and here are some of them:
1. Has Antioxidant Properties
All varieties of millets abound in phytochemicals known as polyphenols, which have strong antioxidant properties. Polyphenols flush out harmful free radicals from the body and prevent several potentially fatal conditions ranging from heart disease to cancer. They also reduce inflammation, up your immunity, and help fight viruses.
Millets even outperform rice in terms of antioxidant power. Pearl millet and finger millet pack in 1478 and 612 mcg of phenolic acid per gram, respectively, whereas different varieties of rice contain 197–376 mcg of the phytochemical.
2. Controls Diabetes
Most millets have a low glycemic index and high amounts of soluble dietary fiber, enabling better sugar control and making them a diabetes-friendly cereal. When it comes to managing type 2 diabetes, finger millet is considered a superfood with its high magnesium content – 408 mg per 100 gm of cooked grain, which pretty much meets the daily requirement of men (400-420 mg/day) and exceeds that for women (310-320 mg/day).
Magnesium significantly boosts the efficiency of insulin receptors and decreases insulin resistance. Studies even indicate that consuming a diet rich in this mineral can reduce the chance of developing diabetes by 30 percent.
3. Is Good for Your Heart
As a good source of magnesium, millets help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes caused by atherosclerosis – a condition where arteries become narrower due to fatty deposits on their inner walls. Millets also contain substantial amounts of potassium, another heart-friendly mineral. Animal studies show that proso and finger millets can even improve the levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or “good” cholesterol.
4. Guards the Gut If You Have Celiac Disease
Some millet breads contain small quantities of wheat flour. So make sure you check for the gluten-free label before picking your millet goodies.
If there is one property that makes millets a nutritional superstar, it is the absence of gluten. Aside from the variety, millets offer the bonus benefits of a host of micro- and macronutrients and phytochemicals. Just the combination you’d want if you are struggling with celiac disease.
5. May Offer Protection against Cancer
Research shows that some of the phenolics found in millets may help prevent the initiation and progression of many types of cancer, including breast and colon cancers. The anti-tumorigenic agents in finger millet have also been found to be particularly effective against chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), a rare type of blood cancer.
6. Keeps your Bones Healthy
Finger millets contain 344 mg calcium (which is more than the amount of calcium present in milk) that meets 34% of your DV. Calcium is your body’s bone-building mineral, without which your bones may become brittle and weak. Finger millets are also rich in magnesium, which is another mineral that maintains your bone health. Plus, some studies suggest that magnesium may decrease your risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
7. Helps Digestion
If you frequently suffer from digestive issues like diarrhea, constipation, and gas, it might be due to your low intake of dietary fiber. Millets, especially pearl millet, have a significant amount of resistant starch and soluble and insoluble fiber, which regulates your digestion process and prevents the food moving too fast or too slow in your digestive tract. Furthermore, since millets are gluten-free, they also reduce the stomach problems that occur due to the celiac disease.
8. Prevents Gallstone
The fiber in millets is also helpful in reducing the risk of gallstones. Foods rich in insoluble fiber can speed up the transit of undigested food through the colon and also reduce the secretion of bile acids which help form gallstones. In fact, a long-term study found that women who ate a fiber-rich diet were 17% less likely to have gallstones than those who had no fiber.
9. Helps Manage Weight
Whole grains that are rich in fiber also assist with weight loss. Millets are no exception. They also increase your satiety and keep you full for longer periods of time. This decreases hunger pangs and keeps you from snacking between meals. In addition they lower cholesterol and increase insulin sensitivity which helps you manage your weight.
10. Improves Your Mood and Helps You Sleep Better
A standard serving of millets contains about 120 gm of an amino acid called tryptophan, which meets about 42% of your daily requirement. Your body uses tryptophan to make serotonin – a chemical that regulates your overall mood and fights depression. Tryptophan is also shown to increase the quality of sleep and improve morning alertness. Additionally, the amino acid is believed to increase cognitive function by improving memory and facilitates learning.
11. Fights Aging and Improves Skin
Antioxidants and phenolics that millets abound in are renowned for their anti-aging properties. Millets have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that reduce cell damage due to aging. Animal studies indicate that polyphenols found in finger millet and kodo millet may also boost the production of collagen to give you firmer, healthier, and younger-looking skin. Moreover, the benefits of millet for your digestive system as well as your sleep quality are bound to show up on your skin too.
12. Increases Breast Milk Supply
Millets are traditionally used to increase the production of breast milk in breastfeeding mothers. Although there isn’t enough scientific evidence to prove that millet can increase breast milk supply; there’s no harm in trying to find out for yourselves, provided you stay within dietary limits.
13. Millet is Good for Babies
Millet is a wonderful grain for your baby. It is gluten free, nutritious, versatile, easily digestible and a less allergenic grain suitable as a solid food for your baby. Also, the size and shape of millet resemble barley which makes it an excellent finger food. The smooth texture ensures its easy digestion. You can introduce it from around 7 months of age.
Wondering how to get your daily fix of millets?
Millet flour can replace wheat flour in your cakes and bakes. Millets can also just as easily step in for rice in your meals. Beyond that, since millets are a staple in several parts of the world, you have a variety of traditional and exotic recipes to choose from.
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Barbara is a qualified nutritionist offering Health, Nutrition & Lifestyle Counseling. She gives Healthy weight loss advice and promotes the Mediterranean diet. She is the author of the Med Life Diet - creating healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !