History and benefits of millets

Millet is not a grain as is believed, but a tiny seed, varying in colour. The type of millet used for food, generally belong to Panicum miliaceuem or Setaria italica category. The origin of millet is said to be Ethiopia, where it has been consumed since prehistoric times. Millet has even been mentioned in the Bible as an ingredient for unleavened bread. It continues to be an important staple food in Africa where flat bread known as ‘injera’ prepared from it.

In Asia and India too ‘roti’ made from ground millet seeds have been widely consumed since ancient times. In Europe millets were consumed during the Middle Ages. It was introduced to United States only in the 19th century; as birdseed and livestock fodder. The world’s major millet producers are India, China, and Nigeria. India is the top consumer of millets in the world. The growing environmental changes in the world is leading more and more farmers switch on to cultivation of millets as it grows around the year in the harsh conditions not requiring very rich soil or fertilisers.

In India alone the following types are found cultivated mostly in the areas mentioned

  • The  Pearl millet (Bajra) in Rajasthan
  • Sorghum in Marathwada, Telangana, and North Karnataka.
  • Finger millet in Southern Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Orissa and Southern Karnataka.
  • Foxtail, Proso, Kodo and Barnyard in Uttarakhand and other hilly areas

Nutritionally millets have properties

  • that protect the heart
  • develop and repair body tissue
  • that helps fights to prevent Breast Cancer
  • that significantly helps Postmenopausal Women.
  • substantially lowers Type 2 Diabetes Risk
  • prevent Gallstones
  • that protect  Childhood Asthma

Millet is high in fibre and is gluten –free as well, and so it is finding its way in the culinary world as a substitute for wheat and other grains.

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