Millets are gaining fast popularity in India. They are environment friendly crops that offer an array of health benefits. They are known for minimum water, minimum inputs and maximum nutrition(Economic Times 2017). They are locally grown, cheaper and more nutritional than their competitors like oats, quinoa, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. Millets such as finger millet, Pearl millet, little millet, Barnyard millet, foxtail millet and kodo millet are making a huge comeback. They are still not very common in Indian households but awareness about their health benefits is slowly increasing.
Millets are being consumed predominantly in most parts of South India again. The Karnataka Government is also campaigning widely to encourage consumption of Millets. They are organising Trade fairs to promote the same.
Health Benefits of Millets
- Finger millet or Ragi is one of the best non-dairy sources of calcium which helps build strong bones and teeth. It also helps in battling anaemia among kids as it also contains high amount of iron. Sprouting ragi before consumption helps in maximizing iron absorption as sprouting increases Vitamin C levels.
- Pearl Millet aka kambu or bajra is one of India’s oldest cultivated grains. This millet is particularly high in protein and fibre which is good in maintaining a healthy weight and controlling blood sugar levels. It’s consumption increases during the summer months as it soothes the body. Regular intake also promotes good skin and hair among children.
- Little millet or sama is also a good source of vegetarian protein and has antioxidant properties. Sama also helps in combating respiratory problems like asthma among children.
- Foxtail millet or navane, thinai or kaangni contains high amount of phytochemicals which helps to lower cholesterol levels. Their high antioxidant level helps relieve stress and fight cancer. High Potassium level found in this millet improves heart health.
- Millets are naturally gluten free making it an ideal choice for those suffering from lactose intolerance. Millets also contain higher fibre than rice and wheat which helps relieve constipation.
Incorporating millets into your kid’s diet
Millets have found their way into our kitchens again, and this time with a bang. Enjoy them in traditional recipes such as porridge, ragi mudde or ragi balls, rotis, idli, dosa or in more creative recipes like muffins, cakes, pancakes, cookies, chaklis, ladoos, soup, puttu, upma, halwa, and many many more.
Millet are seen as an ideal weaning recipe as they are easily digestible and provides the growing baby with plenty of nutrients. Below are two kid friendly millet recipes.
- Ragi Porridge – Soak about 3 tbsp of ragi for 2-3 hours. Grind the soaked ragi with water. Strain the ground mixture. Boil the clear filtrate on a low flame until it reaches a porridge consistency. Ragi takes a long time to cook, make sure to cook the porridge thoroughly. Do not add salt or sugar. Start off by introducing no more than 100g of this porridge to infants above 6 months. Once they are used to it, gradually increase the quantity.
- Millet Khichdi – Soak together 2 tbsp of any millet and 1 tbsp of moong dal. Pressure cook with three times the amount of water (millet and dal combined) with garlic and any vegetable of your choice. DO not add in extra salt or sugar. Once cooked, mix in half tsp of ghee and mash well using a spoon. Serve warm.
Word of caution
As with any food, millets should also be eaten in moderation. Eating all foods in moderation helps promote a balance.