What if I tell you that finger millets (Ragi) contain more calcium (344 mg/100 g) and protein (7.3g/100g) than milk? Seems like you’ve just found the answer to the issue of lactose intolerance in your child or a way to end the daily hour long struggle to make your kid finish a glass of milk !
As a traditional food, millets had been a part of the daily diets of man families in India, but for good reasons. The amazing health benefits that these highly versatile crops provide, made them remain in the top list of cereals.
Millets are environment friendly crops that offer an array of health benefits. They require minimum water and inputs to grow and yet provide maximum nutrition(Economic Times 2017). Being grown locally and very easily, millets are cheaper and more nutritional than their competitors like oats, quinoa, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. Although millets are more commonly consumed in the southern part of India, they are gradually becoming popular in the other parts of the country because of their high nutritional value. Millets such as finger millet, Pearl millet, little millet, Barnyard millet, foxtail millet and kodo millet are making a huge comeback.
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. Rich in protein and amino acids, Ragi is also good for brain development. 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.
Millets are seen as ideal weaning food 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
Like any other foods, millets should also be eaten in moderation. Eating all foods in moderation helps promote the right balance in our system.