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  • Writer's pictureLalita Dileep

Embracing Millets

Adding diversity to our diet while boosting our eco system

Pix Credit:Nutriciously

Increasing awareness

Millets rage at the epicenter of the food debate but have remained largely on the periphery of our dinner table. Organic groups, sustainability groups and nutrionists all love this miracle food. In fact, millets are grown and consumed in larger quantities in India, Africa and parts of Europe, rather than America. In our neck of the woods, they are more prevalently marketed as bird seed. Millets can add diversity to our diet, while contributing sustainability of growth to the eco system, since they thrive in harsh environments and less fertile soils. They are versatile fare ranging from bread, cereal, pudding to even beer.

2023 has been dedicated to Millets by United Nations General Assembly, as part of the larger agenda to address the crucial issue of food insecurity. This decision was spearheaded by India along with Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria and co –sponsored by over 70 nations. A move partly escalated by the worldwide decline in the production of millets, since rice and wheat are still the staple grains in our diet.

An indigenous grain harking back to our agricultural heritage, millets belong to the family of ancient grains. Ancient grains are a group of grains and pseudo cereals (seeds that are consumed like grains) whose constitution has remained unchanged for thousands of years. Millets tend to be less processed and pack more vitamins, minerals and fiber than popular grains like corn, rice and wheat. In addition, studies indicate that ancient grains consumption include benefits such as lower heart disease, control of blood sugar and improved digestion and weight loss.

Diet Confusion

Food diets range from trendy to traditional. Demonizing foods leads to nutrient deficiencies and disordered eating habits. The message is additionally mixed up when folks are being inundated with multiple and conflicting messages via social media adding to the noise and confusion. Medical experts caution that it is best to ignore the hype about individual foods and instead target for overall healthy eating pattern. All this brings us back to basics. A healthy eating regime includes more vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean proteins such as fish and chicken and healthy oils.

Keeping with the current fashion of a gluten free diet, many mistake it to be a grain free. In reality there are an array of nutritious, delicious gluten free grains that are safe for consumption for those with gluten sensitivity and even celiac disease. Millet is an excellent example of a healthy, gluten free, nutritious grain that can be added to one’s diet. Millets grow like weeds and have been flourishing for centuries in Africa and ancient civilizations in India. They thrived in cold, arid regions and can be harvested within 70 days of planting. These hardy plants are non GMO and pesticide free, which makes them organic in nature.

Super Food or Smart Food

Millets are known as superfoods for a reason. They are not only packed with macronutrients like protein and fiber but also have traces of minerals and vitamins. Millets are also rich in iron, vitamin B6, which is essential for bone health. Soaking millets for a few hours before cooking aids absorption of nutrients in the body. Roasting releases its nutty favors, a delectable addition to salads and soups. Since millets afford a sense of satiety with smaller quantities, they aid in weight loss. They are instrumental in administering three kinds of balance for a heathy life, microbial balance, meaning gut health, hormonal balance and insulin balance.

Adding biodiversity to our palates are the range of millets like Sorghum Millet, Foxtail Millet, Finger Millet, Barnyard Millet, Pearl Millet, Proso Millet, Little Millet & Browntop Millet. In the words of an expert, they are “smart food”, since they are favorable for the consumer, environment and the farmer.

In recent months I have begun to explore and enjoy as I added this diversity to my plate. How appealing is this for you? Is this trend too removed from the traditional or have you tried to integrate it into your diet? Share your thoughts, recipes and more as we learn from one another.

We are stronger together


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