Good for You
Helping combat anemia, malnutrition
- Iron deficiency leads to anemia, fatigue, delay in cognitive development (in children) and decreased immune functions.
- Millets are naturally rich in iron, even containing amounts higher than that found in spinach and chicken, for example1. Including millets in the diet – especially pearl millet and little millet – is a great way to combat anemia caused due to dietary iron deficiency2.
- Absorption (bioavailability) of the iron from millets is increased when consumed with certain foods – such as those containing Vitamin C3.
- Zinc is a critical component of many enzymes that carry out important biochemical functions.
- Millets are great sources of zinc: little millet (3.7 mg/100 g), pearl millet (3.1 mg/100 g) and barnyard millet (3.0 mg/100 g) contain much higher levels of zinc compared to rice (1.3 mg/100g) and wheat (2.7 mg/100g)4.
- Pearl millet provides more easily absorbable zinc than sorghum or rice5,6
Revitalizing bone health
- Adequate calcium intake is essential to maintain bone health – especially in children and the aged. It’s even more important to ensure that the calcium is absorbed by the body.
- Studies show that calcium from plant sources such as finger millet is absorbed more effectively than that from supplements7.
Providing essential amino acids – an affordable and effective protein source
- ‘Minor millets’ such as Proso millet or Foxtail millet contain higher levels of protein than rice and maize 8. They are good sources of essential amino acids – especially methionine9 and lysine?
Helping to control diabetes
- Upon cooking, the starch present in millets tends to form resistant starch, which slows down the absorption of carbohydrates in the intestine. Besides, millets have high fiber content and low levels of simple sugars. Therefore, they have
lowglycemic index. In other words, they cause less of a spike in the blood sugar after consumption, as compared to wheat or rice10.
- Pearl millet and finger millet have remarkably high dietary fiber content (11.49 and 11.18 g/100 g, respectively), compared to wheat (1.2 g/100 g) and rice (2.81 g/100 g)8.
- High fiber diets have shown to control blood sugar11. The ability of soluble fibers to retard the absorption of glucose in
smallintestine is a desirable characteristic in developing foods for diabetic individuals12
- Shobana et al. (2013) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23522794
- Finkelstein et al. (2015) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25948782
- Hurrell R and Egli I. 2010. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Iron bioavailability and dietary reference values. 1461S-7S.
- Cercamondi et al. (2013) https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/143/9/1376/4571564
- Gopalan et al. (2009), Geervani and Eggum (1989). Retrieved from: Shobana et al. 2013.Page 8. http://www.researchgate.net/publication/236074583_Finger_Millet_%28Ragi_Eleusine_coracana_L.%29_A_Review_of_Its_Nutritional_Properties_Processing_and_Plausible_Health_Benefits
- Kodkany et al. (2013) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23843474
- Bhide R, Patil S, Shetty S and Narayanan S. 2013. Comparative bioavailability studies of calcium from different sources. Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and clinical research. 6:147-148.
- Longvah T, Ananthan R, Bhaskarachary K and Venkaiah K. 2017. Indian food composition table, National Institute of Nutrition. 1-578.
- Singh P and Raghuvanshi RS. 2012. Finger millet for food and nutritional security. African Journal of Food Science 6(4): 77-84.
- Thathola A, Srivastava S, Singh G. 2011. Effect of foxtail millet (
Setariaitalica) supplementation of serum glucose, serum lipids and glycosylated haemoglobinin Type 2 diabetics. Diabetologia Croatica 40:23-28.
- Riccardi et al. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1663443
- Onyango et al. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/223687677_Digestibility_and_antinutrient_properties_of_acidified_and_extruded_maize-finger_millet_blend_in_the_production_of_uji
Smart Food crops – millets and legumes – are highly nutritious. Millets are inherently rich in nutrients such as iron, calcium, and zinc. They are also high in fiber and have low glycemic indexes. Fermented millet products are beneficial in maintaining gut health due to their probiotic nature. Legumes are affordable protein sources that contribute towards building and repairing muscles and tissues. Combined together, millets and legumes form a potent dietary option that may reduce risks of diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Smart Food crops are most resilient and best survive the harsh environments present in the drylands. Hence, they are climate-smart crops.
In times of drought, millets are practically the last crop standing. Millets, sorghum and legumes have close to the lowest water and carbon footprints of all crops.
The climate resilience of these crops means that they are a good risk-management strategy for farmers. Legumes have an important role to play in soil nutrition and, when rotated with other crops, even increase the water-use efficiency of the entire crop rotation. Their multiple uses and untapped demand means that they have a lot more potential. Plus, unlike other crops they have not yet reached a yield plateau and have great potential for productivity increases.