Bringing back our ancient grains; bajra, ragi, kutki

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Read full article by Steena Joy@ Yahoo Lifestyle Photo Credit: Yahoo Lifestyle

Ancient grains are a group of grains and pseudocereals (seeds that are consumed like grains) that have remained mostly unchanged for thousands of years. These grains that included pearl millet (bajra), ragi (finger millet) or little millet (kutki) and even traditional rice varieties were all part of staple diets around the world. They were an important source of daily nutrient requirements for ancient civilisations in countries such as China, India, Africa and the Middle East.

Barley is mentioned in the Rigveda as the initial staple food of the Aryans.

Later texts mention lentils (red, green and black) and rice as complementary nutritional elements consumed by them. There is also a mention of apupa, a form of cake prepared by frying barley. Aryans knew about rice cultivation; parched rice and cereals were a common method of processing during that period.

According to the late Dr R H Richharia, a renowned rice scientist, about 400,000 traditional rice varieties existed in India during the Vedic period. He had estimated that even in the 1980s about 200,000 rice varieties existed in the country – a truly phenomenal number. This means that if a person were to eat a new rice variety every day of the year, he could live for over 500 years without reusing a variety!

Then the Green Revolution happened and the Government turned its attention to modern seed varieties with higher yields. This resulted in a loss of valuable traditional genetic resources and loss of knowledge of the uses of ancient grain varieties. These grains lost their importance as commercialisation of crops and dietary habits influenced by the West made people switch to grains like corn, modern wheat and rice.

The health benefits
Now Covid-19 and the scramble to boost immunity levels has once again revived interest and demand for these grains which are powerhouses of nutrition and immunity building components.

Khorasan wheat (kamut), sorghum (jowar), barley, teff (the world’s smallest grain), millet, amaranth, freekeh (made from green durum wheat), quinoa, bulgur (cracked wheat), quinoa and einkorn are some of the well known ancient grains.

  • Because they are less processed, they retain their inherent vitamins, minerals, and fibres as compared to modern grains.
  • Studies have linked ancient grain consumption to health benefits, such as lower heart disease risk, better blood sugar control, and improved digestion.
  • Plenty of ancient grains are also gluten-free, such as quinoa, millet, fonio, sorghum, amaranth and teff. These are suitable for people who cannot tolerate gluten or wheat.

Einkorn is considered to be the first original wheat, the seed planted by the first farmers 12,000 years ago during the Neolithic Revolution. History shows that the first bread was made with einkorn, and it was Ötzi the Iceman’s last meal. Einkorn is the only wheat that was never hybridised and has only two sets of chromosomes.

So it is a true ancient grain, higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates than modern wheat.
Of all the ancient grains, millets have the most variety – there are about eight varieties of millets like for example jowar, bajra, nachni or ragi.

Millets are basically gluten free, they also have very low glycemic index so naturally they are good for diabetics.

They are also very good in proteins, especially foxtail millet.

Millets are high in iron, zinc and folate and they offer three times the calcium of milk. Millets can be eaten in many forms – as rice, porridge, flour for all bakery products, soup, etc.

The Indian government is promoting millets big time and globally the Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has also declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets.

Also belonging to the millet family, Sorghum or jowar is the fifth most consumed grain worldwide and a great source of nutrients.

  • It is naturally gluten-free and can be easily ground into a flour.
  • It can be eaten in various forms such as chapati, dosa, bhakri, cheela etc.
  • This ancient Indian grain is one of the healthiest choices for carbohydrate intake.
  • The protein content present in 100g of jowar is 10.4g and can increase if consumed in the sprouted form.
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Posted on

November 3, 2020

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