Read full article by B Dayakar Rao, M Sujatha, Vilas Tonapi, Raj Bhandari @FBNews.com PC: PS Rao, ICRISAT
Ancient grains or millets are rain-fed crops and thus resume greater importance for sustained agriculture and food security. Millets are classified into major millets and minor millets.
Major millets are Sorghum, Pearl millet and Finger millet, most widely used for human consumption; Foxtail millet, Proso millet; Kodo millet, Little millet and Barnyard millet are minor millets.
Millets rechristened as “nutricereals” are nutritionally superior to major cereals (wheat and rice) for carbohydrate, energy, and serve as a good source of protein, high dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and micronutrients. The individual characteristics make them unique and a store house of nutrition. Finger millet grains contain essential minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and vitamins.
Polyphenols are regarded as major antioxidants that conduct activities which help to maintain the body immune system. Pearl millet grains contain highest Fe among various cereals significantly rich in resistant starch, soluble and insoluble dietary fibres, minerals, and antioxidants. Foxtail millet protein is the essential amino acid which, use as a supplementary protein source to most cereals because it is rich in lysine. Kodo and Little millets have high dietary fibre, which is the highest among the cereals; and the fat has higher polyunsaturated fatty acids. The protein content of Proso millet is richer in essential amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and methionine) than wheat protein.
Immunity provides protection to life, mediated through cellular response, humoral immune response and body promotes systematic immune processes by regulating T lymphocytes, antibodies, and cytokines formation. The rich source of vitamins and minerals of millets, perform different functions in the body to boost up immune response towards pathogens.
Beneficial effects of positive attributes of millets
1) Vitamin A is involved in the development of the immune system and plays regulatory role in cellular immune responses and humoral immune processes and demonstrated as therapeutic effect in the treatment of various infectious diseases.
2) Vitamin B9 or Folic acid (folate) helps in immunity enhancement and is a key role player in the biosynthesis of nucleic acids, proteins blood cells and nervous tissues.
3) Vitamin D receptor is expressed on immune cells and these immunologic cells are capable of synthesising the active vitamin D metabolite. Vitamin D can modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses.
4) Iron helps in cells of the innate immune system, monocytes, macrophages, microglia and lymphocytes to combat bacterial insults by controlling their iron fluxes and lymphocytes play an important role in adaptive immunity.
5) Zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system, from the barrier of the skin to gene regulation within lymphocytes. Zinc is crucial for normal development and function of cells mediating nonspecific immunity such as neutrophils and natural killer cells.
6) Phosphorus content helps in maintaining the cell structure of the human body and helps in the formation of the mineral matrix of the bone and is also essential component of ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate), which is the energy currency of the body and this mineral is very important constituent of nucleic acids, which are the building blocks of genetic code.