Why We Believe Millets are the Food of the Future

Start 2020 on a healthy note with these ancient grains

Kavita Devgan

Millets were almost forgotten for the last few decades. They were considered poor cousins of the more popular wheat and rice. But that seems to be changing, and it is increasingly getting clearer that millets are definitely the grain of the future.

Thank god for that as millets are extremely versatile—are delicious as a salad or soup where they add crunch, and even make a perfect main course. Plus, they can be had for breakfast, lunch or dinner or even a snack. And yes, their nutritional benefits for people of all ages are immense, and so are the environmental paybacks; they help the environment and farmers, thereby creating a sustainable ecosystem. Consuming millets helps:

   To maintain steady iron and calcium levels and keep bones strong

   To keep our digestion strong as they are high in both soluble and insoluble fibre

   To reduce the gluten load in the diet as they are gluten-free (so a boon for those who are the gluten resistant).

   To lose weight, owing to the rich content of fibre and bioactive compounds in them

   To boost immunity, control blood sugar level and improve heart health

Traditionally, millets in India have always enjoyed prime importance as we are one of the largest producers of millets in the world. While they have been ignored over the decades, the market forces have recognised their potential only recently. One good example is Akshaya Patra who had been looking for ways to improve nutrition in mid-day meals. So, in a social experiment done with International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) they replaced rice in the mid-day meal (MDM) with small millets in a study carried out among 1,500 children in Karnataka. In the study group children’s meals that included idli, khichdi, upma and bisibelle bath, rice was replaced by pearl millet (bajra), ragi (finger millet) or little millet (kutki). These millet meals were not just exceptionally successful and liked by the children, they boosted their health substantially too. In fact, the anthropometric measurements (BMI and measurement of muscle, bone, fat composition in the body) showed that millet consumption helped boost the growth of children by nearly 50 per cent over three months. This study was released recently at the 4th Tasting India Symposium held in Delhi.

How to Eat Millets:


1. Have jowar (Sorghum)

rotis, or just dry roast jowar till it turns crisp. Cool and blend in a mixer into a smooth powder and add to soups, porridge or curries.  
Why? For fibre, protein and policosanols which help in reducing bad cholesterol in the body.
2. Have bajra (pearl millet) as khichri, or make crisp crepes with it. Smear the hot bajra roti with ghee and eat it with a little jaggery, or make a Bajra khichri.
Why? In addition to good carbs, protein and fibre, it contains quercetin that helps keep the kidney and liver fit and is our hearts friend too. Plus, also helps keep diabetes at bay.
3. Have Ragi (Finger millet) also known as Nachni in Maharashtra, and Mandua in Uttarakhand is made into rotis, added to dosa, porridge or made into laddoos.
Why? Delivers calcium and potassium—100 gm of ragi delivers 344 mg of calcium as compared to 125 mg of calcium in 100 ml of milk. Also, 100 gm of ragi delivers 408 mg of potassium as compared to wheat which gives only 284 mg. Another food that comes close to ragi in its potassium content is banana, which has 384 mg in 100 gm. Ragi is also packed with cellulose, a type of dietary fibre that helps keep our digestion humming along fine.
4. Have kangini or thinnai (Foxtail millet) as lemon rice or biryani with lots of vegetables.
Why? Being fibre-rich, it doesn’t increase the blood sugar levels immediately but releases glucose slowly into the bloodstream. Also delivers copper, an essential micronutrient needed for a healthy immune system.
5. Have jhangora or sama ke chawal (Barnyard millets) as upma or idli, or just cook like rice and pair with lentil curry and a side of vegetables. 
Why? Has the highest amount of iron as compared to other grains, and at 17.47mg of iron /100g, it is almost as rich in iron as organ meat. Spinach, on the other hand, has 3.6 mg iron/100 g.
6. Have Kodo millet (also known as varagu and barnyard millet) as upma, idli or payasam/kheer.
Why? It is anti-diabetic, with a low glycemic index so releases energy slowly. Plus it also helps in cholesterol reduction and blood-pressure and weight management.

Easy millet recipes for everyone at home

Bajra khichri

1. Coarse grind half-cup bajra in a grinder. Add water to it and remove the husks that float up. Do this a few times. Separately soak half cup moong dal and keep aside.
2. In a pressure cooker, great 1 tbsp ghee, add 1 tsp cumin seeds, add some chopped green chilli and ginger, stir fry for a minute, then add bajra, a pinch of hing and turmeric powder, salt to taste and 2 cups water. Cook for 3 whistles on medium flame. Let the steam out, add the soaked moong dal and ½ cup peas, again cook under pressure for 4 whistles on medium heat.
3. Add ghee before serving.

Millet salad

1. Toss soft-cooked millet (any), boiled peas, diced, blanched carrots and boiled chicken (optional). Add seasonings to taste and squeeze some lemon juice. 

Millet stew for toddler and babies:

1. In a saucepan, add water, diced carrots, diced apples and apple juice. 
2. Bring the mixture to a boil and cover the stew for 15-20 minutes. Add any powdered millet and 
bring to boil.

Millets in your child’s tiffin box:



1. In a bowl mix 1 cup ragi flour with 150 gm jaggery, powder of (1/4th cup roasted peanuts and sesame seeds and desiccated coconut, plus 2 pounded cardamoms).
2. Blend for a minute in the blender.
3. Add 2 tbsp of melted ghee, and shape into balls when still warm.

Millets for your adolescents:

Bajra buttermilk drink

1. Soak 1 cup pearl millet in water for 30 minutes. 
2. Drain and dry. Run-in a blender till it becomes a smooth powder. 
3. Simmer in water till it cooks completely. 
4. Then cool and mix in buttermilk, season with cumin powder and rock salt. You can replace bajra with ragi as well.






Editor’s Pick

Recipes of the Day

Related Stories

To feed your hunger for more


Want more? Click on the tags below for more videos and stories