Nutritional and Health Benefits of Millets

The word ‘millets’ constitute a group of small grained cereals which are native to India, but have seen an alarming rate of decrease in their cultivation and consumption owing to the Green revolution. Between 1966 and 2006, 44% of millet cultivation areas were occupied by other crops signifying an extraordinary loss to India’s food and farming systems. Millets today remain our hope towards a sustainable and nutrition secure future, making it imperative to understand more about them.

Climate change portends less rain, more heat, reduced water availability and increased malnutrition. If there is any cropping system that can withstand these challenges, survive and flourish, it is the millet system. Millets are ecological crops, grown on less fertile and rain-fed soils with very low inputs of the regular water consumption, fertilizers and pesticides as compared to commodity crops currently promoted by policy measures, such as sugarcane and banana. Most millet farmers therefore use farmyard manures and in recent times, self-produced biofertilizers.

Based on area grown and its grain size the millets are classified as major millet and minor millets. The major millets include sorghum (jowar) and pearl millet (bajra). The finger millet (ragi/mandua), foxtail millet (kangni/Italian millet), little millet (kutki), kodo millet, barnyard millet (sawan/jhangora), proso millet (cheena/common millet), and brown top millet (korale) are categorized under minor millets (Source: The story of Millets-ICAR ).

Millets are more nutritious compared to other cereals like rice and wheat and are rich in minerals and vitamins. Each one of the millets has more fibre than rice and wheat. Some as much as fifty times that of rice. Finger millet has thirty times more Calcium than rice while every other millet has at least twice the amount of Calcium compared to rice. Millets are also low glycemic foods and are great for managing lifestyle disorders.

Nutritional composition of millets as compared to rice and wheat

Grain (Millet/Cereal) Carbohydrates (g) Protein (g) Fat (g) Energy (Kcal) Dietary Fibre (g) Ca (mg) P (mg) Mg (mg) Zn (mg) Fe (mg) Thiamin (mg) Riboflaivin (mg) Niacin (mg) Folic Acid (ug)
Sorghum 67.7 09.9 1.73 334 10.2 27.6 274 133 1.9 3.9 0.35 0.14 2.1 39.4
Pearl Millet 61.8 10.9 5.43 347 11.5 27.4 289 124 2.7 6.4 0.25 0.20 0.9 36.1
Finger Millet 66.8 07.2 1.92 320 11.2 364.0 210 146 2.5 4.6 0.37 0.17 1.3 34.7
Kodo Millet 66.2 08.9 2.55 331 06.4 15.3 101 122 1.6 2.3 0.29 0.20 1.5 39.5
Proso Millet* 70.4 12.5 1.10 341 - 14.0 206 153 1.4 0.8 0.41 0.28 4.5 -
Foxtail Millet* 60.1 12.3 4.30 331 - 31.0 188 81 2.4 2.8 0.59 0.11 3.2 15.0
Little Millet 65.5 10.1 3.89 346 7.7 16.1 130 91 1.8 1.2 0.26 0.05 1.3 36.2
Barnyard Millet* 65.5 06.2 2.20 307 - 20.0 280 82 3.0 5.0 0.33 0.10 4.2 -
Wheat 64.7 10.6 1.47 321 11.2 39.4 315 125 2.8 3.9 0.46 0.15 2.7 30.1
Rice 78.2 07.9 0.52 356 02.8 07.5 96 19 1.2 0.6 0.05 0.05 1.7 9.32

Great Millet/Sorghum

Bengali : Jowar
Gujarati : Jowari, Juar
Hindi : Jowari, Juar
Kannada : Jola
Marathi : Jowari, Jondhala
Oriya : Juara
Punjabi : Jowar
Tamil : Cholam
Telugu : Jonna

Spiked Millet/Pearl Millet

Bengali : Bajra
Gujarati : Bajri
Hindi : Bajra
Kannada : Sajje
Marathi : Bajri
Oriya : Bajra
Punjabi : Bajra
Tamil : Kambu
Telugu : Sajja

Finger Millet

Bengali : Marwa
Gujarati : Nagli, Bavto
Hindi : Ragi, Mandika, Marwah
Kannada : Ragi
Marathi : Nagli, Nachni
Oriya : Mandia
Punjabi : Mandhuka, Mandhal
Tamil : Keppai, Ragi, Kelvaragu
Telugu : Ragi Chodi

Kodo Millet

Bengali : Kodo
Gujarati : Kodra
Hindi : Kodon
Kannada : Harka
Marathi : Kodra
Oriya : Kodua
Punjabi : Kodra
Tamil : Varagu
Telugu : Arikelu, Arika

Common Millet/Proso Millet

Bengali : Cheena
Gujarati : Cheno
Hindi : Chena; Barri
Kannada : Baragu
Marathi : Vari
Oriya : China Bachari bagmu
Punjabi : Cheena
Tamil : Pani varagu
Telugu : Variga

Italian Millet/Foxtail Millet

Bengali : Kaon
Gujarati : Kang
Hindi : Kakum
Kannada : Navane
Marathi : Kang, Rala
Oriya : Kanghu, Kangam, Kora
Punjabi : Kangni
Tamil : Tenai
Telugu : Korra

Little Millet

Bengali : Sama
Gujarati : Gajro; Kuri
Hindi : Kutki, Shavan
Kannada : Same, Save
Marathi : Sava, Halvi, vari
Oriya : Suan
Punjabi : Swank
Tamil : Samai
Telugu : Samalu

Barnyard Millet

Bengali : Shyama
Gujarati : ....
Hindi : Sanwa
Kannada : Oodalu
Marathi : ...
Oriya : Khira
Punjabi : Swank
Tamil : Kuthiraivolly
Telugu : Udalu, Kodisama