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Millet

Although millet is most often associated as the main ingredient in bird seed, it is not just ‘for the birds’. Creamy like mashed potatoes or fluffy like rice, millet is a delicious grain that can accompany many types of food. As with most grains, millet is available in markets throughout the year.

Millet is tiny in size and round in shape and can be white, gray, yellow or red. The most widely available form of millet found in stores is the pearled, hulled variety, although traditional couscous made from cracked millet can also be found. The term millet refers to a variety of grains, some of which do not belong to the same genus.

 


Health Benefits

Millet is more than just an interesting alternative to the more common grains. Our food ranking system qualified it as a good source of some very important nutrients, including manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium.

Heart-Protective Properties

Although oats have been widely-publicized for their heart-protective properties, millet is a grain that should also be included on your list of heart-healthy choices because of its status as a good source of magnesium. Magnesium has been shown in studies to reduce the severity of asthma and to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. Magnesium has also been shown to lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack, especially in people with atherosclerosis or diabetic heart disease. Niacin (vitamin B3) can be of help in lowering high cholesterol.

A cup of cooked millet provides 26.4% of the daily value for magnesium.

Development and Repair of Body Tissue

The phosphorus provided by millet plays a role in the structure of every cell in the body. In addition to its role in forming the mineral matrix of bone, phosphorus is an essential component of numerous other life-critical compounds including adenosine triphosphate or ATP, the molecule that is the energy currency of the body. Phosphorus is an important component of nucleic acids, the building blocks of the genetic code. In addition, the metabolism of lipids (fats) relies on phosphorus, and phosphorus is an essential component of lipid-containing structures such as cell membranes and nervous system structures. A cup of cooked millet will give you 24.0% of the daily value for phosphorus.

Helps Prevent Gallstones

Eating foods high in insoluble fiber, such as millet, can help women avoid gallstones, shows a study published in the July 2004 issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

Studying the overall fiber intake and types of fiber consumed over a 16 year period by 69,778 women in the Nurses Health Study, researchers found that those consuming the most fiber overall (both soluble and insoluble) had a 13% lower risk of developing gallstones compared to women consuming the fewest fiber-rich foods.

Those eating the most foods rich in insoluble fiber gained even more protection against gallstones: a 17% lower risk compared to women eating the least. And the protection was dose-related; a 5-gram increase in insoluble fiber intake dropped risk dropped 10%.

How do foods rich in insoluble fiber help prevent gallstones? Researchers think insoluble fiber not only speeds intestinal transit time (how quickly food moves through the intestines), but reduces the secretion of bile acids (excessive amounts contribute to gallstone formation), increases insulin sensitivity and lowers triglycerides (blood fats). Abundant in all whole grains, insoluble fiber is also found in nuts and the edible skin of fruits and vegetables including tomatoes, cucumbers, many squash, apples, berries, and pears. In addition, beans provide insoluble as well as soluble fiber.(October 11, 2004)

Description

While you will probably recognize millet as being one of the main ingredients in birdseed, this wonderful grain is anything but “for the birds”. It is a delicious grain whose consistency varies depending upon cooking method; it can be creamy like mashed potatoes or fluffy like rice. Additionally, since millet does not contain gluten, it is a wonderful grain alternative for people who are gluten-sensitive.

Millet is tiny in size and round in shape and can vary in color from white to gray to yellow to red. The most widely available form of millet found in stores is the pearled, hulled type, although oftentimes you may be able to find traditional couscous, which is made from cracked millet.

The term millet refers to a variety of grains, some of which do not belong to the same genus of plant. The types of millet consumed as food generally fall into the scientific categories Panicum miliaceuem or Setaria italica.

History

Millet is thought to have originated in North Africa, specifically in Ethiopia, where it has been consumed since prehistoric times. There is even mention of millet in the Bible as an ingredient for unleavened bread.

Millet is still an extremely important food staple in Africa where finely ground millet is used to make a traditional flatbread known as injera. Since ancient times, millet has been widely consumed in Asia and India as well. The Indian flatbread roti is made from ground millet seeds. In the Middle Ages, before potatoes and corn were introduced, millet became a staple grain in Europe, especially in countries in Eastern Europe. The Setaria variety of millet was introduced into the United States in the 19th century. While millet has been used primarily for birdseed and livestock fodder in Western Europe and North America, it is now gaining popularity as a delicious and nutritious grain that can be enjoyed for both its unique virtues as well as the fact that it is a gluten-free grain alternative to wheat.

The majority of the world’s commercial millet crop is produced by India, China and Nigeria.

How to Select and Store

Millet is generally available in its hulled and whole-grain form. It is available prepackaged as well as in bulk containers. Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins containing the millet are covered and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure its maximal freshness. Whether purchasing millet in bulk or in a packaged container, make sure that there is no evidence of moisture.

Store millet in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place, where it will keep for several months.

How to Enjoy

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Tips for Preparing Millet:

Like all grains, before cooking millet, rinse it thoroughly under running water and then remove any dirt or debris that you may find. After rinsing, add one part millet to two and a half parts boiling water or broth. After the liquid has returned to a boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. The texture of millet cooked this way will be fluffy like rice. If you want the millet to have a more creamy consistency, stir it frequently adding a little water every now and then.

To impart a nuttier flavor to the cooked millet, you could roast the grains first before boiling. To do this, place the grains in a dry skillet over medium heat and stir them frequently. When they have achieved a golden color, add them to the boiling cooking liquid.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Cooked millet can be served as a breakfast porridge to which you can add your favorite nuts and fruits.

Ground millet can be added to bread and muffin recipes.

Toss cooked and chilled millet with your favorite chopped vegetables and either chicken or baked tofu cubes. Add dressing and voilą ..... an easy to prepare, delicious meal.

Next time you are looking for an alternative to rice or potatoes, serve millet instead.

Safety

Millet is not a commonly allergenic food, is not included in the list of 20 foods that most frequently contain pesticide residues, and is also not known to contain goitrogens, oxalates, or purines. In fact, millet's hypoallergenic (low-allergy) nature makes it a commonly recommended grain alternative by healthcare practitioners.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. Read more about our Food and Recipe Rating System.

 

Millet, Cooked
1.00 cup
285.60 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
manganese 0.66 mg 33.0 2.1 good
tryptophan 0.10 g 31.3 2.0 good
magnesium 105.60 mg 26.4 1.7 good
phosphorus 240.00 mg 24.0 1.5 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%

In Depth Nutritional Profile for Millet

References

  • Ensminger AH, Ensminger, ME, Kondale JE, Robson JRK. Foods & Nutriton Encyclopedia. Pegus Press, Clovis, California.
  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986.
  • Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York.
  • Ke ZJ, DeGiorgio LA, Volpe BT et al. Reversal of thiamine deficiency-induced neurodegeneration. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol 2003 Feb;62(2):195-207.
  • Tsai CJ, Leitzmann MF, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL. Long-term intake of dietary fiber and decreased risk of cholecystectomy in women. Am J Gastroenterol. 2004 Jul;99(7):1364-70.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.

Read about more of the World's Healthiest Foods (& Spices)!


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This page was updated on: 2004-11-20 17:31:51

 

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