Millets are the forgotten grain of India. Ask anyone about them and you will most likely get a quizzical look in return. Though once a staple in Indian diets, millets have been replaced over the years by refined wheat flour which has led to an increase in health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.
However, millets are slowly making a comeback due to their impressive nutritional profile and potential health benefits. Not only are they gluten-free and cholesterol-free, but millets are also a good source of fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
In this blog, I will be sharing a complete list of 10 different types of millets you must not miss out on.
What are millets?
Millets are a group of small-seeded, highly nutritious plants that have been used for human food and animal feed for centuries. They’re a delicious and simple-to-digest alternative to rice, quinoa, and other grains.
These are considered one of the worlds oldest cultivates of grain and are used for food and religious purposes in India and Africa.
Millets come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. The most common types of millets are pearl millet, finger millet, sorghum, and barnyard millet.
Health benefits of millets include:
- Millets are environmentally friendly, farmer-friendly, and provide low-cost, high-nutrient options.
- Due to their low-calorie content, millets are good for weight loss.
- It helps to improve your immunity.
- Good for your heart health.
- Millets have a lot of fiber, which is good for digestion.
- They are high in antioxidants, which aid in removing toxins from the body and eliminating free radicals.
- Millets are gluten-free grains that doesn’t cause an allergic reaction or upset your stomach.
- Millets do not easily rot, and some millets can be consumed even after 10 to 12 years of growth, ensuring food security and reducing food waste.
10 Different Types of Millets
Millets are mainly divided into two categories: major millets and minor millets
Major millets include:
- Pearl millet
- Sorghum millet
- Finger millet
Minor millets include:
- Kodo millet
- Foxtail millet
- Barnyard millet
- Little millet
- Proso millet
Pearl millet (Bajra)
Pearl millet is one of the most widely grown types of millets in the world. It is also known as bajra in Hindi, and India is the world’s largest producer, accounting for more than half of all millet production.
Pearl millet has the largest kernels of all millet varieties, with ovoid grains measuring 3-4 mm in length. It comes in a variety of colours, including nearly white, pale yellow, brown, slate blue, and purple.
It can be grown easily in difficult-to-grow areas where other cereal crops, such as maize or wheat, would fail, and it is commonly used to make bhakri roti.
Benefits of Pearl millets
- High source of protein
- It is a rich source of phosphorus
- Millets contain lignin, an essential phytonutrient that is very good for humans
- Lowers the risk of developing type-2 diabetes
Sorghum millet (Jowar)
Sorghum is a cereal grain, often referred to as millet, grown in many parts of the world. In India, it is popularly known as jowar.
It does well in conditions where corn and rice cannot, such as dry environments. The grains are one of the highest sources of flavonoids.
The use of sorghum millet is increasing worldwide for animal feed and to produce products such as breakfast cereal and lager beer.
Benefits of sorghum millet
- It is rich in fiber compared to other cereal grains like barley or rice
- It helps to control blood pressure
- Beneficial to your bone health
Finger millet (Ragi)
Finger millet, also known as Ragi, is a staple food in India and popular breakfast food. The millet is a cereal grain grown in most of the tropical and subtropical regions of the world.
The millet is known for its drought tolerance, long-grain storage time, and ability to grow at altitudes exceeding 2000 metres above sea level.
When unthreshed, finger millet can be stored for up to 10 years. However, some sources claim that storage can last up to 50 years under ideal conditions.
Cakes, pudding or porridge are some of the most popular recipes made using the finger millet.
Benefits of Finger millet
- Help to improve the health of your bones and teeth
- Good for people with asthma and liver disorders
- It is beneficial for your health
- Regular consumption of finger millets may help to prevent premature ageing
Kodo millet (Kodon)
Kodo millet is another variety of millet mostly grown in India, Nepal, Indonesia, and Thailand.
It is a very hardy crop that can survive in marginal soils where other crops fail to survive. It is also drought-resistant.
In India, it is ground into flour and used to prepare the pudding and other snacks. It’s also an excellent source of feed for animals and poultry.
Kodo millet is a nutrient-dense grain that can be used in place of rice or wheat. It has a protein content of 9 grams per 100 grams of grains, and it is also a good source of fiber, with 10 grams per 100 grams.
Benefits of Kodo millet
- It has the potential to aid in the management of obesity
- Antioxidant-rich source
- Good source of dietary fiber
- It contains a lot of lecithins and is great for boosting the nervous system’s strength
Foxtail millet (Kangni)
The foxtail millet, also known as kangni, is the second most widely grown millet after pearl millet. It is a staple food in China, India, Korea, Japan, and Nepal.
It is also known by other names such as Italian Millet, German millet, Kangni, Kankum and rala.
Foxtail can grow in the tropics and temperate zones under low and moderate rainfall. It can also withstand drought, but not severe drought.
It has a high protein and fat content and is commonly used in pasta, bread, and desserts.
Benefits of Foxtail millet
- It aids in the maintenance of good nervous health
- Good source of iron and calcium, which helps to maintain bone and muscle health
- Amino acids found in foxtail millet can help lower blood cholesterol levels
- It promotes healthy digestion due to its high fiber content
Barnyard millet (Sanwa)
Even though the Barnyard millet is the fourth most widely grown minor millet, humans have overlooked and underutilized it.
It is an ancient millet crop widely cultivated in Asia, particularly India, China, Japan, and Korea. It is grown in both warm and temperate regions.
Compared to other major cereals, barnyard millet grain is high in protein, carbohydrate, fiber, and, most importantly, micronutrients (Iron and zinc).
It is grown primarily for human consumption, but it is also used to feed livestock.
Barnyard is valued for its high nutritional value and low cost compared to major cereals such as rice, wheat, and maize.
Benefits of Barnyard millet
- Good source of fiber and protein
- Aids in the control of blood sugar levels in the body
- Some variety of barnyards are excellent sources of Iron
Little millet (Shavan/Kutki)
Little millet is a small grain cereal that people of all ages can enjoy. It is mostly consumed as rice and cook faster than many other millets due to its small size.
It plays a significant role in providing nutraceutical components such as phenols, tannins, phytates, and other nutrients.
Little millet is a versatile crop that can be used for various purposes, including food, bird feed, and bioenergy. It is less susceptible to pests, diseases, and environmental stresses than other grain crops, and it flourishes in low-input farming.
Samai dosa, porridge, and paddu are some of the traditional little millet recipes.
Benefits of Little millet
- Excellent source of iron
- Boost the immune system’s performance
- Little millet contains vitamin B3, which helps to lower cholesterol
Buckwheat millet (Kuttu)
Buckwheat, also known as Kuttu, is one of India’s most common and popular types of millet.
It is a gluten-free, extremely healthy grain that has long been a staple in many cultures around the world.
As buckwheat contains no gluten, it can be eaten by people who have celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or dermatitis herpetiformis
It is forbidden to eat cereals such as wheat or rice during fasting days. So many people in northern India eat foods made of buckwheat flour.
Benefits of buckwheat millet
- Good source of protein
- Good source of fiber
- Improves blood sugar levels
- Helpful in boosting immunity
The Aztecs have harvested amaranth millet for over 8000 years. It is the most uncommon types of millet in the millets family. It’s a pseudo-cereal, with more in common with ordinary grains than true cereals.
The raw amaranth grain is inedible to humans and cannot be digested because it prevents nutrients from being absorbed. As a result, it must be prepared and cooked similarly to other grains.
It contains anti-nutritional factors, like oxalates, nitrates, and phenolic compounds. It also includes a lot of protein and lysine, which isn’t found in many other grains.
Benefits of Amaranth millet
- Excellent source of protein
- Packed with antioxidants
- Helpful in reducing inflammation
- It may help in weight loss
Proso millet (Barri)
Proso millet is a cereal grain that originated in China and is becoming popular as a nutritious food in the United States. It can be used for various things, including as a new breakfast cereal.
It is also known by other names such as broomcorn millet, common millet, hog millet and white millet.
Proso millet is also drought-resistant, making it appealing to areas with limited water resources and long periods without rain.
It’s a nutrient-dense cereal grain used for human consumption, birdseed, and ethanol production. While gluten-free, it contains a significant amount of fiber, carbohydrates, protein, niacin (Vitamin B3), and fatty acids.
Benefits of Proso millet
- Good source of lecithin, which is important for your health nervous system
- Helpful in reducing cholesterol
- It has the potential to lower the risk of diabetes
- It’s good for your teeth and bones
Are there any downsides of eating millets?
Millets are frequently thought to be healthy for the majority of people. However, there are some potential downsides to eating millets, such as:
- Millets are high in minerals, however they also contain antinutrients. Antinutrients are chemicals that can prevent nutrients from being absorbed by the body.These antinutrients can reduce the bioavailability of important minerals such as zinc, iron, and calcium.
- Millets should be consumed in moderation since they contain goitrogen, a chemical that can disrupt thyroid gland function and is dangerous to young children and pregnant women. However, this does not mean you should avoid eating millets because this ingredient is generally removed throughout the processing procedure.
Though often overlooked, millets are a powerhouse of nutrients and should not be missed out on. From being a great source of fiber to lowering blood sugar levels, these tiny seeds have a lot to offer. So include any of these millets in your diet and see how you health improves in no time.
It is always a good idea to keep changing the type of millets you eat. Also, millets should not be mixed, and only one grain should be consumed per meal, as each grain has its digestion requirements, and mixing them can cause body imbalances.
I hope you found a millet you would like to try from this list.
If you have any other questions or concerns about millets, leave them in the comment section.
Proso millet has the highest amount of protein of all millets containing about 12.5 grams in 100 grams.
Barnyard millet has the highest amount of fiber of all millets containing about 13.6 grams in 100 grams.
Millet is better than rice both in terms of nutrition and health benefits. For example, millet is a grain that is high in protein and fiber, while rice is a grain that is high in carbohydrates.
If you’re interested in learning more, check out 9 Solid Reasons To Choose Millet Over Rice.
On an average you should soak millets for about 5-6 hours before cooking. Soaking ensures to remove some of the antinutrients from the millets.
Yes, millets can be consumed on a daily basis. However, make sure to eat a variety of other foods in addition to millets, and limit your consumption.
Due to low in calories and high in fiber and protein content, millets are beneficial to include in a weight-loss diet.