Millets: The world of ancient grains

Millets are ancient grains that have supported many civilizations throughout history. However, with time, these grains have been forgotten. The world has rather focussed on three major crops- corn, wheat and rice since the green revolution which has lead to monocropping and limited diversity in the type of nutrients we consume. To fight the increasing global food demand and to we need to tap into the world of these ancient grains that are not only underutilized  but are also nutritionally dense. 

Although commonly known as grains, millets are technically seeds like Quinoa.  There are many varieties of millets, each of which look different, taste different and have a diverse nutrient profile ranging from proteins, fibre, naturally occuring vitamins and minerals to antioxidants. They all grow naturally organically without the need for pesticides or fertilizers. 

Man knows 250,000 edible species. Less than 1% of these species make up for world food consumption.

Why should we diversify our food?

Intake of a balanced diet- The more the variety in your food, the higher the variety of nutrient intake in your body. Millets are whole grains, containing high amounts of proteins, fibre, minerals and vitamins. They are also a good source of iron, zinc and calcium.

Fighting climate change- Increasingly harsh weather conditions are making it more difficult to grow food. Repeatedly, growing one crop in one place has ruined the soil quality and crop output along with increasing soil erosion.

Millets are drought-tolerant and can grow in various agro-ecological zones. Millets add the necessary genetic diversity to have good growing conditions. 

Millets are sustainable crops of the future for their resistance to harsh climatic conditions.

Where did millets originate?

Origin of millets dates back to 5000 years in parts of Asia and Africa. One of the first domesticated millets was documented in the Western and sub-Saharan African regions. India and Africa still consume millets as a part of their daily diet. 

Why are millets good for your health?

Millets are an excellent source of nutrition with high proteins, fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Millets are high in protein, high in fibre and have a good amount of vitamins and minerals.

Millets are gluten-free.

Millets are high in iron and calcium, therefore a good source of food for countries fighting malnutrition.

Millets have high antioxidants and low glycemic index (that means they release glucose into the body very slowly) which benefits diabetic patients.

What are the different varieties of Millets?

Depending on the size of the grains and the area they are grown in, millets can be categorized into major and minor millets. The major millets are sorghum and pearl millet. Some of the common minor millets are finger, proso, foxtail, little and kodo. 

Millets are the crops of the future

In addition to being a superfood nutritionally, millets are one of the most sustainable crops that can be grown with very little water. Unlike rice and wheat, millets can be grown in drought like conditions with very little water and without the need for pesticides or fertilizers. Millets are also great for the soil due to their ability to fix Nitrogen and are called C4 crops, meaning they are climate-friendly and do not contribute to carbon emissions. 

So, millets are great for the consumers, farmers and the planet!