Millet: Everything you need to know about these nutritional grains.


Millet, often referred to as the forgotten grain, has been gaining popularity in recent years due to its impressive nutritional profile and versatile culinary uses. . Millets provide several health benefits, including lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels. They are also gluten-free, allowing people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity to enjoy them. This article covers everything you need to know about millets, including their nutrition, benefits, and drawbacks.

What is millet?

Millets are a type of cereal grain that belongs to the Poaceae family, sometimes known as the grass family.
It is frequently consumed in less developed regions of Africa and Asia. While millet resembles a seed, its nutritional profile is comparable to that of sorghum and other grains. Millets are popular in the West because they are gluten-free and high in protein, fiber, and antioxidants.

Nutritional profile

As with most cereals, millet is considered a starchy grain due to its high carbohydrate content. It is worth mentioning that cooked millet is also a notable source of several vitamins and minerals, as confirmed by the USDA.

  • Calories: 207.
  • Carbohydrate: 41 grams
  • Fiber: 2.2 g
  • Protein: 6 g.
  • Fat: 1.7 g.
  • Phosphorus is 25% of the daily value (DV).
  • Magnesium: 19% of the recommended daily value
  • Folate: 8% of the DV.
  • Iron: 6% of the DV.

Millets provide more necessary amino acids than most cereals. These chemicals serve as the building blocks for proteins.

Additionally, finger millet is renowned for having the highest calcium level among cereal grains, contributing 13% of the daily value in a cooked cup (100 grams).

Calcium is required for bone health, blood vessel and muscular contractions, and normal neuron function.

Types of Millet

There are several varieties of millet. This crop also divides into two groups: large and small millets. Major millets are the most popular or commonly cultivated types.

Large millets:

  • Pearl is the most prevalent variety of millet, typically appearing in white, yellow, gray, or even purple hues. The grains are some of the largest, measuring around 3-5 millimeters in size.
  • Sorghummillet comes in various hues, such as white, yellow, and red, with an average size of approximately 4-6 millimeters.
  • Foxtail grains typically measure between 2 and 3 millimeters in length, displaying a variety of colors, including red, black, white, and yellow.
  • Proso millet grains typically measure approximately 3 millimeters in length and feature distinct lines that run along their entire length. These grains can exhibit a variety of colors, including white, yellow, or brown.
  • Finger millet, also known as ragi, typically exhibits a brown hue, and its grains are relatively diminutive, measuring only 1-2 millimeters in size.

Small millets:

  • Kodo grains come in shades that span from blackish to dark brown, with an average length of 3–4 millimeters.
  • Little millet grains typically measure around 2–3 millimeters in length and are available in various shades of gray and white.
  • Barnyard millet is also available in gray and white hues, with a length of approximately 3 millimeters.
  • Browntop grains measure approximately 4-5 millimeters in length and exhibit colors ranging from tan to white.

Pearl millet is the most commonly produced kind for human use. Nonetheless, all varieties are known for their great nutritional value and health advantages.

Benefits of Millets

Millets are high in minerals and plant components. As a result, they may offer a variety of health benefits.

1. Control blood sugar levels

Millets are high in fiber and non-starchy polysaccharides, two forms of indigestible carbohydrates that help regulate blood sugar levels.

This cereal also has a low glycemic index (GI), which means it is unlikely to cause a surge in blood sugar levels.

Therefore, people regard millets as an optimal grain for diabetics.

For example, a study of 105 people with type 2 diabetes found that replacing a rice-based breakfast with millet reduced blood sugar levels following the meal.

A 12-week study of 64 people with prediabetes produced comparable outcomes. They found that ingesting 1/3 cup (50 grams) of foxtail millet per day resulted in a small drop in fasting and post-meal blood sugar levels, as well as a decrease in insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance is a sign of type 2 diabetes. It happens when your body stops responding to insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar.

Furthermore, a 6-week trial in diabetic rats found that a meal containing 20% finger millet reduced fasting blood sugar levels as well as triglyceride and cholesterol levels.

2. Rich in antioxidants

Millets contain several phenolic chemicals, particularly ferulic acid and catechins. These molecules function as antioxidants, shielding your body from damaging oxidative stress.

Studies on mice have linked ferulic acid to quick wound healing, skin protection, and anti-inflammatory qualities.

Meanwhile, catechins bond to heavy metals in your system, helping to prevent metal poisoning.

While all millet kinds contain antioxidants, those with a darker hue—such as finger, proso, and foxtail millet—have more than their white or yellow counterparts.

3. Lower cholesterol

Millets contain soluble fiber, which creates a sticky material in the intestines. This traps fat and helps lower cholesterol levels.

One study in 24 rats indicated that those fed foxtail and proso millet had considerably lower triglyceride levels than the control group.

Furthermore, millet protein may help reduce cholesterol.

In one study, researchers fed mice with type 2 diabetes a high-fat diet that included millet protein concentrate. When compared to the control group, there was a significant increase in adiponectin and HDL (good) cholesterol levels, as well as a decrease in triglycerides.

Adiponectin is a hormone with anti-inflammatory properties that promotes heart health and fatty acid oxidation. Its levels are typically lower in patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes.

4. Gluten-free

Millets are gluten-free, giving them an option for people who have celiac disease or follow a gluten-free diet.

Gluten is a protein naturally occurring in cereals such as wheat, barley, and rye. People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity should avoid it since it causes unpleasant digestive symptoms like diarrhea and nutrient malabsorption.

When shopping for millets, look for a gluten-free label to verify that they do not contain any gluten-containing substances.


Millets have numerous health benefits, but they also include antinutrients, which are substances that hinder or limit your body’s absorption of other nutrients, potentially leading to deficits.

One of these molecules, phytic acid, interferes with potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium absorption. A well-balanced diet, on the other hand, is unlikely to have any negative consequences.

Other antinutrients known as goitrogenic polyphenols may affect thyroid function, resulting in goiter, which is an enlargement of the thyroid gland that causes neck swelling.

Nonetheless, this impact is only related to high polyphenol intakes.

For example, one study found that goiter was substantially more common when millet contributed 74% of a person’s daily calories, as opposed to merely 37%.

Furthermore, soaking millet overnight at room temperature, then draining and rinsing it before cooking, considerably reduces its antinutrient content.

Additionally, sprouting reduces antinutrient content. Certain health food stores sell sprouted millet, but you can also grow it yourself. To do so, place the soaked millet in a glass jar and cover with a rubber band-secured towel.

Flip the jar upside down and rinse and drain the millet every 8–12 hours. After 2–3 days, tiny sprouts will begin to form. Drain the sprouts and eat them immediately.

How to cook and consume millets

Millets are a versatile ingredient that can be used as a substitute for rice when cooked whole.

To make it, simply combine 2 cups (480 mL) of water or broth with 1 cup (174 grams) of raw millet. Boil first, then simmer for 20 minutes.

Remember to soak it overnight before cooking to reduce the antinutrient content. You may also roast it in a pan before cooking to increase the nutty flavor.

Farmers and retailers also sell millet flour.

In fact, studies show that using millet flour in baked goods improves their nutritional profile by enhancing antioxidant content.

Furthermore, food manufacturers process this grain into snacks, pasta, and nondairy probiotic beverages.

In reality, fermented millet functions as a natural probiotic, providing live bacteria that help your health.

The bottom line

Millets are a whole grain that contains protein, antioxidants, and minerals. They may have several health benefits, such as lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Furthermore, they are gluten-free, making them a perfect alternative for celiac disease patients or those following a gluten-free diet. Their nutty flavor and adaptability make them worth trying.

Leave a comment