The year 2023 has been declared the International Year of Millets by the United Nations General Assembly, highlighting the growing importance of this superfood in our diets.
Millets are often referred to as Superfood and its production can be seen as an approach for sustainable agriculture and a healthy world. Multidimensional benefits associated with millets can address the issues related to nutrition security, food systems security, and farmers’ welfare. Further, many unique features linked with millets makes them a suitable crop which is resilient to India’s varied agro-climatic conditions.
So, what exactly are millets, and why are they considered a superfood? Millets are a group of small-seeded grasses that are grown primarily in India, Africa, and other parts of Asia. The three major millet crops currently growing in India are jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millet) and ragi (finger millet).
Along with that, India grows a rich array of bio-genetically diverse and indigenous varieties of “small millets” like kodo, kutki, chenna and sanwa.
Major producers include Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Haryana.
One of the main reasons millets are considered a superfood is their high nutrient density. They are a rich source of vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. They are also high in fiber, with some varieties containing up to 10 grams of fibre per cup. This high fibre content can help regulate blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and promote digestive health.
Millets are also a good source of plant-based protein, with some varieties containing up to 14 grams of protein per cup. This makes them an excellent option for vegetarians and vegans looking to incorporate more protein into their diets. Millets are also gluten-free, which makes them a great alternative for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
But perhaps the most impressive thing about millets is their versatility in the kitchen. They can be cooked like rice or quinoa and used as a base for salads, stir-fries, or grain bowls. They can also be ground into flour and used to make bread, muffins, and other baked goods. In fact, millet flour is a popular ingredient in gluten-free baking, as it provides a light, fluffy texture and a slightly sweet flavour.
In many parts of the world, millets have been a dietary staple for generations. They are drought-resistant and can be grown in a variety of different climates, which makes them an important crop for small-scale farmers. By promoting the consumption of millets, the International Year of Millets aims to raise awareness about the nutritional and environmental benefits of these superfoods, as well as support small-scale farmers who grow them.
In conclusion, millets are a true superfood that deserve to be more widely recognized and appreciated. They are a rich source of nutrients, versatile in the kitchen, and an important crop for small-scale farmers. By incorporating millets into your diet, you can not only improve your own health, but also support a more sustainable food system for everyone.
However, in spite of acknowledging their significance as a superfood, general perception is that the millets are increasingly seen as “poor person’s food”. Therefore, it is necessary to re-brand coarse cereals/millets as nutri-cereals and promote their production and consumption.
We, at TCI are aligned with the vision of taking our "Shri Anna" to the world and celebrating International Year of Millets through Jan-Bhagidari.
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