Millet grains have been around for over 7000 years. It is said to have come from Africa with the name of “father-grain”. It was planted by the Egyptians along the Nile River and used as beer in their time period. It’s also believed this was one of the first cereal crops there while also one of the earliest domesticated grains known today. It has been used in traditional African and American Indian cultures for a long time.
Millet is a great whole grain that can be used in many different ways. You gain plenty of benefits from eating this particular food choice, making it a staple in a nutritious diet plan. One cup of cooked millet contains around 240 calories and is low in fat. Because it’s so affordable, it remains relevant today as a healthy whole grain choice that can be added to your daily meal plan.
Also read: Truvia vs Stevia
Little millet plant
Little millet (Panicum sumatrense) is an annual grass. It is sometimes called green-seed, hog or red millet, and also smallpox grass, or poverty weed. It is part of cultivated plants that were first domesticated in Africa. It is tall, and its leaves are hairy on the lower stems but smooth above, it has few branches and does not root at nodes, it can be distinguished from browntop millet by its dark seed heads with numerous single spikelets. The panicles are usually long, with 5–7 racemes 10–19 cm long, each containing up to 100 spikelets. Each spikelet has 2-3 florets. There are many hairy glumes, the lower glume is long with two short equal lateral side bracts which end in a point like an awl (this distinguishes it from big millet).
Little millet is tall and has few branches. The stems are usually shiny, sometimes pale green with a purple tinge. The lower part of the stem is hairless, but the upper parts can be smooth or slightly hairy. The leaf is flat from the side, but it curves up at the tip.
Its leaf sheaths are smooth and hairless, with purple coloring near the ligule. The upper surface of the leaf sheath has longitudinal grooves. Leaf-blades grow to 40–60 cm long by 2-6mm wide. Lower leaves are 18-40 cm long 1-3mm wide; bases gradually taper down to 0.5 cm (less than 0.2 inches), which does not entirely encircle stem; they become shorter higher up on the plant, stems may be slightly hairy or almost glabrous (shiny). Erect tillering occurs towards the end of the flowering period; the first inflorescence appears 20 – 25 days after sowing.
Samai In Tamil forms racemes with a few to several male florets at the tip of the panicle branch, surrounded by multiple female florets below them. Each male flower has five stamens. In each female flower, there is one glabrous ovary covered in short hairs, and three stigmas, all of equal length, become fruit after fertilization occurs inside it. The pollen grains have three pores, and the raphe is slightly off-center.
This plant grows well in warm temperate climates where the average rainfall is 2000-4000mm annually with a pronounced dry season of at least 30 days. It can tolerate as little as 150mm annual precipitation as long as it occurs during its growing period. The soil should be suitable for other grain crops and have good drainage. Seeds should be sown 1-3 cm deep, they germinate best on seedbeds at 25 degrees C after 45 to 60 days, but emergence can take five weeks or more under cold conditions if soils are dry or crusted from excess rain. It can survive extended droughts but will not produce mature seeds without sufficient water around the reproductive period. The crop may also be planted in autumn by sowing seeds 1-3cm deep and irrigating them afterward.
It is drought tolerant, heat tolerant (including frost), and cold tolerant (down to -15C). It is moderately sensitive to salinity. Also, it has moderate tolerance to diseases caused by foliar fungal infections, but it is highly susceptible to damage from maize lethal necrosis disease. Insect pests include the African grass webworm (“Herpetogramma phaeopteralis”), while birds feed on its seeds.
The plant can also be used for making porridge, flatbreads, alcoholic drinks, cattle feed, and green manure crops. Dry flour made from its grains can be mixed with cassava or maize flour.
Little millet uses
As a food source, the little millet is very easy to digest and can be consumed without cooking. You should prefer it raw, but if you do cook it first, make sure not to use too much water. Otherwise, the grains might stick together. The seeds are rich in proteins, calcium, iron, and other essential minerals. The plant also contains a lot of vegetable fibers and is thus a good supplement for those who don’t eat enough vegetables.
In Africa, little millet porridge is made from tiny grains instead of regular rice or other common grains. In this way, you avoid mixing it with different cereals to make dishes such as bread. You can simply make your original cereal-, bread- or dumpling recipes with little millet instead of regular flour. This is very healthy and nutritious too, and the only difference is that you don’t get as much yield as you do with regular cereals (8:1 instead of e.g. 16:1).
It is also an essential ingredient in Indian dishes such as Roti, a type of flatbread, and Dosa, a pancake filled with vegetables.
Some other traditional African dishes can be made:
- Tô: A porridge made with corn and little millet flour instead of regular flour.
- Ga’at: a dough made from ground millet and sorghum.
- Kedjenou: A traditional dish cooked in an earthenware pot over hot coals. The dish is composed of chicken that has been marinated with garlic and onions, then wrapped in banana leaves and slowly steamed.
It’s also possible to ferment to make beer from it, which can be used for celebrations or even for taking care of stomach upsets since it has a very high nutrient value.
In Africa, the little millet is used for making mats, ropes, and sacks. The fluff from the seeds can be used to stuff pillows, and you can also use it as a filling in your own handmade pillow if you don’t have enough fluff. It’s also possible to use its seeds to stuff your pillow. Just spread them out on a flat surface and let them dry. Once they’re dry, you’ll easily be able to blow away all unwanted chaff and separate the individual grains.
The plant’s leaves can also be used in the same way as corn husks: They can be tied together to make ropes, or you can use them as a decoction to treat digestive problems.
Little millet nutrition facts
- A 3/4 cup of millet provides 27 grams of carbohydrates, 3.5 grams of dietary fiber, and only 1 gram of sugar.
- It has a low glycemic index of 35, which means it doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels.
- It is a complete protein source containing all nine essential amino acids.
- It is a good source of magnesium and iron.
- It is high in antioxidants and phytonutrients, including carotenoids, flavonoids, and saponins.
How to cook little millet
- Bring two cups of water to a boil.
- Pour in 1/4 cup millet, cover, turn the heat down low, and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Turn off the heat & let it sit for 10 minutes with the lid on.
- Fluff it up & serve! It goes well with anything you would usually eat with rice or couscous.
Little millet health benefits and weight loss
Little millet is a cereal grain and helpful for patients who suffer from high blood pressure. It is also known as bajri and kambu in North India, kaola in Hausa language of Nigeria and Niger; mannai (Tamil: மண்டை), paalakaya (Kurukh: ପାଲକାୟ), or mannagai (Tamil: மண்ணை) in South India. It is also referred to as Indian millet or khada nakhua (Hindi: खडा नाखुआ) in Nepal.
- It is known as food containing high fiber, and hence it reduces constipation problems and prevents colorectal cancer. It also increases the hemoglobin concentration in the blood.
- It has high magnesium content, which helps fight diabetes and heart-related problems.
- Magnesium also aids in increasing metabolism rate, which helps to lose weight without much effort. The fiber content found in the plant helps boost the metabolism rate of an individual, especially if it is combined with milk or curd.
- The iron present in it helps purify your blood, plus it also reduces the chances of anemia. If you have a low hemoglobin count, adding this to your daily diet will help you get rid of that problem quite easily.
- It contains protein quality similar to eggs and meat. Therefore, it helps to strengthen muscles and increase weight. So taking it is very advisable for athletes.
- It contains about 23% protein, which is higher than other cereals like maize (15%). It also includes 16-17% carbohydrates, 4% fat, and 3% ash. Since the grains are small in size, it makes digestion quick and easy.
- Being gluten-free, it helps maintain weight without putting much effort into dieting or exercising.
- The presence of Vitamin B12 makes it beneficial for vegetarians since they cannot take vitamin B12 from animal sources.
- This cereal can also be taken by patients suffering from obesity, digestive problems like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and those who want to lose weight. This cereal grain is high in fiber content, making it beneficial for all individuals.
- It contains 25% protein and 12% dietary fiber, which is equivalent to barley and oats. Dietary Fiber binds bile acids that pass into the colon, thus reducing blood cholesterol levels.
How to use little millet for weight loss
Little millet contains phytoestrogens, compounds known to help reduce fat storage in the body. They are believed to play an important role in weight management. When you eat food containing phytoestrogen-rich grains, it helps your body break down fat and use it as fuel.
This grain is very high in fiber and magnesium, making it an excellent choice for people looking to lose weight. When you eat foods high in fiber, they fill your stomach more quickly, causing the body to burn more calories throughout the day. The best way to use little millet for weight loss is to eat it as a porridge, with milk and jaggery. This provides you with energy throughout the morning, without giving you unhealthy sugar levels. It also helps you feel full for a very long time.
Magnesium helps regulate blood sugar levels which can help reduce cravings for unhealthy foods. It also helps digestion by loosening your muscles, allowing food to pass through faster without being trapped inside your digestive tract. This means no bloating or constipation issues later down the road.
Little millet helps to reduce LDL cholesterol, treats Type 2 diabetes and kidney disease, reduces stress levels, controls blood pressure, increases libido, and has weight loss benefits. It is also gluten-free. Research suggests that this cereal can slow down the growth of tumors by suppressing pro-inflammatory proteins.
Regular consumption of little millet for three months can reduce body weight, BMI, and waist circumference. The nutrient density of the plant is a key reason for its health benefits. It provides more nutrients per 100g than most other cereal grains or starches. Including it as part of a healthy diet is recommended by experts to reduce the risk of chronic disease.
Also read: Sports nutrition for young athletes