A seed-bearing grass (Gramineae) millet is definitely more than just bird seed or fodder. It is a staple in Africa, parts of Asia and is often ground or pureed to be cooked as a kind of porridge. It feeds a third of the world population and has been in cultivation roughly 10,000 years.
In Asia, its cultivation preceded rice and it can be used very much like rice for most dishes. Although technically a grain, millet falls more into the company of pseudo-grains (broad leaf seed bearing plants) such as amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat because it has no gluten, is high in protein and important minerals for bone, hair and nail growth.
Millet is a collective term for about 500 varieties of this grass species of which only a few are available here in Europe. It has a delicious, mildly sweet, nutty flavour and is highly digestible. When cooked, it remains firm in texture though almost fluffy at the same time. It does not store well, so purchase in small quantities. The flour does not contain gluten and is an excellent carbohydrate grain source for those wishing to avoid gluten, as are amaranth and quinoa.
Millet is highly nutritious and one of my favorite sources of minerals. It is not only connective tissue and important for bone health, but it is a veritable beauty ‘grain’.
Cooked millet is very much like cooked rice, bulghur, couscous and kasha and so can be used in any such recipes with success. By the way, Foxtail millet is also used as birdseed and is recognizable by the ‘tail’ cluster of golden seeds (grain). Birds love it. So should you! Millet is a very good protein source (+ – 11.6%), is high in calcium and silicea and so is excellent in fighting off osteoporosis. It is excellent for hair, nails, teeth and in building collagen in the skin. No wonder it is called ‘the beauty grain”.
Lacking lysine, its protein availability is enhanced when eaten with beans, other legumes, mushrooms, meats, fish, milk products and cheese.
It is a good idea to toss in grated cheese or use a yoghurt side dish such as an Indian raita if your meal does not include meat or beans.
- The high magnesium content is heart protective, can help lower high blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attack especially in those with atherosclerosis, as well as reduce the severity of asthma.
- The notable phosphorus content is important for the repair of body tissue and development. It is also an essential mineral that protects the neuro structure and cell membrane.
- Highest level of minerals of all grains and highest levels of iron. 50 g. covers the average daily iron requirements and 100 g. covers the daily requirements for fluoride.
To get the most out of its iron content, it is recommended that millet is taken in combination with a good vitamin C source, such as orange juice or other citric fruits and berries or of course, tomatoes and peppers of all kinds.
- Millet is thought to be the least allergenic of all seeds and grains.
- It is one of the few grains that can be combined successfully with animal, fish, other vegetable proteins or fruit without forming an acid state (or making matters worse as in a chicken and rice dish).
- Millet helps reduce an overly acidic stomach rapidly.
- An important food source for hair growth, skin (stimulates collagen) and bone health.
- Excellent source of manganese, supplying 24% recommended daily amount (180g cooked, roughly 1 cup) . Good source of magnesium and potassium.
- Millet is considered a ‘warming’ grain thus helps to heat the body and is perfect for those cooler days and cold, wet weather.
Millet is non-acid producing and considered an alkaline food. If you find carbohydrates such as rice or potatoes with your protein meals leaves you with acid reflux or a bloated feeling, use millet instead. It can easily replace recipes for bulghur (bulgar), couscous (think tabbouleh salad) or rice. It can also be cooked creamy for a breakfast meal (add more water or milk when cooking and stir frequently) or so that it separates like rice. I have a recipe for mock mashed potatoes – and my guests barely noticed – and could not believe it was millet. Contact me for that recipe if you are interested. Millet is an veritable mineral wonder.
Give this ancient pseudo-grain a try!