Millet is a gluten-free cereal with interesting therapeutic properties, studies show that its consumption promotes blood sugar control and brings other health benefits
The millet was rediscovered in recent times due to its properties, to its precision and the absence of gluten taste. This characteristic makes it a recommended food for celiacs.
However, its main use in Europe remains that intended for bird and poultry feed.
The millet, scientific name Panicum miliaceum, is a very ancient cereal belonging to the Gramineae family. Its plant is native to Asia, it can reach a height of 1,5 meters and produces small, round and smooth seeds with a yellowish color.
- Chemical Composition
- Properties and Benefits
The major producing countries are India, China and Nigeria. In Europe the cultivation of millet was almost abandoned because of the problems arising from its harvest. The small seeds of the millet were in fact confused with other seeds of wild plants and made their collection problematic.
One of its most important characteristics is its high degree of conservation which seems to be due to the presence of phenols in its seed. If stored in a way suitable in tightly closed containers and away from heat and moisture, it remains intact for a long time.
Commonly grown millet species include prose (Panicum miliaceum ), pearl (Pennisetum glaucum ), finger (Eleusine coracana), kodo (Paspalum setaceum), foxtail (Setaria italica ), small (Panicum sumatrense) and the courtyard one (Echinochloa utilis).
This food ranks sixth among the most important cereals in the world, claiming over one third of the world population. ( 1 ) This cereal represents one of the main sources of energy and protein for millions of people in China, Japan, Africa and India, in particular for people living in hot and dry areas of the world. ( 2 )
|Chemical composition for 100 gr of cooked millet|
Source: USDA Database
Amino acids: aspartic acid and glutamic acid, alanine, arginine, cystine, phenylalanine, histidine,isoleucine, leucine, lysine, proline, methionine, serine, tyrosine, tryptophan, glycine, valine and threonine.
100 grams of millet have a calorie yield of 360 kcal.
Millet: Properties and Benefits
The plant phenols have been shown to minimize the intensity of various diseases and also to reduce the growth of various kinds of fungi. Studies on a genus of millet, Eleusine coracana, have shown that phenols, including tannins, act as a physical barrier to fungal invasion. ( 3 )
The millet brings benefits even in case of bloating and abdominal cramps and reduces the occurrence of gastric ulcers. By regulating digestion it helps the body to eliminate waste quickly. Its intake is also good for the kidneys and liver.
It is an alkaline cereal that is easily digested and is therefore indicated in case of stomach acid, in early childhood and in convalescence states. Like all foods rich in fiber, it improves digestion by facilitating the intestinal transit of food. ( 4 )
The diabetes has become a highly problematic and increasingly common disease in the world. Diabetes management techniques in affected individuals, in addition to medications, are primarily through changes in lifestyle and dietary regulation. In particular, the diet can have a great influence on the quality of life of those who suffer, as well as those at risk of diabetes.
A study conducted in India reported that patients with diabetes 2, fed millet for 90 days, showed better glycemic control . ( 5 )
Research suggests that the Eleusine coracana variety has useful properties in the prevention and treatment of diabetes mellitus. According to studies, the carbohydrates present in this species of millet are digested and assimilated more slowly than other types of cereals. This property makes this vegetable very useful in controlling blood sugar. ( 6 )
There are many other studies that claim that regular consumption of this cereal leads to improved glycemic control in diabetic patients. ( 7 )
An Indian study found that consumption of millet-based diets led to significantly lower plasma glucose levels. ( 8 )
Another Indian study suggests that the replacement of a product for breakfast made from rice with a product for a breakfast of millet, lowers the blood glucose levels postprandial in patients with diabetes 2. ( 9 )
Regular consumption of millet is also known to reduce the risk of diabetes mellitus and gastrointestinal tract disorders. These properties, according to the researchers, are attributable to polyphenols and the content of dietary fiber.
A study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology demonstrates its beneficial properties against bile stones. According to the study, women who regularly consume insoluble fiber have a lower risk of developing gallstones.
A Georgia study suggests that there is an association between increasing dietary fiber consumption and reducing gallstone formation. ( 10 )
Researchers are convinced that the consumption of insoluble fiber not only speeds up transit time intestinal but also increases the secretion of bile acids. The insoluble fibers are present in millet and in all whole grains and also in tomatoes, the pumpkin, the beans in the dried fruit etc ….
According to a study conducted by scientists in Seoul, South Korea, the millet brings benefits in preventing cardiovascular diseases. This cereal is a rich source of potassium and magnesium, minerals that have the property of lowering blood pressure.
These minerals, acting as vasodilators, bringing great benefits in the prevention of heart attacks, strokes and atherosclerosis. Another type of constituents present in the cereal, whose properties are useful in the prevention of heart disease, are plant lignans.
Lignans are a type of phytonutrient that possesses other qualities. Once they reach the intestine, they are transformed by the bacterial flora into mammalian lignans. One in particular, called enterolactone, has properties useful in preventing breast cancer and other hormone-dependent tumors.
A 2010 animal study suggests that consumption of this food reduces triglyceride levels with benefits for cardiovascular health. ( 12 )
The magnesium present in the cereal can reduce the frequency of heart attacks and is beneficial for people suffering from atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. ( 13 )
Since millet is rich in fiber, antioxidants and complex carbohydrates, it can be valuable in prevention of cardiovascular disease and also cancer. ( 14 )
The regular consumption of millet can reduce the high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels in postmenopausal women suffering from symptoms of cardiovascular disease.
According to a Japanese study, millet proteins have a beneficial influence on cholesterol metabolism. ( 15 )
Some studies of 2011 suggest that the flavonoids present in the cereal have antioxidant properties useful in counteracting the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are a byproduct of human metabolism that can cause the onset of various chronic diseases including tumors. ( 16 )
In particular, the study highlighted the anticancer properties of saponins which, in addition to inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells, also reduce cholesterol.
According to a Chinese study, a new protein extracted from millet bran shows anticancer properties in human colon cancer cells. ( 17 )
Another Chinese study suggests that the components of this cereal induce necroptosis of human colon cancer cells. ( 18 )
Vegans and Vegetarians
The high percentage of protein makes millet a perfect food to balance the diet of vegetarians and vegans.
Remember that millet is a gluten-free cereal and therefore particularly suitable for people affected by celiac disease.
It has a good content of compounds with antioxidant properties that counteract the activity of free radicals. The antioxidants also help the liver and kidneys to get rid of toxins. Curcumin, quercetin, ellagic acid are substances contained in millet that help the body in the purification process. ( 19 )
From my personal experience I can say that those who taste it for the first time are immediately captured by its pleasant and delicate taste and hardly forget it.
In Europe, and also in Italy, the most widespread variety is represented by white millet. In warmer countries with arid climates, however, qualities such as two-tone and black millet are more common.
In the history of humanity it has had a considerable importance, above all thanks to its long conservation period. It was in fact stored for very long periods.
In Africa it is used for the preparation of baby products and for breakfast.
The millet harvest is mechanized and does not present particular difficulties. As for decortication, however, this must be well done, as the external part contains gluten and its presence would prohibit its use for celiacs.
Animal studies suggest that this plant-based food may have antitirodei effects. ( 20 )
In Italy traces of this cereal have been found in some tombs belonging to the Neolithic period. Chinese archaeologists have found a 4.000-year-old bowl containing the remains of millet – based noodles .
With its flour you can prepare biscuits or other products that do not need leavening.
Maybe not Everyone Knows That
It is found on the market in different forms: dehulled in seeds, flour and flakes. On the other hand, seeds intended for animal feed are not skinned.
Thanks to the fact that the millet plant is very resistant to drought, it is successfully cultivated even in poor and arid soils.
The proteins present in this cereal are more complete and at the same time more assimilable than those present in other cereals such as rice or wheat.
It lends itself better to cooking as it requires less time than other cereals and above all does not require soaking.
The Hunza, a population living in a remote area in the Himalayan valleys and considered to be the longest in the world, use millet as the staple food of their diet. Obviously, thanks to its properties it gives them health and long life.
Millet: Properties and Benefits
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