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Is Finger Millet the Hallmark of Nutrition?- Fast Facts, Nutrition, Health Benefits and Side Effects [Odisha-India]

Smaller is bigger.” And are you a believer?

Does the small seeded crop finger millet offer nutritional security and health benefits with avoidable side effects?

Let’s delve in.

Finger millet [Eleusine coracana (L.) Gaertn.] is known over 7000 years in India. This English name comes from the shape of the growing crop that looks like fingers. It is known in different names in different states of India and in the world. In Odisha, people call it Mandia. Other names elsewhere are Ragi (common name in India), Madhuli, Markatahastatrna, Marua, Finger Millet, Naagali-Baavato, Manduaa, Makaraa, Raagi, Muttari, Naachnee, Kodra, Madua, Koda, Ragi delu, Raagulu.

Finger Millet Plant (shaped like finger sticks)

Is-Finger-Millet-Hallmark-of-Nutrition-and-Health-Benefits?- The Finger-Looking-plant

Millets are a different variety.of  grass. They are also of various kinds. The most widely known millets are:

  • Foxtail
  • Finger Millets
  • Pearl
  • Proso
  • Kodo
  • Great millet (Jowar)
  • Little Millet
  • Barnyard Millet (kuthiraivali)

We will be using finger millet or Ragi (common name in India) interchangeably in this post not to be confused with.

Picture of Finger Millet or  Ragi (Mandia in Oriya)

Is-finger-millet-hallmark-of -nutrition -and-health-benefits?-the-ginger-millet-grain-in-a-bowl

Fast Facts About Finger Millet:

  • It grows better in hilly areas, mountain tops, unfertile lands. It needs little water. . Finger millet comes in different colors. The dark brown variety can easily be confused with mustard seeds. Short growing season. It is a self pollinating crop.
  • High Yield Production: Ragi is cultivated in 12% of the entire earth. India, Mali and Africa are major producers. The crop is high yielding and needs lot less money and resources to produce. It’s like growing an ordinary grass. 
  • Resistant to pests and diseases
  • Poor people or people with low financial status consume this crop. People are unaware of its health benefits.
  • Finger millet is a vegetarian,vegan and a staple food of south India. 
  • It is gluten free.
  • Ideal Food for Lactose intolerant People. It is one of the calcium rich foods. (343 mg of Calcium per each 100 g of the finger millet) and may replace dairy. Ragi is a hands on food for calcium deficient people at all ages.
  • It naturally comes with vitamin D2. This is the plant form of vitamin D which has the same action and with different capacity than vitamin D3.
  • Consumption of Ragi cools your digestive system and helps in keeping better intestinal health.
  • Helps Healthy Hair: Ragi is a valuable source of Methionine a sulphur containing amino acid is present in large amount. Along with Calcium and minerals like copper, zinc, manganese- they help build healthy hair.
  • Good Source of Fiber and Digestible Carbohydrates: Ragi contains fiber and complex carbohydrates (non starch polysaccharide) which is the desired addition to diet that confers good health.
  • Good Source of Plant Polyphenols, Flavonoids and Tannins- indirectly offers potential benefits to your health as anti inflammatory, antivirals, antimicrobials, anticarcinogenic. Potential for minimizing risks of diseases.
  • Robust Shelf Life: Ragi has a pretty long shelf life. Throw them on your shelf for years and you never lose the quality. The aged ones are more precious to your health.
  • Nutrition Security at the Time of Desperate Need: It used to be a food of the flood and famine stricken people.
  • Helps Diabetes Patients.People with Diabetes benefit from Ragi consumption. Remember! Odisha’s late and famous chief minister, Mr Biju Pattnaik was looking for 15 year old Ragi  to consume to help his diabetes.
  • Ragi reduces high blood pressure.
  • Low Cost- Ample Health Benefits for Money  You can buy organic finger millet for 34 rupees/ Kg in the rural Odisha vs.oats for 180 rupees. It is a better buy from the cereal aisle.
  • Replace rice and wheat in any of your dishes with Ragi to enhance your health.

Why Should You Consider Having Ragi (Finger Millet) in Your Diet?

Finger Millet (Ragi) Nutrition

Ragi offers Exceptional Nutritional Security. 

The nutrition values in a 100 g serving of ragi flour, according to the nutrient database of the U.S.D.A (United States Department Of Agriculture) are as follows:

Ragi Calories – 385

Macronutrients:

Total Fat 7%

Saturated Fat  3%

Polyunsaturated Fat 5%

Monounsaturated Fat 2%

Cholesterol 0%

Sodium 0%

Total Carbohydrates 25%

Dietary Fiber 14%

Sugars 2%

Protein 10%

Micronutrients:

Minerals:

Calcium 26%

Iron 11%

Potassium 27%

Vitamins:

Thiamine 5%

Riboflavin 7.6%

Niacin 3.7%

Folic Acid 3%

Vitamin C 7%

Vitamin E 4.6%

Ragi Increases Bone Health

Ragi contains 3 fold more Calcium than milk and a whooping 10 fold more calcium than brown rice, wheat and maze.

3.5 billion people on the world are suffering from calcium deficiency as per a 2015 global statistics published. The human body consists of 1.9% bone which always in need of calcium. Calcium offers strength to your bones..

The children don’t grow into their full height without sufficient calcium. As you age you need more and more calcium. Elderly people suffer from bone fractures and osteoporosis.

The importance of calcium in our life can never be understated.

While calcium deficiency can be met with supplements, supplementing with more calcium you end up risk of kidney stones. It is always preferred to eat a calcium rich food and vegetables over supplements. 

Ragi Reduces The Risk of Diabetes 

Regular consumption of finger millet is known to reduce the risk of diabetes mellitus (Gopalan 1981) and gastrointestinal tract disorders (Tovey 1994).

Finger millet 

  • Is a Low Glycemic Food: it takes longer to break down the carbohydrate of food to release sugar,
  • Contains Slow Digestible Carbohydrate: the ideal carbohydrate type not to have blood sugar spikes thus helping diabetes patients avoiding blood spikes.
  • Has High Fiber Amount: that digests slowly giving you satiety and help diabetes. The dietary fiber may complex with available carbohydrates and might delay the glucose absorption.
  • Contains Vitamin D: which helps diabetes. Vitamin D has been linked to the onset and progression of diabetes. Make sure you have optimized level of Vitamin D.

All these attributes makes Ragi a diabetes fighting food. Although animal trials have been successful more human trials need to be done to validate this effect. 

Young Ragi Reduces High Blood Pressure

The amino acid called Tryptophan is a major contributor to the mind relaxing effects of ragi. Relaxation of mind is connected lowering the blood pressure and is good for heart. Consuming Ragi reduces the risk of stroke – which Ragi? In its early stages of growth, that is, when it is still green, ragi can help prevent high blood pressure.

Ragi Improves Skin Health- It is a Healer

People of India use Ragi face mask to improve their facial glaze.
It contains methionine, a sulphur-based amino acid to revive skin and hair health,
The amino acids of Ragi valine and isoleucine repair injured muscle tissues and threonine, to enable proper formation of teeth and enamel and protect the mouth from gum disease.

Ragi Boosts Hair Health

Ragi contains all of the following to keep your hair healthy.

  • Sulfur containing amino acids which are which are precursors to  hair building proteins. They keep hair on skin.
  •  L-lysine, is another amino acid mainly responsible for hair shape and volume. 
  • Fats present in the diet take part in steroid hormones synthesis (from cholesterol) thus have influence on keeping hair in skin integument. 
  • Vitamins also have impact on the state of hair: C and D vitamin, group B and A vitamins. Minerals which influence hair growth are: Zn, Fe, Cu, Se, Mg and Ca. Millets contain all of those. 

Ragi is an AntioxidantAntioxidants may play role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

Finger millet grains, particularly the seed coat, contain high amount of various phenolic compounds. Processing of finger millet such as heating, germination or fermentation reduces radical scavenging ability or the antioxidant properties.

Antioxidants help fight off free radicals which can cleave your DNA and responsible for causing cancers and multiple other symptoms

Ragi is a Versatile Ingredient on Your Kitchen Counter

Ragi is coarse crushed in a roller mill, like wheat, and win-mowed, to give coarse flour which is utilized as porridge.

The whole grain or refined flour is used for preparations like 

  • Cakes
  • Pudding
  • Porridge 
  • Biscuits
  • Papads
  • Noodles
  • Dosa
  • Idly
  • Plain pancakes etc

You can  replace Ragi with rice and wheat to enjoy better health benefits without compromising the dishes you make. Trailer your taste requirements by adding the stuff fruits, veggies, spices etc

having a good shelf life, the flour is fat and gluten-free, is easily digestible and requires little cooking 

Ragi is a Healthy Choice for Gut

Finger millet contains 18% of dietary fiber. Besides, the unique xylo fructose  polysaccharide can degrade in the rear part of the digestive system to give small chain fatty acids which are feed for growing good gut bacteria.

Ragi is Probiotic and Prebiotics:  Lactobacillus strains has been isolated from the fermented ragi malt. These strains have  anti fungal and antioxidant properties. Lactobacillus is gut healthy probiotics that can add to gut health directly.
Lactobacillus breaks down plant Polyphenols and products nutrients or fertilizers when good bacteria grow.

Ragi Offers a Longer Healthy Life

The malted grain’s flour is also good nourishing food for infants and invalids. In several regions, finger millet grains are malted and fermented to obtain traditional beer. Its appealing nutritional traits have now created wide interest among the scientists (more research is necessary) and hopefully more people will Ragi in their food.

Ragi Contains the Critical Nutrient -Vitamin D

You might be thinking like ragi doesn’t contain cholesterol and without cholesterol there is no production of vitamin D. Ragi contains ergocalciferol (Vitamin D2) a structurally similar to cholecalciferol (D3). Both of these work as Vitamin D but with different capacity.

Side Effects of Ragi

High consumption of ragi should be avoided as it could increase the quantity of oxalic acid in the body. Therefore, it is not advisable to patients having kidney stones and urinary problem

Summary

Finger Millet- The wholesome small  grain food is an amazing health diet. It offers

  • Stronger bones and teeth
  • Healthier Aging
  • Prolongation of Life
  • Cardiac health
  • Good for diabetes 
  • Good for skin  

and many other benefits.
With growing number of people swaying their lifestyle to westernization, they adopt a lifestyle that encourages process foods, meat heavy and fast food diet along with unhealthy sugary drinks.

Make the switch to choose a better health for a cheaper price. Does ego undermine the health benefits of finger millet? Health is your first wealth.

The wonder health food small seeded crop Finger Millet needs a come back to your kitchen (if not already there). Let’s know why or why it is n’t your choice.

 

 

Anusuya Choudhury

6 Comments

  1. This is a very great article you have here in finger millet. The facts and benefits of finger millet are very vast. I have really had a great learning experience from reading this article. With the knowledge I have been able to acquire from this article, I can be sure of making the right decision of making finger millet a primary supplement.

    • Hi Nelson,

      I am glad that you are Planning to add finger millet as part of your diet. That definite would be beneficial because I have direct experience with this. Most of the day I use the porridge of the finger millet flour as my breakfast. I add fruits, nuts, chia and flax seeds as well. 

  2. Hello, this is a very awesome piece and a very detailed one. I’m really happy I came across this as the information I’m getting from here is standard. From what I can read here in this detailed write up, the finger millet  has lots of benefits and it’s only wise that I get those benefits by purchasing it. Looking at all the benefits, I’m very sure I’m going to set this up as my main supplement. Thanks for the detailed write up

    • Finger millet has multiple benefits and is not perishable (one can preserve it for 10-15 years). It is cheaper compared to other cereal grains. It is not a supplement. You can use it as a good carbohydrate source replacing, rice and flour of wheat comfortably. 

  3. There’s are lots of people who are depending on mullets for food, it’s been around for a long time and I’ve had it several times. Thanks for sharing about how healthy it Is and how it can be dangerous to the health, it is very true that what we eat affects us the most so it is good to read through articles like this.

    • Finger millet offers great health benefits as a supper food. I am glad that you recognized it. I hope you try it to enjoy its benefits. 

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