It has become obligatory to live in harmony with Nature. Our ancestors lived long and healthy because of their dependence with the nature and the products from it. They solely depended on traditional food varieties including minor millets that sustained them to live long and healthy. Minor millets are one of the rich food products that help us live healthy. But the change in our food habits and choice of food varieties at present affected our health badly and also reduced our lifespan. It is high time we should be able to revive those traditional natural farming practices and also food habits solely based on natural food products to help the next generation to regain its sustainability in every sense of the word. Let us know the rich benefits of the selected seven minor millets.
Minor millets are a group of grains that include Kambu (Bajra, Pearl millet), Varagu (Kodo millet), Saamai (Little millet), Thinai (Foxtail millet), Kudhiraivaali (Barnyard millet), Cholam (Jowar, maize), Kollu (Horsegram) and Kezhvaragu (Ragi). They are short term crops, growing in ordinary soils and resistant to drought. They are rich in protein, fiber, calcium, iron, vitamins and other micro nutrients. They are easily digestible and have the potential to protect humankind from many diseases.
Thinai (Foxtail millet)
It is one of the oldest millets that we have been using traditionally. It was grown almost 10,000 years ago in the South Asian regions. India is the largest producer of foxtail millet. It is rich in protein, carbohydrate, fiber, vitamin A, B and C, phosphorous and calcium. It supports in strengthening of heart and also improves eye sight. It’s given in the form of porridge to the mothers who recently delivered. This helps in increased milk generation. It also cures respiratory problems, especially phlegm. It gets rid of gastric problems. It can be prepared in the form of idli, halwa, kara paniyaram, payasam and athirasam. The food items prepared using foxtail millet provides wonderful benefits, protecting our health.
Kezhvaragu serves good both for children and adults. Though it was considered to be the staple food of the poor in the past, it now helps in saving the life of many. It can be grown in hot regions as well. It is rich in nutrients, better than rice and wheat. It is rich in calcium, iron, phosphorous, fiber content and vitamin B. It is recommended for those who suffer from bone and heart diseases, diabetes and also it cures constipation. It improves health of children. Body heat will come down if it is consumed as semi solid porridge. It strengthens body and helps in reducing body weight. It removes indigestion, heals intestinal sores. It regulates menstrual cycle. It is recommended for daily intake among pregnant women. Porridge made of it is good for children. It can also be prepared in the form of of idli, dhosai, kozhukattai, idiyappam, adai and other sweet varieties.
Saamai (Little millet)
It is best for diabetics as it is rich in fiber content, many times higher than rice. It is also rich in iron than is found in other minor millets. Therefore it cures anemic condition, constipation and other gastrological problems. The mineral salts found in it help in regenerating reproductive cells. It can be prepared in many forms like idli, pepper pongal (venpongal), idiyappma and vegetable biriyani varieties.
Kudhiraivaali (Barnyard millet)
It is rich in micro nutrients and also delicious. It helps in controlling diabetes. It can be grown in dry and rainfed regions. It is termed as Kudhiraivaali in Tamil as the tip of the plant resembles the tail of a horse. It is rich in iron and calcium. It is also very rich in protein. The rich fiber content of it helps to avoid cancer, heart diseases and conditions of high blood pressure. It protects cells as it is rich in anti oxidants. It can be consumed in the form of porridge or its semi solid form, serving best against back pain, lower abdominal pain and fever.
Varagu (Kodo millet)
It is one of the staple foods of the ancient Tamil. It is also a traditional food item of many other countries. It can grow well in dry lands. It provides enormous strength to our body. It is rich in fiber content more than rice and wheat and therefore it is easily digestible. It is also rich in protein and mineral salts than any other millet. It contains phosphorous, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, calcium and vitamin B. It is a good diuretic and cures constipation. It helps in reducing obesity. It also helps in controlling blood sugar and blood pressure. It helps in regulating blood circulation by removing toxic substances found in it. It regulates liver and strengthens nervous system and bones. It is a blessing for those who suffer from menstrual problems. It can be prepared in many forms like puttu,venpongal, kara paniyaram, idli, puliyodharai and uppuma.
Kambu (Bajra, Rye, Pearl millet)
It is grown all over India. It is rich in vitamins, providing energy and strengthening the body. It reduces heat and relieves of fatigue by rejuvenating. It cures indigestion and protects from gastric ulcers. It is good for growing children and who attained puberty. It contains beneficial cholesterol and therefore protects us from heart diseases. It is good diuretic, purifies blood and improves immunity.
Cholam (Jowar, maize)
It was a primary grain that helped India to tide over drought and eventual food scarcity, in the past. It is rich in fiber content, protein and carbohydrates. It helps in increasing body weight. Food items made of maize is good for those who suffer from osteoporosis. It should be avoided by those who suffer from skin related diseases, psoriasis and dermal allergy. It is the best food for those who suffer from indigestion and also anemia. It is a diuretic and helps in removing excess salt in the body. The betacarotene present in it helps in curing problems related to eye sight. It can be prepared in the form of dosai and paniyaram.
Using these minor millets many delicious and sweet dishes can be prepared, like porridge, kali, dosai, pongal, adai, biriyani, kozhukkattai, sweet and spicy items. They help in improving our health, leading to disease-free life. By using them in our daily food we not only contribute to our health but also to our tradtion.
(This article originally written in Tamil by Balu Sathya has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)