Pearl millet is known by the scientific name of Pennisetum glaucum. It is the most commonly grown millet in the Indian subcontinent and in West Africa. It is also known by the name of "Bajra" in India. Indian subcontinent is also coincidentally the largest producer of Pearl millet. Pearl millet requires surprisingly low amounts of water to grow. This millet is completely gluten free.
Why is Pearl Millet unique?
Numerous health benefits of Pearl Millet are because of its richness in essential compounds like phytic acid and niacin which is not found commonly in other cereal grains. It is an excellent source of protein and fibre. It has very high starch content and is rich in minerals like phosphorus and zinc. It is also known for its high iron content. It is easily available in areas with erratic rains as compared to other grains due to the plants low water consumption.
Health Benefits of Pearl Millet
Due to its rich composition of minerals and proteins, Pearl Millet has many health benefits. Pearl Millet has the highest protein content for any grain. It contains many essential minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, zinc etc. It contains essential amino acids and vitamins also which contribute to its therapeutic properties. Let us look at some of the health benefits of Pearl Millet,
Beneficial in treating stomach ulcers : Pearl millet is recommended for curing stomach ulcers. The most common cause for stomach ulcers is excess acidity in the stomach after food intake. Pearl millet is one of the very few foods that turns the stomach alkaline and prevents formation of stomach ulcers or reduces the effect of ulcers.
Beneficial for Heart health : The lignin and phytonutrients in millet act as strong antioxidants thus preventing heart related diseases. This is why, pearl millet is considered good for heart health. High amounts of magnesium present in pearl millet have been shown to control blood pressure and relieve heart stress.
Beneficial due to high amount of magnesium : Pearl millet contains high concentration of magnesium which helps reduce severity of respiratory problems for asthma patients and is also effective in reducing migraine attacks
Helps in bone growth development and repair : Pearl millet has a large amount of phosphorus. Phosphorus is very essential for bone growth and development as well as for development of ATP which is the energy currency of our body.
Reduces cancer risk : All millets are known to reduce the risk of cancer occurrence and pearl millet is no exception. Though scientists are not sure how this is, they believe it has something to do with the high amount of magnesium and the compound phytate.
Helps in weight loss: The biggest challenge faced by people trying to lose weight is controlling their food intake. Pearl millet can aid the process of weight loss as it is high in fibre content. Owing to its fibre content it takes longer for the grain to move from the stomach to the intestines. This way, pearl millet satiates hunger for a long period of time and thus helps in lowering the overall consumption of food.
Beneficial for diabetes : Pearl millet is very effective for controlling diabetes. Because of its high fibre content, it digests slowly and releases glucose into the blood at a slower rate as compared to other foods. This effectively helps in maintaining the blood sugar level constant in diabetes patients for a long period of time.
Beneficial for Celiac Disease: Celiac disease is a condition in which a person cannot tolerate even a small amount of gluten in his/her diet. Unfortunately, most of the common grains like rice, wheat, etch have gluten present in them. Millets are the only type of grains which do not have any gluten present. Thus this is suitable for people with celiac disease.
Reduces Cholesterol : It is common knowledge that Pearl Millet is suggested for people suffering from high cholesterol levels. Pearl millet contains a type of phyto chemical called phytic acid which is believed to increase cholesterol metabolism and stabilise the levels of cholesterol in the body.
Contains all the essential amino acids : Amino acids are essential for smooth functioning of our body. Pearl millet is one of the few foods which have all the essential amino acids required in it. Unfortunately, most of these amino acids are lost in the process of cooking because these amino acids cannot stand high temperatures. Thus it is better to consume in a low cooked form so as to preserve as many of these amino acids as possible.
Beneficial in Preventing Gall stones: The high fibre content in pearl millet is also known to reduce the risk of gall stone occurrence. The insoluble fibre content in pearl millet reduces the production of excessive bile in our system. Excessive amount of bile secretion in our intestine often leads to aggravate the condition of gall stones.
Anti allergic properties : Pearl millet is a treasure trove of beneficial properties. The grain is very digestible as such and has a very low probability of causing allergic reactions. Due to its hypo allergic property, it can be safely included in the diets of infants, lactating mothers, elderly and convalescents.
Other uses of Pearl Millet
Pearl Millet has a nutty flavour and crunchy texture. It is popularly used in making breads and biscuits inplace of conventional wheat. The most common form of consumption is in the form of flat breads (Pearl Millet Roti). Apart from these, pearl millet can be included in any form of foods like porridge, cakes, muffins, cookies etc.
Pearl Millet is called the “Magical Pearl” due to its health benefits. It is known by different names in different parts of and is to be stored in dry conditions. It should be kept away from excess humidity or water so as to prevent fungal growth in the stocks stored.
Precautions while taking Pearl Millet
But it is not always safe to consume Pearl Millet when suffering from lose bowel movements or other ailments. Doctors also suggest that it is better to avoid eating pearl millet in the summer as it can cause digestive problems and discomfort. Pearl Millet is best consumed in winter.