Millets Benefits: Ancient Grains With Modern Health Benefits

International Year of Millets

Did you know that millet (Panicum) has been cultivated for over 7,000 years, making them one of the oldest grains humans consume? These ancient grains, once revered by civilizations long gone, are now experiencing resurgence in popularity due to their exceptional nutritional value & diverse culinary possibilities.

Millets, a group of small-seeded cereals, have been a diet staple across various cultures for centuries. From the golden hues of foxtail millet to the vibrant burgundy of finger millet, millets come in various colors, flavors, & textures, offering a delightful culinary adventure.

But millets are not just a matter of taste. These grains boast an impressive nutritional profile. Let's uncover the wonders of millets & celebrate their remarkable legacy that has stood the test of time. 

Year of millets 2023 2023 International Year of Millets

  • The United Nations General Assembly declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets, with the aim of raising public awareness about the health benefits of millets & their suitability for cultivation in harsh climatic conditions.
  • The Hon'ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized that millet promotion should become a mass movement & awareness about millet among the people should be increased.
  • Millets are nutrient-dense grains & can address India's food & nutrition security by alleviating malnutrition & micronutrient deficiency.
  • The initiatives by Ayush Institutes include the establishment of Millet Canteens, organizing the Health & Millets Expo, conducting workshops on millet-based product development, & participation in the POSHAN Abhiyaan program for nutrition improvement.
  • Other activities include the development of millet-based food products, awareness lectures, distribution of millet calendars & recipe booklets, & exhibitions of millet-based recipes.
  • These initiatives aim to promote the adoption of millets, raise awareness about their nutritional benefits, & contribute to health promotion, disease prevention, & the reduction of malnutrition & non-communicable diseases.

What is Millet?

Millets (Panicum) belong to the family Gramineae. They are a group of small-seeded cereal grains that have been cultivated & consumed for thousands of years. They belong to the Poaceae family & are widely grown in various regions of the world, including India, Africa, & Asia. 

Millets are highly nutritious & offer several health benefits & versatile grains that can use in various dishes. Millets are also known for their resilience to drought & their ability to grow well in arid & semi-arid regions, making them an essential crop for food security & sustainable agriculture.

The Benefits of Millets for Your Health

Millets are nutrient-dense powerhouses that provide several advantages to one's health & well-being. The benefits of millet as a food source, such as:

  • Nutrient-Packed: 

Millet is an excellent source of several different vitamins & minerals, including potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B, phosphorus, calcium, iron, & antioxidants. Numerous physiological processes, including heart & kidney function, nerve signal transmission, & general health, rely on these nutrients.

The nutritional content of millets is as follows: 65% carbs, 9% proteins, 3% fat, 2-7% crude fibre & vitamins & minerals. Its nutritional richness makes it an essential part of a healthy diet.

Note that the nutritional composition of millets may vary slightly depending on the particular type & preparation methods.

  • Source of Phenolic Compounds:

Millets are an excellent source of phenolic compounds, powerful antioxidant molecules in plants. Antioxidants protect cells from free radical damage & also reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, & neurological disorders. 

Phenolic compounds also have anti-inflammatory properties that lower inflammation & boost immunity. Ferulic acid & catechins, phenolic chemicals present in millets, may help prevent certain types of cancer.

  • Gluten-Free Food:

Millets are a healthy gluten-free option for those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. They are good opting to use in various gluten-free recipes & providing a range of nutrients.

Ensure millets are sourced from reliable gluten-free sources & processed in a gluten-free environment.

  • Rich in Niacin: 

Millet is an excellent source of niacin, a B vitamin essential for more than 400 enzyme reactions in the body. Niacin is essential for maintaining a healthy epidermis, organ function, & energy production.

  • Blood Sugar Regulation: 

Millet is low on the glycemic index (GI); therefore, it releases glucose into the bloodstream more slowly than high-GI food. Due to its slow digestion, millet is beneficial for diabetic individuals.

  • Abundant in Beta-carotene: 

Many millet cultivars, especially the darker ones, are high in the antioxidant & eye-health-promoting pigment beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is also a precursor of vitamin A, which is needed for optimum good health.

  • Boost Digestive Health: 

Millet is rich in dietary fiber, both soluble & insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber acts as a prebiotic, stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Moreover, fiber adds bulk to stool, promoting regular bowel movements & minimizing the risk of colon cancer.

  • Promote Heart Health: 

Millet's soluble fiber can help reduce "bad" cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis & heart disease. Millet may improve heart health by raising "good" cholesterol levels & decreasing triglyceride levels.

Various Types of Millets & Their Characteristics

Type of Millet

Scientific Name

Other Names

Season Availability


Common Uses & Dishes

Sorghum (Jowar)

Sorghum bicolor



Drought-tolerant, rich in fiber & protein

Roti, Bhakri, Khichdi, Porridge

Pearl Millet

Pennisetum glaucum



Drought-tolerant, rich in fiber & minerals

Roti, Bhakri, Khichdi, Porridge

Finger Millet

Eleusine coracana




High in calcium, iron, & fiber

Ragi Mudde, Dosa, Idli, Porridge

Foxtail Millet

Setaria italica



Kharif (Rainy)

Rich in protein, fiber, & minerals

Upma, Pongal, Kheer, Pulao

Proso Millet

Panicum miliaceum


Kharif (Rainy)

Rich in protein, fiber, & minerals

Roti, Khichdi, Kheer, Porridge

Kodo Millet

Paspalum scrobiculatum


Kharif (Rainy)

Rich in fiber, protein, & minerals

Khichdi, Pulao, Upma, Kheer

Barnyard Millet

Echinochloa frumentacea



Kharif (Rainy)

Rich in fiber, protein, & minerals

Khichdi, Dosa, Idli, Upma

Little Millet

Panicum sumatrense


Kharif (Rainy)

Rich in fiber, protein, & minerals

Khichdi, Pulao, Upma, Kheer


Fagopyrum esculentum



Gluten-free, rich in antioxidants

Flour for pancakes, porridge, & baked goods


Amaranthus spp.



Rich in fiber, protein, & minerals

Flour for flatbreads, porridge, & snacks

Millets as Therapeutic Foods in Ayurvedic Practice 

Cultivation of millet

In Ayurveda, millets hold significant value as grains that offer various health benefits. They are categorized as cereals (Dhanya Varga) in Ayurvedic texts, highlighting their importance in the traditional Indian diet. Ayurveda considers individual constitutions (prakriti) as a holistic system when recommending millets.

Pathya Ahara: Millets are regarded as pathya (therapeutic) foods in Ayurveda. They are believed to support healthy digestion, promote balanced doshas (Vata, Pitta, & Kapha), & provide nourishment to the body. 

Ayurvedic texts provide specific indications & preparations for different millet types based on their properties & therapeutic benefits, as follows:

  • Foxtail Millet (Kanguni):

Foxtail millet is considered to have cooling (Sheetaveerya) & light (Laghu) properties in Ayurveda. It is believed to balance Pitta dosha & promote digestion. Foxtail millet is beneficial in conditions like obesity (Sthoulya) due to its low glycemic index & high fiber content, which aids in weight management. It is also recommended for individuals with diabetes (Prameha) because it regulates blood sugar levels.

  • Barnyard Millet (Shyamaka):

Barnyard millet is known for its absorbent (Sangrahi) & digestive (Deepana) properties. It is considered light (Laghu) & dry (Ruksha) in nature. Barnyard millet is recommended for skin diseases (Kushta) & conditions caused by over-nourishment (Santarpanajanya Vyadhi). It helps in detoxification & supports the proper functioning of the digestive system.

  • Kodo Millet (Kodrava): 

Kodo millet has absorbent (Sangrahi) & digestive (Deepana) properties. It is believed to balance Vata & Pitta doshas. Kodo millet is used in Ayurveda for its beneficial effects on the digestive system, making it suitable for individuals with abdominal pain (Shula) & digestive disorders. It is also considered beneficial for urinary disorders (Mutrakrucchra) & bleeding disorders (Raktapitta).

  • Finger Millet (Ragi or Nartaki): 

Finger millet (Ragi) is known for its strengthening (Balya) & aphrodisiac (Vrishya) properties. It is considered heavy (Guru) & heating (Ushna) in nature. Finger millet is recommended for individuals who require strength & stamina. It is beneficial for enhancing reproductive health & addressing conditions like anemia & general weakness.

  • Pearl Millet (Bajra): 

Pearl millet is described in Ayurveda as having scarifying (Vilekhana) & drying (Baddhanisyanda) properties. Bajra is mentioned in Ayurvedic texts as 'Nali' under Trunadhanya or Kudhanyavarga. It is believed to be light (Laghu) & cooling (Sheetaveerya). 

Pearl millet is recommended for conditions like bleeding disorders (Raktapitta), abdominal pain (Shula), calculi (Ashmari), dysuria (Mutrakrucchra), & pruritus (Kandu). It is also used to support digestion & address fever (Jvara) & wounds/ulcers (Vrana).

  • Proso Millet (Cheenaka): 

Proso millet is known for its strengthening (Brihana) & fracture healing (Bhagnasandhanakara) properties. It is considered light (Laghu) & heating (Ushna) in nature. Proso millet is recommended for promoting strength, supporting fracture healing, & enhancing overall vitality.

  • Sorghum (Yavanaala): 

Sorghum has taste-enhancing (Ruchya) & thirst-quenching (Trishnaghna) properties. It is believed to balance Pitta & Kapha doshas. Sorghum is recommended for improving taste perception, pacifying excessive thirst, & regulating moisture levels in the body (Kledaghna). It is a nutritious grain suitable for various dietary requirements.

  • Adlay Millet (Jau):

Adlay Millet, also known as Job's tears or Jau, has specific qualities according to Ayurveda. It has cooling (Sheetaveerya) & light (Laghu) properties. Adlay Millet is known to balance Pitta & Kapha doshas. It is beneficial for cardiac health because it aids in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Adlay Millet is also known for its antioxidant properties & is recommended for promoting overall well-being & supporting a healthy digestive system.

Seasonality & Millets: 

Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of seasonal eating for maintaining optimal health. Millet selection can be based on the prevailing season & its impact on the body. For example, foxtail millet (kangni) is beneficial during summer due to its cooling properties, which help balance the heat.

Who Should Avoid or Moderate Millet Consumption?

Hypothyroid patients: 

  • Excessive millet eating should be avoided by those who suffer from hypothyroidism.
  • Millets contain goitrogens that can interfere with thyroid function & may contribute to goiter formation.
  • Consult with a healthcare professional or dietitian to determine appropriate millet intake.

Individuals with Digestive Concerns:

  • Some individuals may experience digestive discomfort or sensitivity to certain types of millet.
  • Introduce millet gradually into the diet & monitor the body's response.
  • Opt for millets known to be more easily digestible, such as finger millet or foxtail millet.

Note: Individual circumstances & dietary needs may vary. Consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized advice.

Global Celebration of Millets with Namhya Ragi Instant Cereal!

Namhya Ragi Instant Breakfast Cereal is a healthful & delightful morning alternative. This nutritious breakfast of ragi cereal, almonds, raisins, & oats will set you up for the day with plenty of stamina & a sense of clarity. Instead of grabbing fast food for breakfast, try this recipe instead. 

This Ragi Instant Breakfast Cereal is also a delicious & nutritious option for people with diabetes & those trying to lose weight since it has a low glycemic index & contains natural ingredients that regulate blood sugar & curb hunger. 

Whether you're a teenager in hurry to class or simply someone who wants to avoid spending time making breakfast, Namhya Ragi Instant Breakfast Cereal is a healthy & tasty option to enjoy.

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Ridhima Arora

Ridhima Arora is an Indian entrepreneur, author, trained yoga instructor, and practicing nutritionist. She is the founder of Namhya Foods.Besides being the founder of Namhya foods, Ridhima also gives nutrition coaching in seminars to kids, NGOs, and corporates. She also works as a freelancer at Global Changemakers.