Why should we include Millets in our diet?

A handful of millets are believed to contain thousands of grains. The name “millet” is derived from the French word “Mile” which means thousand. Usually, marginal and degraded soils with little rainfall and low soil nutrient content are used in the cultivation of millets. A lot of significance is attached to minor millets, as they possess a huge number of medical advantages as an animal feed, including for their nutritional content, apart from their role as lifesavers in times of necessity. Tiny millet, foxtail millet, Finger millet, proso millet, barnyard millet, kodo millet and pearl millet are the seven major millets grown around the world. High-energy foods known as millets or nutri-cereals have been grown since 10,000 years ago.

Nutritional importance of Millets

Millets are a good source of nutrients and in particular, millets such as barnyard, foxtail and little millets are rich in crude fibre. These are good for people suffering from constipation. Finger millets are also rich in calcium. About 350 mg of calcium is present in 100 g finger millet. Foxtail millet, proso millet and barnyard millet are also rich sources of protein (>10%), while foxtail millet and little millet are also rich sources of fat (>4.0%). Millets are an excellent source of vitamins and they include thiamine, riboflavin and niacin, apart from minerals like phosphorus, iron, zinc and calcium. Millets are the best diets for people suffering from diabetes, as the carbohydrate content is less and due to their non-glutinous nature. Particularly, finger millets contain the richest source of phenolic compounds (0.3-3%), potassium (408 mg/100 g), sodium (11 mg/100 g), magnesium (137 mg/100 g) and calcium (344 mg/100 g). Gastrointestinal illnesses, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, breast, oesophageal cancer and the risk of colon; have all increased due to people’s overreliance on cereals, following their current sedentary lifestyles and the green revolution. Millets contain minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, dietary fibres, polyphenols and proteins in abundance. These substances work as an elixir to combat illnesses. The only way to combat this is by including millets, which are packed with nutrients in our regular diets.

Additional Health Benefits of Millets

Owing to millets containing huge quantities of phytochemicals, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, they can aid in the battle against numerous modern, lifestyle disorders. Due to incomplete/slow fermentation of millet fibre by microorganisms in the large intestine, it promotes appropriate gut function. Dietary fibre helps Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes patients by lowering blood glucose absorption and maintaining blood glucose levels (NIDDM). Moreover, fibre binds cholesterol, preventing heart disease. The prevention of colon cancer is aided by dietary fibre, which also increases the fermentation of the contents of the faeces as well as faecal motility.

Millets Reduce Cancer Risk

According to a few recent studies, women who consume 30 grams of dietary fibre daily can practically halve their risk of developing breast cancer. Phenolic acids, phytates, dietary fibre and tannins in millet grains are present in abundance, which also possess anti-carcinogenic and anti-mutagenic characteristics. Millets lower the incidence of different types of cancers like breast, esophageal, colon cancer, etc. when consumed regularly.

The Treatment for Cardiovascular Diseases

The millet grains are a nutritional powerhouse that helps reduce coronary artery blockage and improve heart health. They include a higher concentration of plant lignins along with potassium and magnesium, which work as vasodilators to lower blood pressure as well as the risk of heart attacks, including other cardiovascular diseases. Since millets contain high fibre content, including help reduce cholesterol levels, thereby eliminating the harmful effects of LDL (Low Density Lipoproteins) from the body and also help in boosting HDL (High Density Lipoproteins) levels.

Millets aid with Digestion and Treat Digestive Issues

Millets contain a large amount of phenolic compounds and fibre and when consumed along with seed coat, they can cure gastrointestinal ailments such as excessive gas, cramps, constipation, bloating as well as liver and kidney diseases.

Millets May Control Blood Sugar to Combat Diabetes

A chronic metabolic condition called diabetes mellitus causes hyper-glycaemia and changes the way proteins, carbohydrates and lipids are metabolized. It is an endocrine condition that negatively impacts the synthesis of insulin, leading to an unbalanced amount of blood sugar in the body. Magnesium, which is abundant in millets, aids in raising the body’s insulin levels and as a result, improves the effectiveness of the glucose receptors. This in turn promotes a good balance of blood sugar levels, lowering the risk of developing both types of diabetes, Type I as well as Type II diabetes.

Millets Promote Purification (Antioxidant Properties)

The beneficial quercetin, curcumin, catechins, ellagic acid and other substances found in millets help the body eliminate xenobiotics as well as toxins by boosting proper excretion and inhibiting activities of enzymes. Several insoluble as well as soluble bound phenolic extracts of millet demonstrate the metal chelating, antioxidant and metal reducing properties.

Millets’ Effect on Brain Diseases

Recent epidemiological studies concluded that a high-calorie and high-fat diet also increases the risk of developing derangement. Stress in the brain may cause oxidative brain dysfunction, which an HFD has been found to produce. The characteristic pathological signs of Addison’s disease, tau tangles and amyloid plaques are frequently found in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus. It is suggested that lowering oxidative stress can either prevent or minimize the severity of brain malfunction. According to a study, polyphenols and their metabolites play a vital role in regulating the level of oxidative stress in the brain. Dietary polyphenols can have neuro-protective effects and antioxidants, either by being converted into minute metabolic derivatives which are having higher biological activity through the metabolism of gut bacteria or by directly crossing the blood-brain barrier into the brain.


Small and marginal farmers plant nutri-cereals on a relatively tiny area of degraded lands and they make a very small contribution to world food production. Yet, recently these crops have become more significant due to the greater nutrition of their grains, which are a good dietary option for today’s modern sedentary lifestyle. Major millets are helpful in combating different lifestyle diseases such as Barnyard millet that has the highest iron and fibre content, which is helpful in combating anaemia and diabetes. Foxtail millet has a high amount of mineral and fibre content, which is helpful in combating diabetes as well as weight management and is good for immunity as well. Sorghum has high antioxidant content and is commonly eaten with edible hulls, therefore retaining most of its nutrients. Millets are beneficial in the treatment of sedentary lifestyle disorders, like heart disease, different types of diabetes, cancer and other weight management issues because of their low carbohydrate:fibre ratio, high vitamin as well as mineral content, antioxidant content and many more.

Millets contain vitamins, minerals (zinc, calcium and iron), essential amino acids (such as valine, leucine, phenylalanine and isoleucine), phytochemicals, antioxidant properties, but most importantly fibre, making them potentially even more important than staple grains, such as wheat, rice and maize, in terms of production, climate sensitivity and also healthier than other grains.

We all know that Pearl Millet is rich in calcium, iron and magnesium content, which further helps in reducing bad cholesterol. Moreover, millets are resilient natural crops that may grow successfully in semi-arid and arid climates on poor and marginal soils. Millets’ climate-resilient qualities require intensifying the focus on millet crops research and development.


1. Li S, Xian F, Guan X, Huang K, Yu W, Liu D. Neural protective effects of millet and millet polyphenols on high-fat diet-induced oxidative stress in the brain. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2020;75(2):208–14.


3. Kam J, Puranik S, Yadav R, Manwaring HR, Pierre S, Srivastava RK, et al. Dietary interventions for type 2 diabetes: how millet comes to help. Front Plant Sci. 2016;7:1454

4. Sharma R, Sharma S, Dar BN, Singh B. Millets as potential nutri‐cereals: a review of nutrient composition, phytochemical profile and techno‐ functionality. Int J Food Sci Technol. 2021;56(8):3703–18

About the Authors:
1. Jyoti Yadav
M.Sc. (Nutrition Biology),
School of Interdisciplinary and Applied Sciences
Central University of Haryana, Mahendergarh, Haryana, India.

2. Mrinal Samtiya
PhD Scholar,
Department of Nutrition Biology,
School of Interdisciplinary & Applied Sciences,
Central University of Haryana, Mahendergarh, Haryana.
Email ID: samtiya.mrinal@gmail.com


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An editor by day & dreamer at night; passionately involved with both print and digital media; Pet lover; Solo traveller.

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