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Millet: Not Just for the Birds!

Photo by merec0 via Flickr

Photo by merec0 via Flickr

Have you ever watched birds eating bird food out of a bird feeder?  The main ingredient in that feed is often millet.  Millet is a seed, but is categorized as a grain because of its grain-like consistency.  Birds can eat it day in and day out and be happy, healthy and full of energy!  But I bet that many of you didn’t know that millet is not just for the birds.

In parts of the world, millet has been consumed by humans for thousands of years.  In prehistoric times, especially in northern China and Korea, it was millet rather than rice that was the dominant staple grain.  There is even a mention in the bible that millet was used to make unleavened bread.  And today millet is still a popular grain in countries such as China, Japan, India, Africa, Egypt and Russia.

However, in the United States and other western countries, millet is mainly used as an ingredient in bird and cattle feed.  It turns out though that millet is actually a very healthy food for us as well.  As more Americans have realized that, millet has even started to grow in popularity in the United States over the past few years.

Why is millet healthy?
Millet is a highly nutritious, gluten free, whole grain that is packed with vitamins and minerals.  Since it is a whole grain, it is high in complex carbohydrates, low in fat and rich in protein and dietary fiber.  Millet is also a good source of calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc and B vitamins (especially niacin, folic acid and B6).  That makes it a great substitute for less nutritious refined grains like white flour or white rice.

Studies have also shown that consuming millet can reduce the risk of heart attacks, lower frequency of migraines, decrease blood pressure, lower cholesterol, decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes, help with fat metabolism and body tissue repair and protect against breast cancer and childhood asthma.  So why aren’t you eating millet again?

How can I incorporate millet into my diet?
Millet is a delicious, mildly sweet and nutty grain that is easy to incorporate into your diet.  Here are five ways to do just that:

  1. Breakfast porridge: Cooked millet can be prepared for breakfast much like oatmeal.  For extra flavor and nutrition, you can add some nuts or berries to it.
  2. Side dish: If you are looking for an alternative to rice and potatoes, try millet instead.  It has a nice fluffy texture like rice and can be served with any dish.  Or you can try combining it with other whole grains, such as brown rice or quinoa.
  3. Baked items: You can substitute ground millet flour in the recipes for common baked items, such as breads or muffins, bringing variety and increased nutrition.  Just remember, in order for breads to rise, millet needs to be combined with glutenous flours.
  4. Soups and stews: You can add millet to soups and stews, and it will also add texture and body.
  5. Snacks: Millet can be popped like corn and eaten as a snack by itself or added to granola.

The bottom line:
Millet is a wonderful, nutritious, versatile grain that is not just for the birds!  So, you can keep feeding the birds the bird feed, but make sure to get some millet for yourself, too.  It really is a healthy substitution for other less nutritious, refined grains.

Comments (8)

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  1. […] More:  Millet: Not Just for the Birds! […]

  2. Maria Isabel says:

    This is quite an interesting grain! I never heard of it but it seems really good for you. Where can you get buy it? Thanks

  3. Randy Karp says:

    Do you know millets GL?

  4. Talli van Sunder says:

    @Maria We buy our millet in bulk at Whole Foods, but it is also available at specialty health food stores.

  5. Talli van Sunder says:

    @Randy The Glycemic Load for millet is 25.56.

  6. @domthesomm says:

    Interesting read and I love grainey like substances. I’m a huge classic oatmeal fan in the AM and will seek this out! Thanks for sharing!

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