Millet: Healthy, Flexible and Often Underappreciated
Millet is a small seed grown as a type of grass in many countries around the world. There are a number of varieties of millet which are available for both humans and animals; millet is a common ingredient of bird food.Despite its popularity among birds, there is a common misconception that millet has minimal nutritional value for humans. However the statistics indicate that this is simply not the case. In fact, many varieties of millet can be eaten as a tasty alternative to rice and even potato!
Where is it Grown?Millet is thought to have originated from the Northern parts of Africa and is still enjoyed in this part of the world today. It’s known for being able to be grown under hot conditions and the fact that it can be enjoyed in so many ways makes it a favourite among some of the world’s poorer countries, where rainfall may be low.
Millet is also produced in North East Asian countries such as India and China. In fact, the number one millet producing country is India, were it is mainly grown to produce flatbread. India produced 8,810,000 tons of millet in 2009 ranked top in the world. The second highest millet producing country is Nigeria, producing 4,884,890 ton in the same year. Because of suitable weather it is no wonder that African countries such as Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Senegal, Chad, Sudan and Ethiopia dominate the millet production. The table below shows top most millet producing countries in 2009.
Wild millet is the only native serial grain in Australia mainly produced in arid central region where rain fall is less than 300 mm yearly. Gluten free millet is becoming popular gradually in Australia. It can be utilised in many different ways and if cooked correctly it can be compared to creamy mashed potato or rice.
What are the Benefits?Eating whole grain products (such as hulled millet) can help to prevent atherosclerosis, ischemic stroke, diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity, and premature death. Nutritionists recommend that at least 3 different types of whole grain should be consumed every day for good health. They are a plethora of health benefits that come from consuming millet and it has even been suggested that the grain helps to develop and repair body tissue.
Despite often being associated with birdfeed, millet certainly holds its own in terms of taste, application and health benefits when compared to other grains and seeds in its class. And while it may have been underrated for so long, it’s becoming more and more popular in developed countries.