Healthier than rice and wheat, millet or bajra is a nutrition packed grain that makes for wholesome meals.
Millet grains might not be as shiny looking as mill polished rice but are certainly healthier. Rich in iron, copper, manganese, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and B vitamins, they also come with antioxidants, flavonoids, certain amino acids and tryptophan. No wonder, they are an essential part of traditional Indian cuisine, notably in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, where the crop thrives as it requires lesser water and more heat to grow, and the topography of the state gives them just that.
Also grown in the states of Maharashtra (West), Haryana (North), Uttar Pradesh (North) and Gujarat (West) in variants of jowar (great millet), ragi (finger millet), korra (foxtail millet), arke (kodo millet) and sama (little millet), millet grains are all available in the form of rice, flour, pastas, or simply as millet grains.
With their richness in nutritional values, millets work as magic for many deficiencies. They are said to fill nutritional gaps when one’s diet is predominantly non-vegetarian. Studies have also shown that millets make for therapeutic diets for people suffering from diabetes, heart disease and obesity. With healthy carbs, high fibres and low glucose content, they are also a preferred grain for weight watchers.
By far one of the oldest foods known to humans, the nutritional richness of millets explains their popularity in traditional Indian cuisine. Other than Rajasthani or Gujarati cuisine, millets are also used in South India where ragi is the most popular millet.
“Phosphorus creates energy and helps in fat metabolism and body tissue repair. Millets ease constipation, protect against breast cancer and respiratory issues. The presence of magnesium can help reduce the effects of migraines and heart attacks. Vitamin B3 helps lower cholesterol. It has a neutralising effect on free radicals, which can otherwise cause cancer. It also detoxifies the kidney and liver,” a popular Indian daily quoted a nutritionist saying.
They are also gluten free, so those who are gluten intolerant can incorporate millets in their diets. Try these Indian dishes for a more tasteful experience of bajra.
Bajra dishes from Rajasthan: Khees (porridge like dish), khichdi (millets cooked with pulses), bajra roti (Indian bread), rabdi (a drink prepared with curd, bajra flour and mild spices), bajra churma (mashed bread served with spoonful of ghee).
Bajra dishes from Gujarat: Bajra vada (fried snack made with bajra, fenugreek and mild spices), bajra raab (mildly sweet porridge-like dish made of ghee-roasted bajra flour)
Bajra dishes from south India: Dosa (flat bread), idli (spongy, cake like item made from millets, rice or semolina), pongal (porridge like dish), Kambu murukku (a crunchy snack).