Millets are Superfoods: Often people ask me, and so did my judges during the MasterChef audition, that what exactly are Millets?
Textbook answer would be that they are group of highly variable small-seeded grasses. But to explain better, they are small cereals which are gluten-free, are packed & loaded with nutrients and currently they are the Superstars of Nutrition world who are definitely enjoying its biggest comeback.
We are living in very strange times, with the pandemic hitting us, one of the few positives which have emerged from it is how millets have made a comeback since everyone is now taking care about the food they eat, therefore inculcating healthier eating habits.
United Nations has declared 2023 to be the International Year of Millets.
And we all know about the power of lentils, from using them to make chaats, dosas to hummus to comfort khichdi and dal chawal, they are an integral part of our Indian food diet. My relationship with lentils, however, has been more of a love hate kind growing up, there are a few I absolutely love and some I absolutely dread, so much that you will find me running as if I saw a ghost.
But I have learnt to appreciate the ‘lentil’ things in life (pun intended) and there is never a dal moment in my kitchen in the lockdown, because I realised that both millets and lentils help build Immunity and help us fight viruses in the current pandemic.
Therefore, the key is a healthy balanced diet which contain all vitamins and minerals help maintain our immune system.
Now there are many varieties of dals and millets grown in India, millets like Jowar, Bajra, Ragi, Barnyard Millet, Foxtail Millet, kodo millet, proso millet & little millet along with pseudo millets like Buck wheat and Amaranth, each with a unique nutritional profile. Lentils aka dals can be categorised by their colour from green, red, yellow to black & brown each variety loaded in fibre and vitamins and easily found in everyone’s home.
They are nutri-cereals which are highly nutritious because they may contain:
- essential fatty acids
- dietary fibre
- minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, potassium and magnesium
COVID-19 symptoms vary from case to case, however, the core of it lies at building strong immune system in order to fight them.
Lentils are loaded with immunity-boosting iron, zinc and vitamin B6, which create lymphocytes, infection-fighting white blood cells. By combining lentils with some vitamin C, you can double the amount of iron you absorb from the lentils.
Millets on other hand are loaded with Zinc, Fibre, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin B9, Iron, Calcium, copper, selenium and they are high in protein thereby providing essential amino acids needed
From making Millet Rotis, to swapping rice with Millets they can easily form part of our diet in a most basic way to including traditional preparation like Bajra Khichdi, Rotlo or Bhakri with ghee, or snacks like nachni chips to jowar lavash. One can go slightly fancy by making millet pancakes, paniyarams, millet dhokla, Italian style millets and even millet cookies or cakes.
Lentils are perfect to provide that warm comfort feeling, pair them with a seasonal vegetable and you have a great soup on its way, apart from that whole lentils can be ground and made into chilas, idlis and even hummus.
We must all reconsider, and stock these nutritious food options, which have a very long shelf life making them lockdown-friendly too so that you don’t step out often.
There are many other foods which help boost immunity -being a staple cereal, which is affordable, and locally available.
Natasha Gandhi, Founder of House of Millets. The views expressed are the author’s own.