What are millets?

Millets are a small group of seeded crops. It is considered a good source of nutrients and energy. They have been cultivated in various parts of the world for centuries. They have diverse medicinal effects and hence are considered a good option for patients with a variety of diseases. These grains are processed after harvest and made available for use in the markets. They are readily available in India. Millets are staple foods amongst the Indian population. Jowar in Maharashtra, ragi in Karnataka and so on.

Millets found in India.

Common millets found in India are bajra(pearl millet), jowar(sorghum), ragi(finger millet), chenna (proso millet), korale(brown top millet), buckwheat(kuttu), crab finger(sikiya), fonio(acha), Foxtail millet(kangni), job’s tears(adley), kodo millet, little millet(kutki), teff(lovegrass)etc. 

Geographically speaking, millets are grown in various parts of India based on its climatic requirements such as

  • Rajasthan is known for its bajra cultivation as the arid climate is favourable for it.
  • Karnataka is the cultivator of ragi and it is widely used as a staple food in some parts of southern India.
  • Tamil nadu is known for ragi and foxtail millets.
  • Andra Pradesh, Telangana cultivates foxtail millets, bajra
  • Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh are known for their jowar consumption and cultivation.

Are millets good for kidney patients?

Millets are listed in consumables for kidney disease as they have qualities like low sodium content, low potassium content, good nutritional values, fine protein content, and gluten-free in nature. Having said that, the quantity of the consumed millet is the major concern. It is always advisable to follow the orders of your nephrologist and dietician beforehand.

Types of millet 150

Now, let us classify millets to understand better about them and the way they can be divided based on various domains.

  • Based on nutritional content: 
  1. Major millets- bajra, and jowar are the major nutritional millets. Loaves of bread and porridge are made out of these millets for daily meals in various parts of Asia and Africa. 
  2. minor millets- ragi, kangni,kutki, sanwa ,kodon, chena, korale. They are used mainly in fasting periods of Indian traditions. Produced lesser in quantity as compared with major millets.  
  • Based on culinary uses: 
  1. Staple millets: as per the geographical condition, millets are used as everyday foods in that community or location. For example jowar in Maharashtra.
  2. Versatile millets: it includes little millet and foxtail millet. Used to cook pulao, porridge etc.
  • Based on Geography:
  1. Tropical millets: it suits the warmer climate. It includes bajra or pearl millet.
  2. Temperate millets: suits the cooler climate. It includes chena or proso millet.

Uses of millets in healthy population.

Millets are a very nutritive and healthy option for people in Indian communities. A few reasons are mentioned below:

  1. Enhances bowel movements: millets contain high levels of fibre which is the major contributor to better bowel clearance. It keeps your gastrointestinal system in smooth working.
  2. It keeps you healthy: millets contain a large number of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fibres which in turn keeps your body system strong and healthy. One of the major components to throw light on is the fact that is gluten-free. Gluten is not considered to be a good option as it is a predisposing factor to various poor health outcomes.  
  3. It keeps your body weight to the optimum: millets gives the feeling of fullness of the stomach, limiting excess intake of food which contributes to controlling and maintaining the body weight and mass to the optimum.
  4. It keeps you safe: millets possess antioxidant properties. It keeps your body tissues away from infection and oxidative stress.
  5. It keeps your bones strong: calcium and mineral content in millet is such that it contributes to keeping your bones and body strong.
  6. Mostly everyone can have millets: there are very less chances for someone to be allergic to millets. Pretty much everyone can eat it without fearing side effects and allergies.

Benefits of millets in kidney patients.

Though millets are highly nutritive they still stand suitable for kidney patients for the reasons as follows:

  1. Low sodium and potassium levels: a major concern in kidney disease is to limit the potassium and sodium levels as it burdens the kidneys for its filtration. 
  2. Gluten-free: gluten is a troubling constituent for the kidneys. Millets are devoid of gluten making them a good choice for CKD patients.
  3. High fibre content: clears excess minerals, and vitamins and clears the digestive system which keeps the body healthy.
  4. Moderate protein content: kidney patients are on a low to moderate protein diet. Millets can be a good option to fulfil this criteria. 
  5. The fullness of the stomach: it gives the feeling of fullness after the meal which satisfies the patient. 
  6. Low phosphorus content: A major contributor to worsening kidney disease is high levels of phosphorus. Millets have acceptable phosphorous levels making them suitable for CKD patients.

Millet preparations in kidney disease.

Many cuisines contain millet as a major component in them. Good millet preparation options for CKD could be:

  1. Millet porridge: it is a semisolid preparation that is easy to eat and tasty as well. Porridge can be either sweet or spicy as required. However the spice and sugar content needs to be calculated and controlled as advised. 
  2. Millet upma: it is a solid version of porridge with vegetables and Indian spices like cumin seeds and turmeric. Easy to cook and it requires less preparation time.
  3. Millet roti/chapati/paratha: millets flour is used to prepare dough which is later formed into thin round layers and then cooked over low-mid flame. It can be eaten with salad, vegetables, dal etc.
  4. Millet rice: millets are cooked in a pressure cooker and later served with curry, dal or other dishes.
  5. Millet dessert: with a controlled amount of milk, sugar and dry fruits, millet kheer is a tasty option occasionally for CKD patients. 

Summary 100

Millets are small grains with good levels of fibre, vitamins, proteins and minerals. They are found in various parts of Asia and Africa. As far as India is concerned, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, and Andra Pradesh have rich cultivation of millets. Bajra, jowar, and ragi are major millets grown in India. In kidney patients, millet is a good option because it has high fibres, low minerals, no gluten and moderate protein. In healthy individuals, millet is a very good option as it provides overall nutrition to the body. There are various types of millet based on geography, nutrition and culinary uses. Various preparations of millet include porridge, upma, rotis, rice and desserts. Millets are favourable also because it has the least chance of leading to allergies. The consumption of specific millet for your health would be best advised by your nephrologist and dietician.