Health benefits of Ragi / Finger Millet

Health benefits of Ragi / Finger Millet

Lesser known Ragi or finger millet belongs to the same family of millet as Sorghum or Bajra. Finger millets are tiny red grains popularly used in staple diet in South India and Ethiopia. Ragi offers a rich taste and excellent source of essential nutrients.  Above all it is extremely easy to digest and gluten free! This makes it one of the most nutritious and popular cereals. Ragi is also versatile food and complements well with other ingredients. It is popular gluten free option for baking flour.

Did you know? Other grains in Millet family are Jowar/ Sorghum, Sama/Little millet, Korra or Foxtail millet, Variga or Prose millet. 

Ragi – Nutrition facts

Finger millet is mostly used in form of flour.  Nearly 4/5 th of finger millet by weight is carbohydrates and is primary source of energy. 100 gram of Ragi flour would contribute nearly 1/6th of daily energy requirement of average adult. Finger millet also offers good amount of protein including essential amino acids. What makes finger millet special is its rich content of calcium. It contains 10 times calcium as in wheat or brown rice. It also offers ample amounts of other minerals including iron, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. Thiamin, Folic acid and Niacin are vitamin B present in Ragi flour. Finger millets are rich in fibers. 100 gm of Finger millet flour suffices nearly one third of your daily fiber requirement. Various phytonutrients present in Finger millet adds to the nutritional value.

Ragi benefits for health

Finger millet or Raagi has been long used in daily diet. The benefits of ragi can be attributed to rich nutrient supply. Further latest studies have showed Ragi to be helpful in treating various disorders including constipation, high blood pressure, cholesterol, celiac diseases, daibetes and others. Below are some ragi health benefits:

Rich source of energy

With nearly 80% of finger millet being carbohydrate and protein, Finger millet offers good source of energy. Along with starch, it offers protein, fibers and vitamins required for healthy metabolism of carbohydrates in body. Ragi can be healthy replacement for most of the staple foods in our regular diet like rice.

Treating Anemia

Calcium plays important role in metabolism of iron in body. Often deficiency of calcium may lead to anemic conditions. Finger millets with rich amount of calcium help in treating anemia. It may not be exaggeration if we say that no cereal offers as much calcium as Ragi. Try out Ragi porridge to treat anemia.

Food during pregnancy and lactation

High amount of calcium and its important role in iron metabolism makes it superfood for pregnant and lactating women. Consumption of Ragi helps in production of breast milk. Further Ragi offers good supply of other minerals and vitamins including potassium, Vitamin B3 and Vitamin B12.

Finger millets helps bone development

Ragi is rich in minerals required for development of bones – Calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. Calcium rich ragi helps in improving density of bones and aids growth in children. This makes ragi excellent food for feeding toddlers. People with risk of osteoporosis should include ragi in daily diet. Finger millet helps reduce risk of arthritis or age related fractures. Ragi porridge or Nachni pej (Marathi) is considered good way of including calcium in diet.

[Read more about foods which help kids grow taller]

Ragi as Infant weaning food

Finger millet has been long used as infant food in India and Africa. It is believed to have high permeability and is easily digested and absorbed in infant intestine. Studies have shown that finger millet starch gelatinizes faster required less human saliva to be digested when compared to rice starch. In parts of South India, babies as old as a month are fed with ragi porridge / Ragi kanji. It is believed to promoted digestion while offering baby high calcium and other minerals required for development of bones. Ragi based instant infant food are also available these days.

Did you know? Finger millet is referred as nrttakondaka in Sanskrit meaning a dancing grain. It is also known as nachni in West India, Kuruntogai in East India and Koracan in Srilanka.

Finger millets are good source of fibers

Thanks to marketing people, we are well aware about fibers and their benefits to body.  Ragi offers high fiber content when compared with other cereals like brown rice or wheat. Dietary fibers help in smooth digestion. It offers to reduce glycemic index of food and provides feeling of full stomach. Finger millets offer fibers for smooth movement of bowels and can treat constipation. Fibers also help in blocking cholesterol, thus it reduces low blood cholesterol. Fibers in Ragi prevent absorption of toxic material in body. Fiber rich finger millet is good food for diabetic patients and people suffering from Gastroesophageal reflux.

Antioxidant properties of finger millets

Various studies have confirmed antioxidant properties of Finger millets. This is attributed to various phytonutrients present in Ragi. It helps protect body cells from oxidizing free radicals. It helps reduce risk of degenerative diseases.

Finger millets for diabetes

Low glycemic index of Ragi makes it good food for diabetes. This can be attributed to presence of high amount of dietary fibers. Lab studies have shown that finger millets lowers blood glucose and cholesterol levels and offers wound healing properties. Another study has shown that finger millet alleviates diabetes related complications including obesity and high cholesterol. Finger millet is also believed to regulate blood sugar levels in people suffering from type 2 diabetes.

[Read more about natural food for diabetes]

Gluten free Finger millets

Gluten free Ragi is excellent food for people suffering from Celiac disease. In celiac disease, people show allergic reaction to gluten in intestine. Ragi flour is excellent gluten free alternative to baking flour.

Finger Millet/ Ragi and weight loss

High fiber, low fat, low glycemic index and good amount of nutrients make it excellent weight loss food. Presence of amino acid Tryptophan helps it lower appetite and aid weight control. Fibers in Ragi give a feeling of stomach fullness. Include ragi in your daily diets – Ragi porridge is good breakfast option in a weight loss diet plan. Ragi malt is often used in weight loss products.

Raagi and cancer care

Antioxidant property of Finger Millet helps protect body from free radical which often oxidizes body cells leading to cancer. High fibers in finger millet helps it block absorption of carcinogenic toxic material in intestine thereby reduce risks of colic cancer.

Nachni for healthy heart

Finger millet offers body with essential minerals which are helpful in reducing blood cholesterol levels. Further fibers in Ragi prevent absorption of cholesterol in body. Vitamin B3 or niacin also helps in maintaining proportion of good and bad cholestoral in body. Other minerals and vitamins in Nachini protect the cardio vascular system and reduce risk of atherosclerosis, hemorrhage, plaque formation, blockage in vessels and even stroke. Traditionally regular diet of finger millet is considered good way of supporting your heart health.

Ragi as relaxant

Ragi consumption helps in relaxing body. It helps in treating symptoms like anxiety, depression and insomnia. Tryptophan in Ragi helps in inducing sleep and curing headache / migraines. Enjoy a ragi meal in dinner and ensure sound and peaceful sleep. It is also helpful in relieving menstrual cramps in women.

[Read more about 50 home remedies for menstrual cramps]

Benefits of finger millet for skin

Finger millets offer antioxidant properties and protect skin cells from oxidative stress of sunlight, pollution and other chemicals. It protects skin from aging and helps reduce signs of aging including dark patches, wrinkles and dull looking skin. Finger millet offers various nutrients which are essential for the skin health and well being. They help ensure blood circulation to skin, elasticity of skin and its structure.  Consumption of Ragi would help in skin repair and offer fresh and youthful skin. Try out this home made face packs using ragi for skin benefits:

  • Ragi Seed Scrub – Mix 3 tsp of Ragi seeds with equal amount of yogurt. Use this as face scrub. It helps in removal of dead skins; especially in difficult areas like underarms, knee joint, ankle and neck.
  • Ragi Face pack – Mix 2 tsp of ragi flour with equal amount of milk. Mix well till soft. Apply this to your face and let it remain for 15-20 minutes. Wash with clean water. It would offers refreshingly clean skin

Benefits of Finger millet for hair

As a relaxant, finger millet helps in reducing stress led hair fall. It offers essential nutrients for hair growth and well being of scalp. Proteins in Finger millet help in ensuring hair strength and aids in repair. It ensures blood circulation to scalp and ensures hair receives its quota of nutrients. As an antioxidant, it helps in protecting graying of hair. Including finger millet in your diet would be helpful for your hairs as well.

[Read more about benefits of Ulavalu / Kollu / horse gram]

Finger millet recipes

Finger millet is used just similar to rice or wheat. Ragi flour is used in making noodles, pasta, chips, crackers, cookies, cakes, bread and other baking products. India Ragi is often consumed as bread / roti, porridge, boiled finger millet balls.  Here is quite awesome recipe we found during trip of South India. We call it the Cannon ball and Gun powder recipe! Sounds interesting isn’t it? Ragi (Cannon) balls with (Gun) Chilli powder – It is called Ragi Mudde in Kannda or Ragi Sangati in Telugu. It is very popular in rural parts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh region in India.

ragi mudde

ragi mudde

In a pan, put 5 cups water to boil. To this add a cup full of soaked rice. Put a lid and allow rice to cook. Once it is cooked add some rice and stir. Add 1 cup of ragi flour on top and allow it to cook for 2-3 minutes. Mix well with a wooden stick. Allow dough to be cooked at low flame for few minutes. Remove pan from flame and remove dough and allow it to cool. Once cooled you can make tennis ball shaped ragi balls. Watch this video to know more. This Ragi (Cannon) ball is best served with chilli (gun) powder.

To make groundnut chilli chutney, start with roasting 2 cups of groundnuts. Roast till they are light brown and skin peels off. Dry roast ½ cup of fried Bengal gram till they are crispy. In a pan, add a tsp of oil; add to this 10-12 red chillies, 8-10 peeled garlic cloves and handful of curry leaves. Allow this to roast till chillies are crisp. Add ¼ tsp of salt. Grind the roasted mixture along with ground nut and Bengal gram. Store this chilli chutney in air tight container. Read in more detail recipe from Smitha.

Other Nachni/Ragi recipes you should try is Ragi porridge, Raagi dosa/ Idli or Ragi Roti/bread. Read about some of them here. Ragi flour can be very well used in baking. Try making Ragi muffins; here is a recipe by Srivalli. Ragi grain can be sprouted and used in food. Sprouted ragi flour is also available in market.

This small grain is packed with big benefits for mankind. It is considered a healthy cereal and you would fast see it replacing other known grains in your daily diet. This wonder cereal can help treat modern nutritional deficiencies and should be incorporated in your diet.

Image Credits: Wikimedia - Akshhara

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