Pearl millet is part of the millet family, more popular in parts of Africa and India. The pearl shaped grains are boon to people in drought prone regions of Africa and Asia. Known as poor man’s food, Pearl millet grains are packed with essential nutrients and energy making it a staple cereal food. Pennisetum glaucum as it is known scientifically has a bitter yet a sweet starchy taste. More popular as bird food in US, it is called Bajra / Bajri in North India, Kambu / sajjalu in South India while known as Gero (Hausa), Uwele (Kiswahili) or Oka (Yoruba) in Africa. It is a popular healthy ingredient in cooking community. Today when 1 in 500 US citizens suffer from gluten intolerance, gluten free millets including Pearl millet have gained popularity. Traditionally, in Asia and Africa, pearl millet has been known for its phenomenal nutritional and health benefits.
Pearl Millet Nutrition Value
Around two third of the grain by weight contains carbohydrates. Proteins form one eight of the grain weight and significantly higher compared to rice. Pearl millet contains essential amino acids including arginine, threonine, valine, isoleucine and lysine. This winter food is richer in fat content compared to other grains, around 5% by weight including omega 3 fatty acids. Thus compared to other millets like sorghum or Ragi, pearl millets have low starch but high oil and protein.
Pearl Millets supply body with good amount of dietary fibers and has lowest glycemic index compared to Sorghum and finger millet. What makes pearl millet special is its high mineral content, nearly 2.3 mg per 100g which is nearly 4 times that of rice. It is also rich in various vitamin B, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and manganese.
Pearl Millet Health benefits
Pearl millet or Bajra has been long used in daily diet. The benefits of pearl millet can be attributed to rich nutrient supply. Further latest studies have showed Bajra to be helpful in treating various disorders including constipation, anemia, diabetes and others. Below are some bajra health benefits:
Rich source of energy
With nearly 80% of pearl millet being carbohydrate and protein, it offers good source of energy. Along with starch, it offers protein, fibers and vitamins required for healthy metabolism of carbohydrates in body. Bajra can be healthy replacement for most of the staple foods in our regular diet like rice. Proteins and carbohydrates are found to be more digestible compared to that of wheat.
[Read more about Ragi benefits]
Bajra to treat anemia
Pearl millets supply ample amount of iron which is helpful in treating anemic conditions. It contains about 8mg of iron and 3 mg of zinc per 100 grams which is good to increase hemoglobin levels in body.
Pearl millet for tissue development
Phosphorus form basic form of our cell structure and unit form of energy in body. With high supply of phosphorus in Bajra, it is helpful in ensuring proper tissue development and repair. High protein supply compared to rice or wheat, makes it good staple food.
Pearl millets are good source of fibers
We are well aware about fibers and their benefits to body. Pearl millets provide body with ample supply of fibers compared to other cereals, which help in proper digestion. It offers to reduce glycemic index of food and provides feeling of full stomach. Fibers from pearl millet are essential for smooth movement of bowels and cure constipation. It also helps in prevention of absorption of cholesterol and toxic substances in intestine. Bajra is good for diabetic patients and people suffering from Gastroesophageal reflux.
Antioxidant properties of pearl millets
Various studies have confirmed antioxidant properties of pearl millets. This is attributed to various phytonutrients present in Bajra. It helps protect body cells from oxidizing free radicals. It helps reduce risk of degenerative diseases.
Gluten free Pearl millets
Gluten free Bajri is excellent food for people suffering from Celiac disease. In celiac disease, people show allergic reaction to gluten in intestine. It is believed to be the only grain which retains its alkaline properties even after cooking.
Pearl Millet/ Bajra and weight loss
High fiber, good protein carbohydrate mix, low glycemic index and good amount of nutrients make it excellent weight loss food. Fibers in pearl millet give a feeling of stomach fullness. Include Bajri in your daily diets – Bajra bread / roti is good breakfast option in a weight loss diet plan.
Bajri and cancer care
Antioxidant property of pearl 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. High flavonoids along with various minerals in bajra offer it excellent antioxidant properties and creates defense shield against various diseases including cancer. Pearl millet contains phytosterols which resemble women hormone estrogen which helps prevent breast cancer.
Pearl millet for healthy heart
Pearl millet offers body with essential minerals which are helpful in reducing blood cholesterol levels and reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases. Fibers in Bara 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 Bajra protect the cardio vascular system and reduce risk of atherosclerosis, hemorrhage, plaque formation, blockage in vessels and even stroke. Traditionally regular diet of pearl millet is considered good way of supporting your heart health.
Bajra as diabetic food
Fiber rich – Bajra offers one of the lowest glycemic in cereal category. Bajra flour contains predominantly maltose and D-ribose sugar and less of quickly digestible sucrose and glucose. Diet management is considered essential in managing diabetes. Pearl millet plays important role in reducing blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. Various pearl millet based food products are now promoted for diabetic patients recently.
Skin benefits of bajra
Antioxidant Pearl millets protects skin cells from oxidative stress of sunlight, pollution and other chemicals. It prevents aging of skin and reduces dark patches, wrinkles and dull looking skin. Pearl 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 Bajra would help in skin repair and offer fresh and youthful skin.
Bajra Benefits for hair
Pearl millet offers tryptophan which helps reduce stress linked hair fall. Bajra offers various nutrients which keep scalp healthy and clean from dandruff and other infections. Proteins in pearl millet aid hair growth and ensure their strength and repair. As an antioxidant, it protects hair graying. Add pearl millet in your diet for healthy hair.
Bajra to reduce stress
Pearl millet contains tryptophan which stimulates secretion of serotonin that helps reduce stress and induce sleep. Including pearl millet in diet is a good way of ensuring sound and peaceful sleep and treat insomnia.
Benefits of kambu for women
Magnesium in pearl millets helps calm muscles and treats menstrual cramps. Bajra also contains phytoestrogen which resembles female hormone estrogen. Regular intake of bajra would help in relieving pre menstrual symptoms, menopausal symptoms and reduce risk of breast cancer.
Pearl millet recipes
Bajra flour is widely used cooking ingredient. Since its gluten free making roti / Indian bread is a difficult process. How to make bajra roti – learn from Supriya in this video? Learn to make Bajra khichadi in traditional Rajasthan way from Priya. Malini will show you making Pearl millet porridge/ Kambu Koozh recipe here. This healthy recipe from Tanmaya with pearl millet and finger millet – Thalipith (multi grain bread) should be given a definite try. Minu guides you the kambu pongal recipes popular in India.
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: Dosaikal, Krithi