A Beginner's Guide To Millet: It's Not Just For Birds

When you think about eating millet, what's your first impression? Bird seed? After all, the basic ingredient in bird seed is millet. However, for a number of years I've been cooking up monstrous amounts of the stuff and enjoying every mouthful. I have the ideal constitution for millet, and my body seems to absorb everything good about the grain. It’s full of goodness and is extremely grounding, which is why I personally thrive on it. How could it benefit you?

History:

Millet is one of the oldest crops known to man, and was one of the first grains used for domestic purposes. It appears in the Bible and was used during to make bread in ancient times. Millet is prepared in different ways by various cultures, from cereal and soups to chapattis. In Eastern Europe, millet is used in porridge alongside kasha (buckwheat groats) and also makes up part of a fermented beverage. In Africa, it's the basis of many breads, baby food, and "uji," which is a thin type of gruel eaten as a breakfast porridge.

The Hunza People, or Hunzakuts, are an ethnic group indigenous to the Hunza Valley in Northern Pakistan. They are known for their excellent health and longevity, and enjoy millet as a staple of their diets.

It was thought that millet originated from North Africa — specifically Ethiopia — where it has been consumed since prehistoric times. During ancient times millet became a popular staple in Asia and India, too.

Useful health properties of millet:
  • Millet is less of an allergen than other cereal crops and is easily digested by the body. It is therefore an ideal option for those of us who may suffer from digestive sensitivity. Millet is gluten-free, which makes it a great alternative to wheat.
  • Millet's positive effects on the body are said to help with toxin excretion. Adding millet to your diet while detoxing can help speed up the process.
  • Millet, along with many other whole grains, is a high source of magnesium. Magnesium acts as a cofactor for more than 300 enzymes, including those involved in the body's use of glucose. Because of these factors, millet consumed on a regular basis it can help reduce the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes.
  • A good source of magnesium helps to reduce the severity of asthma and migraine attacks. Millet supports the heart by helping to lower blood pressure, especially for those who may suffer with diabetes or atherosclerosis.
  • Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is packed into just one serving of millet. Niacin helps reduce cholesterol, so eating niacin-rich foods on a regular basis is highly recommended.
How to choose millet:

Although the saying goes, "Never judge a book by its cover," it works the opposite when choosing a high-quality millet. Pay attention to the external appearance of the grain. I personally prefer millet flakes, but the most delicious and nutritious millet will be canary yellow in colour.

How to store your millet:

Do not store millet for long periods of time. Because of the fat content in the grain it acidifies fairly quickly, which can make it bitter in taste. Store in a cool dry container away from direct sunlight, or keep it in the bag it came in and close with a sealing clip.

How to cook millet:

When I prepare millet I always soak it overnight to take away any bitter residue. Rinse the millet after soaking and add one part millet to 2.5 parts water or broth. After bringing to a boil, turn down the heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes. The texture of the millet cooked this way will be light and fluffy, similar to rice. For a more creamy millet, stir frequently and add more water now and then.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com


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