Interesting Trivia About Millet

Most of us know millet as a grain or food staple that comes from the African continent. I have been curious about the nutritional properties of millet, so I did some research and I found some surprising information.  So, let’s talk about some interesting ‘millet trivia’!

Interesting Trivia About Millet

  • Millet is not actually a grain. According to Wikipedia, millet is “a group of highly variable, small seeded grasses”.   (Who knew??)
  • Millet can be found in various colors such as gray, yellow, white or red.  All are small round shaped seeds.  (..and I thought there was only yellow millet.)
  • Millet is grown for commercial cereals and also for animal feed in various parts of the world.  Developed countries don’t rely on millet as a staple, and in the United States it is mostly grown as bird seed.
  • Millet originated in Africa, and has been cultivated in Southeast Asia for approximately 10,000 years.  (Wow! That’s an ancient food!)
  • Millet grows well in moist, fertile soil but it can also flourish in areas that have dry, infertile soil and are prone to drought. This is the reason for its popularity in the dry, desert type regions of the African continent. (Talk about a hearty plant!)
  • Pearl millet is an important crop in both Africa and India.  Other varieties of millet include foxtail millet, finger millet and proso millet.
  • India used to be the world’s leading producer of millet, but within the last decade, their production has dropped significantly. Currently, India uses millet mostly as a food source for animals and in making alcohol. It is not as popular as a food staple for the Indian people as it used to be.
  • In some parts of India a traditional handmade flatbread is made from a mixture of millet flour and sorghum.
  • In Germany, Russia and China millet has been eaten as a porridge that is sweetened and served with milk.
  • Millet is gluten free and is therefore safe for people with gluten sensitivities or celiac.  (Good to know!)
  • Amazing nutrition found in those tiny millet seeds:
    • Protein – contains about 15%
    • B vitamins – which help lower cholesterol
    • Manganese – an important component of collagen, found in our bones, skin, hair and nails.
    • Magnesium – which has been shown to minimize migraine headaches, improve the extreme effects of asthma, and to be beneficial for the heart by lowering blood pressure.
    • Phosphorous – which is extremely important for the development and repair of our cells, our nervous system and our bones.
    • Copper – important for healthy blood, strong tissues and overall energy.
    • Fiber – which helps digestion and elimination, lowers trigylcerides (a type of fat in the blood), and helps increase insulin sensitivity.
  • Millet takes on a ‘nutty’ flavor if it is toasted in a skillet before cooking it.  (Sounds like an easy and interesting way to add flavor!)
  • Millet digests easily and is an alkalizing food. (…possibly a good addition to our very acidic North American standard diets!)
  • A surprising negative aspect of millet is that it contains goitrogens – substances that suppress thyroid functioning and can possibly lead to thyroid issues such as an enlarged thyroid or goiter. For this reason moderate consumption of millet is best.
  • There is a town in Alberta, Canada (close to Edmonton) named Millet.  Surprisingly, the name has nothing to do with the grain, or agriculture. In 1903 the ‘Village of Millet’ was named in honor of August Millet, a fur trader who did business with a local store owner. (So, it’s not a millet growing region, like most of us assume!)   (read more about the Town here)

Millet is an interesting and very nutritious ancient seed that can be cooked and consumed as if it were a grain.  Since it is gluten free and easily digestible, it is suitable for people with sensitivities to wheat and other possible allergens.  It does contain goitrogens, but in moderation it would likely be fine for those with healthy thyroid glands.

Are you interested in learning more about interesting and nutritious whole foods that can help you protect and build your health? Contact me today.


Informational Resources:

The World’s Healthiest Foods

The Kitchn: What is Millet?

Whole Grains Council

The Healthy Home Economist: Beware of Millet 


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