What is Millet?

Millet originated more than 4,000 years ago from a wild west African grass.

This superfood tolerates adverse growth conditions and serves as an important food source in many parts of the world. Plus, it grows great here in Colorado, and has one of the lowest water requirements of any grain crop.  Millet is a pseudo grain and a member of the grass family Poaceae which produces a dry, edible one-seeded fruit, “caryopsis,” commonly called a kernel, grain or berry.  The grain is small, round, and relatively soft with a mild flavor. Millet is one of the least allergenic and most easily digestible grains out there. In today’s world of acidic foods, it’s nice to have an alkalizing grain in your diet, such as Millet. This tiny whole grain is gluten free and packed with vitamins and minerals.

Proso millet

-There are many types of millet, but we use the highest quality millet for our tots- proso millet!  Proso millet is rich in vitamins and minerals, making our tots one of the most nourishing, guilt free treats you can find.

-Recent studies also suggest that proso millet can help  protect against of cardiovascular diseases, “proso millet may prevent cardiovascular disease by reducing plasma triglycerides in hyperlipidemic rats”(Saleh).

High magnesium- and why we love it!

-According to The National Institute of Health, magnesium protects against osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and migraine headaches.

-Magnesium is especially helpful for diabetics, it stimulates the levels of insulin, increasing the efficiency of glucose receptors in the body, keeping blood sugar levels balanced.

An exceptional source of phosphorus

-Phosphorus is essential in the development of healthy bones and teeth.  It also helps repair muscle tissue as well as improve kidney function and muscle contraction!

-Phosphorus helps neutralize acids in our blood, keeping our pH balanced and healthy.

Finally, a gluten-free whole grain rich in fiber-that kids will love!

-Ever notice how hard it to get kids to eat whole grains?  Our tots are a fun way to increase fiber intake for you and your kids!

-Eating whole grains that are fiber rich keep you feeling full for longer while promoting healthy and regular digestion.

-When it comes to complex carbohydrates, whole grains are a great source of fuel to keep your energy levels up as well as keep you full!  You might be asking yourself, what are complex carbohydrates? Complex carbohydrates are foods like whole grains, starchy vegetables or legumes just to name a few.  Complex carbohydrates have longer chains of sugar molecules, so it takes more time for the body to break them down, keeping you feeling full for longer and giving you lasting energy, without any peaks or crashes.

-Whole grains also protect against cardiovascular disease and diabetes

Folate

-Folate is also a B vitamin, it is also known as vitamin B9

-Folate is especially vital to pregnant women- according to the USDA, “Eating grain products fortified with folate before and during pregnancy helps prevent neural tube defects during fetal development,“Eating grain products fortified with folate before and during pregnancy helps prevent neural tube defects during fetal development” (USDA)

-Folate is also used to make DNA and other genetic material in the body

-Folate also promotes healthy product of red blood cells and cell divison

Niacin

-Niacin is one of the eight B vitamins, also known as vitamin B.

-According to The Mayo Clinic-niacin has protective properties, “It helps keep your nervous system, digestive system and skin healthy.”(Mayo Clinic Staff)

-Niacin is commonly found in milk, meat and cereal products, so it can be difficult for those with allergies to get enough niacin!

-Niacin helps in raising HDL (the good cholesterol) and lowering LDL (bad cholesterol).   Niacin can be an aid in lowering cholesterol for individuals who cannot use statins.

Protein

-Protein is essential in our everyday diets, we need it to keep our cells functioning, to rebuild and repair muscles, and to create enzymes and hormones in our body.  Needless to say we can’t live without protein!

-Protein also promotes healthy brain development for children.

-Getting enough protein when you have dietary restrictions such as a vegetarian, vegan, nut free or gluten free can be a challenge, but before you fret, check out our blog post on the benefits of plant based protein! https://rollingreens.com/protein-and-plants-a-match-made-in-heaven/

-A recent study from the National Institute of Health found, “Recent evidence suggests that an increased intake of protein, particularly plant protein, may lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.”(Appel)

Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fatty acids-the fats our body cannot make but need!

-Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are essential for the body, but our body’s cannot make them so we must get them from our food sources.

-Many individuals take expensive supplements and vitamins to get their Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, but why make getting the nutrients we need so boring and costly?  Don’t worry, millet’s got you covered.

-Omega 3 Fatty Acids

-increase HDL (good cholesterol) in the body

-Omega 3 fatty acids not only help you physically but are great for mental health!  They have been know to reduce symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as well as improve brain function and memory.

-Omega 6 fatty acids  

-While many Americans get too much Omega 6 fatty acid from processed baked goods and fast foods, Omega 6 fatty acids are still crucial for the body-just in moderate amounts!

-Omega 6 fatty acids can lessen the risk of diabetic neuropathy, arthritis, and lower the risk of heart disease.

The History of Millet

While millet might be considered a fairly new food to some, millet is actually much older and wiser than any of us. Millet has been around for centuries and has been an everyday staple in diets across the nation because of its nutritious properties and ability to fend for itself in a diversity of growing conditions.  It is hard to tell exactly when and where Millet originated, but historians believe that millet was first discovered in South East Asia, specifically during the Neolithic period in China sometime during the around 2000 BC, “In China, records of culture for foxtail and proso millet extend back to 2000 to 1000 BC Foxtail millet probably originated in southern Asia and is the oldest of the cultivated millets”(Oelke). Millet was even mentioned in the Old Testament in Ezekiel 4;9, “But take wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt; put them in a single container and make them into bread for yourself. This is what you are to eat during the 390 days that you lie on your side.” Millet was an important staple food throughout history, providing a filling meal rich in whole grain carbohydrates, iron, and protein.

Millet has been stealing the show way before rice and wheat became an everyday commodity because it is such a low maintenance crop. Before proper irrigation systems were invented, Millet was (and still is!) a dream come true because of its drought-resistant growing properties.  Wheat and rice, on the other hand, require lots of water and tending to and have less nutritional value, making millet an easy choice. When hungry families needed to fill their bellies fast and without spending much, they used millet to make porridges, bread, and other dishes, but one creation, in particular, makes millet a truly underrated celebrity.  It has been argued that the first noodle ever made was made out of millet flour, “In 2005 in northwestern China archeologists unearthed a perfectly preserved 4000-year-old bowl containing long yellow noodles made from foxtail millet.”(edenfoods). While today the typical noodle is usually made with wheat, the hungry people of the Neolithic era discovered the potential millet has to make an abundance of different foods, they even considered it one of the 5 sacred foods, “The earliest written record of millet, “Fan Shen Chih Shu” 2800 BC, gives detailed instructions for growing and storing the grain, and lists it as one of the five sacred Chinese crops along with soybeans, rice, wheat, and barley.”(edenfoods).

Europe quickly caught on to this trend during the Bronze age, a proverb was found scratched on a solum in the peristyle of the House of M Holconius Rufus at Pompeii reads, “If you want to waste your time, scatter millet and pick it up again”.(edenfoods). During the Roman empire circa 753 BC-610 AD millet was not seen in a sacred light like it was in China, but a reliable crop that farmers could grow for cheap on a small amount of land, making millet accessible for the rich, poor and everyone in-between. The Romans were in the midst of building an empire, fighting off their enemies and establishing their prominence, so they needed quick nourishment.  Word of the wondrous properties of millet spread throughout Europe fast, ”There is evidence that millet was grown during the Stone Age by lake dwellers in Switzerland and was eaten in Northern Europe at least since the Iron Age”. Neighboring countries like Greece weren’t about to get left behind on this bandwagon either, “Greek historian Herodotus wrote that millet grew so tall in Assyria that he could not give its height for fear that he would not be believed.”(edenfoods).

Today, Millet is still a part of an everyday diet for many people nationwide.  Millet’s ability to grow with even the most rudimentary care, along with its nutritional density are just some of the reasons so many populations have made millet a fundamental aspect in their diet. In fact, “millet ranks 6th in world area production”(harvestchoice.org).  Populations such as sub-Saharan Africa that face issues like poverty, lack of clean water and overall shortage of nutritionally dense food have adopted millet as a staple in their diet, so much so that millet is Africa’s most popular carbohydrate, “Countries that face severe famine such as Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Uganda have a heavy reliance on millet, with it taking up almost 66 percent of their daily cereal crop consumption, making it their number one source for carbohydrates each day”(Scott).   Popular everyday millet dishes in sub-Saharan Africa include millet patties, Hausa Koko (spicy millet porridge) and Masa, a pancake style thin bread made from millet. These dishes are fairly easy to make, keep you feeling full and give you energy, all key aspects when trying to feed lots of hungry people.

Closely following sub-Saharan Africa’s lead, “In sub-Saharan Africa [millet] is the 3rd most widely grown crop. Africa produces 56% of the world output”(harvestchoice),India ranks as the number one producer of millet.  India has one of the largest populations in the world as well as one of the largest populations of vegetarians and vegans making millet the star of everyday traditional Indian cuisine, “They use it to make whole grain chapatti flat bread, soups, and porridge. In arid Western India, millet is used to make roti, a dense, flat cake made from millet”(edenfoods).   

The world would be a very different place if it wasn’t for this tiny round shape grain.  Millet has taken on the task of feeding millions of hungry people regardless of their food allergies, sensitive stomachs or social class, a commodity that can be truly enjoyed by anyone!  Millet has brought families and communities together over hot, delicious and nutritionally satisfying meals, just one of the many reasons we love this little grain so much! Rollingreens is passionate about food that brings you closer to health, happiness, and fulfillment, all of which wouldn’t be possible without our beloved millet.  Thank you millet, for all you do!

Millet. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://harvestchoice.org/commodities/millet

Millet Notes. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.edenfoods.com/articles/view.php?articles_id=122

Oelke, E. (n.d.). Millets. Retrieved from https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/millet.html

Scott, A., & Scott, A. (n.d.). The History of Millet. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/19353601/The_History_of_Millet