A generation ago, many Indians, especially in the southern part of the country, were familiar with ragi or finger millet (Eleusine coracana L.). The once well-known cereal is however totally absent in most people’s diets today. This is quite surprising and unfortunate, considering the nutritive and therapeutic value of finger millet for the human body.
Ragi: A Brief HistoryFinger millet originated in Africa and has been cultivated for many thousands of years in Uganda and Ethiopia. In India, the crop was probably introduced 4000 years ago, and has been found in archeological excavations in the Harappan Civilization.
Benefits of Ragi
#1 Ragi has high protein contentThis high protein content makes finger millet a very important factor in preventing malnutrition. The cereal can be an especially good source of protein for vegetarians because of its methionine content that constitutes about 5% of the protein.
#2 Ragi is a rich source of mineralsRagi is also a very rich source of minerals. It has been found to have between 5-30 times the calcium content found in other cereals. It is also rich in phosphorus, potassium and iron. Calcium is of course an important component in maintaining bone density and health. Thus, finger millet would be a healthier alternative to over-the-counter supplements, especially for people who might be at risk of osteoporosis or low hemoglobin levels.
#3 Ragi controls diabetesThe rapid rise in the prevalence of diabetes has led to a great demand for foods containing complex carbohydrates with high dietary fiber levels and beneficial phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are a varied group of chemical compounds derived from plants, which are considered to be important factors in our capacity to combat disease. All these components are usually found in the outer layer of the grain or the seed coat, and so, it is generally a good idea to consume whole grains.
Especially with finger millet, the grain’s seed coat is richer in polyphenols as compared to grains such as barley, rice, maize and wheat.
finger millet controls blood glucose levels, and hyperglycemic and oxidative stress. Finger millet has also shown promise in accelerating wound healing among diabetics.
#4 Ragi has anti-microbial propertiesFinger millet has been found to act against a number of bacteria including Bacillus cereus, which causes food poisoning, Salmonella sp., which causes a typhoid-like fever, and Staphylococcus aureus, one of the primary causes of skin and soft tissue infections such as abscesses, furuncles, and cellulitis.
#5 Ragi has anti-cancer potentialFinger millet is also rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent excessive oxidation (how surprising!), which could otherwise cause cancer and ageing because of cell damage. The phenolic acids, flavonoids and tannins present in finger millet seed coats have very effective antioxidant properties. In general, it has been shown that people on millet-based diets have lower incidences of esophageal cancer than those on wheat or maize-diets.
#6 Ragi keeps you youngAside from the phenolic content and antioxidants which are important factors in preventing ageing, finger millet and kodo millet have specifically shown potential in inhibiting cross-linking of collagen. Collagen cross-linking is the process by which cross-links form between or within collagen molecules in tendons, skin, and even blood vessels. Collagen is what gives tissues their elasticity, and cross-linking reduces this ability, leading to the stiffness commonly associated with age.
#7 Ragi reduces “bad” cholestrol, prevents cardiovascular diseaseEmerging research has shown that finger millet has the potential to reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases. Technically speaking, finger millet reduces concentrations of serum triglycerides and inhibits lipid oxidation and LDL cholesterol oxidation. LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol is what is termed “bad” cholesterol and is especially troublesome when oxidized. Oxidized LDL inflames the arteries, leading to arteriosclerosis and the risk of heart attack or strokes.
Considering all these benefits, it is extremely surprising that in a world desperate for health foods and miracle cures, most people have never heard of ragi.Hopefully, there will be a turnaround in finger millet’s fortunes. Stay tuned for our quick recipes of Ragi that you can include in your diet.
Source: Isha Sadhguru