Finger Millet Small Seeds With Bigger Health Benefits – scientifically known as Eleusine coracana, is a significant millet crop cultivated extensively in various regions of India and Africa. It holds the sixth position in terms of production in India following wheat rice maize sorghum and bajra. In India ragi (finger millet) is primarily grown and consumed in Karnataka. It is also cultivated to a limited extent in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, and Goa.
Finger millet goes by different names in various local languages across India. In Kannada, Telugu, and Hindi, it is commonly referred to as ragi In Hindi it is also known as Mandua or Mangal In Himachal Pradesh it is called Kodra while in Oriya it is known as Mandia In the Telangana region it is referred to as Taidalu and in Tamil it is called Kezhvaragu.
This nutritious millet is an essential staple crop in many of these regions, contributing to the dietary diversity and food security of the local populations.
Nutritive value of Ragi
Finger millet also known as ragi is regarded as one of the most nutritious cereals. It boasts the following nutritional characteristics:
- Protein Content: Finger millet contains approximately 5–8% protein.
- Ether Extractives: It has a low content of ether extractives, about 1–2%.
- Carbohydrates: The carbohydrate content ranges from 65–75%.
- Dietary Fiber: Finger millet is rich in dietary fiber, comprising 15–20%.
- Minerals: It contains about 2.5–3.5% minerals.
- Calcium and Potassium: Among cereals and millets, finger millet stands out for its high calcium (344mg%) and potassium (408mg%) content.
- Fat Content: It has a low fat content, around 1.3%, primarily consisting of unsaturated fats.
- Energy: Approximately 100 grams of finger millet provides an average of 336 KCal of energy.
In addition to its nutritional benefits, finger millet also contains some compounds that were once considered “anti-nutrients” due to their ability to chelate metals and inhibit enzymes. These include phytates (0.48%), polyphenols, tannins (0.61%), and dietary fiber. However, nowadays, these compounds are recognized as “nutraceuticals” with potential health benefits.
Health benefits of finger millet (ragi)
- Finger millet or ragi offers a range of health benefits due to its nutritional composition and phytochemicals:
- Finger millet is an excellent source of natural calcium, making it beneficial for strengthening bones, especially in growing children and the elderly. Regular consumption can help prevent conditions like osteoporosis and reduce the risk of fractures.
- Phytates, polyphenols, and tannins present in finger millet contribute to its antioxidant activity. These compounds play a vital role in overall health, aging, and metabolic diseases.
- Finger millet’s phytochemicals slow down the digestion process, aiding in the control of blood sugar levels, which is particularly beneficial for individuals with diabetes. It has higher fiber content compared to rice and wheat and results in a lower glycemic response, reducing the rapid increase in blood sugar levels.
- Due to its high nutritional content, ragi flour is recommended as a weaning food, especially in southern parts of India, to introduce solid foods to infants.
- Finger millet is a rich source of natural iron, which can help in the recovery from anemia. Ragi-based foods are particularly suitable for expectant mothers and the elderly due to their high calcium and iron content.
- Consuming finger millet may help in naturally relaxing the body, making it beneficial for conditions like anxiety, depression, insomnia, and migraines.
- Green Ragi: Green ragi, a variety of finger millet, is recommended for various health conditions, including blood pressure management, liver disorders, asthma, and heart weakness. Lactating mothers with low milk production can also benefit from its consumption.
- Regular consumption of finger millet can contribute to preventing malnutrition, degenerative diseases, and premature aging, thanks to its rich nutritional profile.
- Incorporating finger millet into one’s diet can be a wise choice for maintaining overall health and well-being,