Little Millet: Health Benefits, Weight Loss, Nutrition and More
Millet grains have been around for over 7000 years. It is said to have come from Africa with the name of “father-grain”. Millet was planted by the Egyptians along the Nile River and used as beer in their time period.
It’s also believed this was one of the first cereal crops there while also being one of the earliest domesticated grains known today. It has been used in traditional African and American Indian cultures for a long time.
Millet is a great whole grain that can be used in many different ways. There are plenty of benefits you gain from eating this particular food choice, making it a staple in a nutritious diet plan.
One cup of cooked millet contains around 240 calories and is low in fat. Because it’s so affordable, millet remains relevant today as a healthy whole grain choice that can be added to your daily meal plan.
Kodo millet is a type of domesticated foxtail millet that is cultivated in the Indian subcontinent. It has been grown there since at least 3000 BC, and probably much earlier. The word kodo means “barley” in Sanskrit.
Kodo millet was an important crop during the Indus Valley Civilization (approx. 2600 BC-1900 BC) and was also cultivated in Mesopotamia around 1800 BC; it may have been the very first domesticated millet.
Little Millet Plant
Little millet (Panicum sumatrense) is an annual grass. It is sometimes called green-seed millet, smallpox grass, hog millet, poverty weed or red millet. It is part of cultivated plants that were first domesticated in Africa.
It is tall and its leaves are hairy on the lower stems but smooth above; it has few branches and does not root at nodes; it can be distinguished from browntop millet by its dark seed heads with numerous single spikelets. The panicles are usually long with 5–7 racemes 10–19 cm long each containing up to 100 spikelets.
Each spikelet has 2-3 florets. There are many hairy glumes, the lower glume is long with two short equal lateral side bracts which end in a point like an awl (this distinguishes it from big millet).
Little millet is tall and has few branches. The stems are usually shiny, sometimes pale green with purple tinge, the lower part of the stem is hairless but upper parts can be smooth or slightly hairy. Seen from the side, the leaf is flat but it curves up at the tip.
Its leaf sheaths are smooth and hairless with purple colouring occurring near the ligule; upper surface of leaf sheath has longitudinal grooves.
Leaf blades grow to 40–60 cm long by 2-6mm wide. Lower leaves are 18-40 cm long 1-3mm wide; bases gradually taper down to 0.5 cm (less than 0.2 inch) which does not completely encircle stem; they become shorter higher up on plant, stems may be slightly hairy or almost glabrous (shiny).
Erect tillering occurs towards end of flowering period; first inflorescence appears 20 – 25 days after sowing.
Samai In Tamil (Little Millet) forms racemes which have few to several male florets at the tip of the panicle branch, surrounded by multiple female florets below them.
Each male flower has five stamens. In each female flower there is one glabrous ovary covered in short hairs and 3 stigmas all of equal length becomes fruit after fertilization occurs inside it. The pollen grains have three pores, the raphe is slightly off center.
This plant grows well in warm temperate climates where the average rainfall is 2000-4000mm annually with a pronounced dry season of at least 30 days. It can tolerate as little as 150mm annual precipitation as long as it occurs during its growing period.
The soil should be suitable for other grain crops and have good drainage. Seeds should be sown 1-3 cm deep, they germinate best on seed beds at 25 degrees C after 45 to 60 days but emergence can take 5 weeks or more under cold conditions if soils are dry or crusted from excess rain.
Little millet can survive long droughts but will not produce mature seeds without sufficient water around the reproductive period. The crop may also be planted in autumn by sowing seeds 1-3cm deep and irrigating them afterwards.
It is drought tolerant, heat tolerant (including frost) and cold tolerant (down to -15C). It is moderately sensitive to salinity. Little millet has moderate tolerance to diseases caused by foliar fungal infections but it is highly susceptible to damage from maize lethal necrosis disease.
Insect pests include the African grass webworm (“Herpetogramma phaeopteralis”) while birds feed on little millet seeds.
The plant can also be used for making porridge, flatbreads, alcoholic drinks, cattle feed and green manure crop. Dry flour made from its grains can be mixed with cassava or maize flour.
Little Millet Uses – Food
As a food source, the little millet is very easy to digest and can be consumed without cooking. You should prefer it raw but if you do cook it first, make sure not to use too much water otherwise the grains might stick together.
The seeds are rich in proteins, calcium, iron and other important minerals. The plant also contains a lot of vegetable fibers and is thus a good supplement for those who don’t eat enough vegetables.
In Africa, little millet porridge is made from the tiny grains instead of regular rice or other common grains. In this way you avoid mixing it with other types of cereals to make dishes such as bread, you can simply make your original cereal-, bread- or dumpling recipes with little millet instead of regular flour.
This is very healthy and nutritious too, the only difference will be that you don’t get as much yield as you do with regular types of cereals (8:1 instead of e.g. 16:1).
Little millet is also an important ingredient in Indian dishes such as Roti, a type of flatbread, and Dosa, a pancake filled with vegetables.
There are some other traditional African dishes that can be made from little millet too:
- Tô: A porridge made with corn and little millet flour instead of regular flour.
- Ga’at: a dough made from ground millet and sorghum.
- Kedjenou: A traditional dish that is cooked in an earthenware pot over hot coals, the dish is composed of chicken that has been marinated with garlic and onions, then wrapped in banana leaves and slowly steamed.
It’s also possible to ferment little millet to make beer, which can be used for celebrations or even for taking care of stomach upsets since it has a very high nutrient value.
Little Millet Uses – Non-food
In Africa, the little millet is used for making mats, ropes and sacks. The fluff from the seeds can be used to stuff pillows and you can also use it as a filling in your own handmade pillow if you don’t have enough fluff.
It’s also possible to use little millet seeds to stuff your own pillow, just spread them out on a flat surface and let them dry. Once they’re dry, you’ll easily be able to blow away all unwanted chaff and separate the individual grains.
The leaves of the plant can also be used in the same way as corn husks: They can be tied together to make ropes or you can use them as a decoction to treat digestive problems.
Little Millet Nutrition Facts
- A 3/4 cup of millet provides 27 grams of carbohydrates, 3.5 grams being dietary fiber and only 1 gram being sugar.
- It has a low glycemic index of 35, which means it doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels.
- It is a complete protein source containing all nine essential amino acids.
- It is a good source of magnesium and iron.
- Millet is high in antioxidants and phytonutrients, including carotenoids, flavonoids and saponins.
How To Cook Little Millet
- Bring two cups of water to a boil.
- Pour in 1/4 cup millet, cover, turn the heat down low, & simmer for 30 minutes.
- Turn off the heat & let it sit for 10 minutes with the lid on.
- Fluff it up & serve! Goes well with anything you would normally eat with rice or couscous.
Health Benefits And Weight Loss
- Little millet is known as a food containing high fiber and hence it reduces constipation problems and prevents colorectal cancer. It also increases the hemoglobin concentration in the blood.
- It has high magnesium content which helps in fighting diabetes and heart related problems.
- Magnesium also aids in increasing metabolism rate which helps to lose weight without much effort. The fiber content found in the plant is helpful for increasing metabolism rate of an individual, especially if it is combined with milk or curd.
- The iron present in little millet helps to purify your blood plus it also reduces chances of anemia. If you have low hemoglobin count then adding this to your daily diet will help you get rid of that problem quite easily.
- Little Millet contains protein quality similar to eggs and meat therefore it helps to strengthen muscles and increase weight. So taking little millet is very advisable for athletes.
- Little Millet contains about 23% protein, which is higher than other cereals like maize (15%). It also contains 16-17% carbohydrates, 4% fat and 3% ash. Since the grains are small in size therefore it makes digestion quick and easy.
- Being gluten free little millet helps to maintain weight without putting much effort into dieting or exercising.
- Presence of Vitamin B12 makes it beneficial for vegetarians since they cannot take vitamin B12 from animal sources.
- This cereal can also be taken by patients suffering from obesity, digestive problems like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and also for those who want to lose weight . This cereal grain is high in fiber content which makes it beneficial for all individuals.
- It contains 25% protein and 12% dietary fiber which is considered equivalent to barley and oats . Dietary Fiber binds bile acids that pass into the colon, thus reducing blood cholesterol levels .
Little millet contains phytoestrogens, compounds that are known to help reduce fat storage in the body. They are believed to play an important role in weight management.
When you eat food containing phytoestrogen rich grains like Little millet, it helps your body break down fat and use it as fuel.
How To Use Little Millet For Weight Loss
This grain is very high in fiber and magnesium , making it an excellent choice for people who are looking to lose weight.
When you eat foods high in fiber, they fill your stomach more quickly, causing the body to burn more calories throughout the day.
The best way to use Little Millet for weight loss is to eat it as a porridge, with milk and jaggery. This provides you with energy all through the morning, without giving you unhealthy sugar levels. It also helps you feel full for a very long time.
Magnesium helps regulate blood sugar levels which can help reduce cravings for unhealthy foods.
It also helps with digestion by loosening your muscles, allowing food to pass through faster without being trapped inside your digestive tract.
This means no bloating or constipation issues later down the road.
Little Millet helps to reduce LDL cholesterol, treats Type 2 diabetes and kidney disease, reduces stress levels, controls blood pressure, increases libido and has weight loss benefits.
It is also gluten free. Research suggests that this cereal can slow down the growth of tumors by suppressing pro-inflammatory proteins.
Regular consumption of Little Millet for 3 months can reduce body weight, BMI and waist circumference. The nutrient-density of the plant is a key reason for its health benefits. Little Millet provides more nutrients per 100g than most other cereal grains or starches.
Including little millet as part of a healthy diet is recommended by experts to reduce the risk of chronic disease.
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