Hyderabad

Mighty millets for a more diversified diet

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Expert reiterates role of ancient crop in tackling issues like obesity, malnutrition

It is time to introduce millets into the kitchens of each household not only for a more diversified diet but also to tackle issues like obesity, malnutrition and under-nutrition among sections of the population. Millet promotion through various products is also imperative considering the vagaries of monsoon and to help dryland farmers, said principal scientist of city-based Indian Institute of Millet Research, B. Dayakar Rao on Sunday.

Tweak in diet

“We need not advocate a total shift from eating rice or wheat but can urge people to also include millets in their diet as we now have scientific proof about the nutritional and healthy aspects of their intake to tackle various lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension and others. It is a big challenge,” said Dr. Rao.

The scientist was addressing a gathering at the one-day symposium on ‘Innovation in ancient grains — Millets, to suit modern lifestyle’ organised by ‘Health Sutra’, a company which is into making ready-to-eat millets products here.

Tracing the renewed importance being given to millets in recent years, Dr. Rao said the entire production of millets in the country was about 16 million tonnes a year apart from another one million tonnes of small millets. But, primarily the concentration is on prime millets like jowar, ragi and bajra as they constitute 95% of the crop production and require extremely low amount of water to be grown.

Point of attraction

What makes them even more attractive is that they tackle ‘hidden hunger’ or craving for food often, as millets intake helps in ‘slow digestion’. “The government has been spending thousands of crores of rupees to tackle malnutrition and under-nutrition especially in rural areas for decades but still we have a long way to go. We have now realised the gaps can be filled with millets in the mid-day meals programme, women and child welfare programmes, etc,” he pointed out.

The principal scientist called for a “rebranding” of millets, from being called as a ‘poor man’s diet’ to ‘diet for everyone’ since they can now be easily processed with newer technology into ready-to-eat or ready-to-cook products catering to the current urban food lifestyles.

Dr. Rao also dismissed reports of millet consumption leading to hyperthyroidism or goitre and said research studies carried out by the Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Nutrition had established the nutritional value of these crops whose carbohydrate and protein values are much better than other staple crops.

Acharya N.G. Ranga Agriculture University professor J. Lakshmi (food and nutrition), Prof. Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University professor Uma Devi (college of home science) and Prakrutivanam founder M.C.V. Prasad also spoke.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 11:59:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/mighty-millets-for-a-more-diversified-diet/article28629254.ece

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