‘Superfood’ millets make it to military ration in big way

At the national conference on ‘Millets for Military Ration and Specific Nutritional Requirements’, organised by DRDO-DFRL in Mysuru, Union Minister of State for Defence and Tourism Ajay Bhatt says 25 pc of military ration consists of millets

September 29, 2023 09:22 pm | Updated 09:22 pm IST - MYSURU

The millet-based food products on display at the exhibition organised at the national conference on ‘Millets for Military Ration and Specific Nutritional Requirements’organised by the DRDO-DFRL at SDM-IMD in Mysuru on Friday.

The millet-based food products on display at the exhibition organised at the national conference on ‘Millets for Military Ration and Specific Nutritional Requirements’organised by the DRDO-DFRL at SDM-IMD in Mysuru on Friday. | Photo Credit: M.A. Sriram

In a significant stride towards enhancing nutritional profile of soldiers’ diets, embracing the benefits of millets, especially on the occasion of the International Year of Millets-2023, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has included millets into the defence ration in a big way and millets are now an integral part of daily meals for all ranks.

With millets rich in essential amino acids, micro-nutrients, and various bio-active compounds, critical for helping to boost the well-being of the troops and combat lifestyle disorders, the Ministry has taken a significant step in promoting millet consumption in the diet of defence services.

Minister of State for Defence and Tourism Ajay Bhatt, who inaugurated the two-day national conference on “Millets for Military Ration and Specific Nutritional Requirements” organised by the Mysuru-based DRDO-Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL), here, said 25% of military ration now consists of millets in view their health benefits. The innovation which has been brought in military ration by incorporating millets was because of their nutritional value and health benefits, he added.

As the troops are deployed in various situations and terrains, the millets will be beneficial to the soldiers’ nourishment, the Minister opined.

Minister of State for Defence and Tourism Ajay Bhatt and other dignitaries after the inauguration of the two-day national conference on “Millets for Military Ration and Specific Nutritional Requirements” organised by the DRDO-DFRL at the SDM-IMD in Mysuru on Friday.

Minister of State for Defence and Tourism Ajay Bhatt and other dignitaries after the inauguration of the two-day national conference on “Millets for Military Ration and Specific Nutritional Requirements” organised by the DRDO-DFRL at the SDM-IMD in Mysuru on Friday. | Photo Credit: M.A. Sriram

In his inaugural address, Mr. Bhatt spoke about ‘superfoods’ millets and how they kept the older generations healthy and helped them live long. Understanding their value, the millets have been integrated in the troops’ diet.

In the olden days, people were leading a healthy and disease-free life. The reason for this was the food they were consuming. The foods that were eaten in yesteryears were key because of their health properties. Even star hotels were now serving their guests foods made of millets. Such is the importance of millet-based foods, he explained.

Earlier, Dr. Khadar Valli Dudekala, a strong proponent of millets, who was the guest of honour, spoke on how millets help boost health and lead a disease-free life.

Stating that rice, wheat and sugar trigger glucose imbalance, he advocated for millet consumption for keeping off diseases like diabetes, blood pressure and so on. “By eating unhealthy foods, people are inviting diseases. Millets have been eaten for centuries yet there is no comprehensive research on them.”

Stressing on food sovereignty besides food security, Dr. Dudekula said the country had over 200 varieties of fibre-rich millets but their numbers have come down to a few.

Maj Gen S.S. Ahlawat, ADG ST (SM), Army HQ, New Delhi, said millets were earlier described as a ‘poor man’s diet’ out of ignorance but their importance has been realized now. Nutrition-rich millets were ignored all these years despite their health properties although they were being consumed for many decades. Millet consumption is now being promoted, laying a strong emphasis on their consumption by the troops, he said, while listing out the steps taken by the Army for revitalizing millet feeding.

Describing millet as “food for the future”, Dr. U.K. Singh, DS and DG (Life Sciences) DRDO, said millet should get its right place and become our everyday diet. Being climate resilient, millet cultivation needs to be promoted, he said, suggesting extensive research on millets by institutions like DFRL.

Dr. Samir V. Kamat, Secretary DD (R and D) and Chairman, DRDO also suggested research on millets for enhancing its taste and acceptability.

The Union Minister later inaugurated the exhibition on millet products organised as part of the conference.

The DFRL, with the focus on moving towards healthier, more accessible and cost-effective diets including millets, organised the conference for highlighting on various millets grown in the country, their consumption pattern, health benefits with special reference to combat feeding and performance enhancement for troops.

The experts will discuss scientific facts associated with the adoption of millet-based foods for services, and other topics during the conference.

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