Millet – It's Not Just for the Birds


Right now you may be thinking, bird seed? It’s true that millet is a primary part of most commercial bird seeds, but so are sunflower seeds and you eat those! Millet is actually a healthy grain that, when cooked, is similar to mash potatoes or rice – but so much better for you. Boasting a ton of nutrients, including manganese, tryptophan, magnesium, and phosphorus, millet is similar in composition to oats. The grain offers a great alternative to those who cannot eat oats or want to change it up with something different. Millet is also a great source of fiber, iron, and protein. Here’s what millet can do for you:

Healthy Heart

The magnesium in millet can help to lower high blood pressure and cut the risk of heart attack, while the niacin (or vitamin B3) in this grain helps to lower high cholesterol. One cup of cooked millet contains an impressive 19% of your daily value of magnesium! Millet is a great source of phytonutrient lignans – which are converted to other types of lignans by your body and used to protect against a variety of diseases, including heart disease.

Breast Cancer Prevention

That’s right ladies (and guys too) – millet can help prevent breast cancer by adding more fiber to your diet. By including 30 grams of fiber or more per day studies have indicated that breast cancer risk can be lowered by more than half. Proso Millet has 8.5 grams of fiber per 100g, while the more common Sorghum Millet contains 6.3 grams per the same amount – that’s over 1/5th of your daily amount covered in one bowl!

Lower Type 2 Diabetes Risk

All that magnesium has another benefit – it helps the enzymes that are used to manage glucose and insulin. Adding millet or other whole grains in your diet could reduce your Type 2 diabetes risk significantly – particularly if you can combine this grain with other healthy meal additions.

Buying and Preparing

You can find millet in most food stores, usually in either hulled or whole-grain form. After buying you can store millet for several months in an airtight container kept in a dry and dark place. Prepare millet by first rinsing and boiling (one part millet to two and a half parts water or broth). Once boiling is achieved you can reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes. You can combine cooked millet with dried or fresh fruit as a health porridge, or use ground millet as a flour replacer. Any time you are looking to prepare a meal with rice or potatoes you can replace with millet as a healthy alternative. Try this lemon saffron millet pilaf recipe to get you started. Enjoy! Photo credit: Inspired RD