This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
Finger millet, a crop that has been grown for an estimated 7,000 years and currently feeds millions of people in Africa and India, is used mainly in the U.S. as bird seed.
But many experts, including the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, feel this is a huge loss, because finger millet is one of the more nutritious grain-like crops in the world.
Health blogger Diana Herrington writes that millet is a powerfood equal to oatmeal or quinoa. It came into the U.S. in 1875, but quickly fell into obscurity.
“Finger millet is grossly neglected both scientifically and internationally,” the National Academies write, in a report on “the Lost Crops of Africa.” Compared to the research lavished on wheat, rice and maize, for instance, it receives almost none, they say.
But a new report from the Beijing Academy of Food Sciences might change that — it says that finger millet has higher nutritional content than barley, rye and oats.
According to the Beijing report, finger millet is rich in calcium, dietary fiber, phytates, protein, minerals and phenolics. It’s also a good source of thiamine, riboflavin, iron, methionine, isoleucine, leucine, phenylalanine and other essential amino acids. In fact, the Beijing researchers call it “a powerhouse of health benefiting nutrients.”
The Beijing researchers say that finger millet can help fight type 2 diabetes and can be used as an anti-diarrheal, anti-ulcer and anti-inflammatory and can help fight chronic myeloid leukemia. In addition, it can help prevent atherosclerosis. It’s also an antimicrobial and an antioxidant.
According to the World’s Healthiest Foods.org, because millet is a good source of magnesium, that makes is a good heart-healthy choice. The magnesium in millet can also help reduce migraines and help lower blood pressure. It can also help repair body tissue.
Herrington says that millet has a sweet nutty flavor and is one of the most digestible and non-allergenic grains available. It is one of the few grains that is alkalizing to the body. It’s also gluten-free and non-allergenic.
How to Store and Eat Millet
Herrington says storing millet in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place, will keep for several months. She also says some good ways to eat it include:
- Serve it instead of rice or potatoes
- Add millet to your favorite chopped vegetables in a stir-fry
- Add millet to your salads
- Make breakfast porridge with cooked millet, then add your favorite nuts and fruits
- Add ground millet to bread and muffin recipes
The National Academies says finger millet can be popped, and it is “widely enjoyed in this tasty form in India.”
So next time you feed your birds this wonderful powerfood, remind yourself to get some millet for yourself. It’s for people, too.