What Is Millet Grain?

by Sarah Trevino

Common in the United States as birdseed, millet contains numerous health benefits.

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Millet is a type of seed, readily available in supermarkets around the world, which is classified as a grain for culinary reasons. Although cultivated in America primarily for birdseed, millet is a staple in the cuisine of Asian and African cultures. Millet can have a variety of textures and consistencies depending on the cooking method. Millet is a gluten-free, and typically allergy-friendly, food.

How to Cook Millet

Millet requires rinsing in water before use to remove any dirt or impurities before use. Boil using a ratio of one part water to two parts millet. After boiling, cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until of desired consistency. Some recipes may call for toasting the grains before cooking, which will give the millet a roasted flavor. Millet can also be ground into flour for extra protein in puddings, breads, breakfast foods and desserts.

Types

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations divides millet into two main types: pearl millet and small millet. The small millet types are named so due to their smaller size. Often grown in Asian and African nations, small millet types include finger proso, foxtail, teff, white fonio, black fonio, Guinea, barnyard, little, kodo and job’s tears. Pearl millet is the most common and widely grown type of millet. Traditionally a crop in Africa, pearl millet is larger than small millets and can grow in harsh conditions that other crops cannot.

Nutritional Information

One cup of cooked millet, or 174 g, contains 207 calories and 2 g of fat. The 41 g of carbohydrates make up almost 15 percent of the suggested daily value of carbohydrates. The significant vitamins in millet include 5.2 IU of vitamin A, 33.1 mcg of folate and 19.5 mg or choline. High in minerals, millet contains 6 percent (1.1 mg) of the suggested daily value for iron, 19 percent (76.6 mg) of magnesium, 17 percent (174 mg) of phosphorus and high levels of copper, manganese and zinc.

Health Benefits

The high amounts of vitamins and minerals in millet give it numerous health benefits. Millet's levels of magnesium can reduce asthma symptoms and migraine attacks. Sufficient amounts of magnesium also aid in reducing the risk of high blood pressure and heart attack. The phosphorus levels in millet are helpful in repairing damaged body tissue and the development of new body tissues. The high amounts of fiber in millet are linked with reducing the risk of gallstones and protecting against breast cancer.

Photo Credits

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About the Author

Sarah Trevino has been a freelance writer since 2005 and specializes in food and wine, television, home and garden, and weddings. She has written for numerous websites and publications, including OMG!, Procter & Gamble and various blogs. Trevino holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Central Florida and a graduate certificate in health and wellness.