Don’t give up on millet if you hear someone dismiss it as birdseed. Millet is a common ingredient in birdseed, but it’s also a healthy food for human consumption. It's a gluten-free grain and a good source of protein. You can also count on getting fiber and more than 10 percent of the recommended dietary allowance of six vitamins and minerals.
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Straight Scoop on Millet
Millet refers to a family of several different types of small-seeded grains. While it’s a dietary staple in various regions around the world, millet is not as common in the American diet. Its mild flavor makes it a versatile ingredient. You can make it savory and mix it with veggies, chicken and your favorite seasonings. It also works well topped with fruit and nuts, just like a bowl of oatmeal in the morning. Prepare millet by boiling it in water until the grains are tender. If you toast it before boiling, you’ll get a fluffier texture. Grinding the grains before cooking creates a creamy texture.
Complex Carbs and Protein
One cup of cooked millet has 207 calories and 41 grams of total carbs. The carbs consist almost entirely of starches, which digest slowly to provide long-term energy. You’ll also get 2 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein. Even though this makes it a good source of protein, millet is not a complete protein because it doesn’t have enough of one amino acid: lysine. Beans are good sources of lysine, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, so if you mix them with millet, you’ll create a dish with quality protein.
Minerals for Multiple Benefits
For foods to qualify as a good source of any nutrient, one serving must provide at least 10 percent of the recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, for that nutrient, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations. An excellent, or rich, source supplies at least 20 percent of the RDA. By those guidelines, 1 cup of cooked millet is a good source of magnesium, zinc and copper and a rich source of manganese. Magnesium, copper and manganese are all essential for normal metabolism. Magnesium and manganese help build bones, while zinc produces protein and supports the growth of new cells.
B Vitamins Support Metabolism
You will get a range of B vitamins from 1 cup of cooked millet. It’s a good source of thiamin and niacin. It doesn’t contain quite enough folate or vitamin B-6 to qualify as a good source, but you’ll still get 8 percent of your RDA from a 1-cup serving. All of these vitamins help convert food into energy. They’re essential to maintain healthy skin and to keep your nervous system working properly, according to Harvard Health Publications. Folate ensures you have healthy red blood cells. It also has such a vital role in the production of new cells that it prevents birth defects that occur in the first few weeks of pregnancy.
- Whole Grains Council: Millet and Teff
- Sorghum and Millets in Human Nutrition: Protein Content and Quality
- NutritionValue.org: Millet, Cooked
- Harvard Health Publications: Listing of Vitamins
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Lysine
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide