The humble ragi, considered an inexpensive staple food, is rich in many nutritional benefits, making it a truly wonder food we should all incorporate into our diets.
Ragi – the humble grain
Ragi, also called finger millet, is a cereal crop. India is a major cultivator of this crop, with the state of Karnataka being the largest producer of ragi in the country. Being a cheap crop, it is widely used by the poorer sections of the society.
The nutritional benefits of ragi
Nutritionally, when ragi is used as a whole grain, it is higher in protein and minerals in comparison to rice. Red millet is primarily a source of energy in the diet with each serving of ragi (20g) providing 66kcal. It is also rich in fibre and therefore suitable for people trying to lose weight. Ragi, unlike wheat does not contain gluten (a protein found in wheat), and can be easily consumed by people with wheat intolerance.
Ragi is a wonder cereal grain as it has numerous health benefits:
Good source of calcium – Amongst cereals, ragi is particularly rich in calcium, a mineral essential for good bone health. It is a very good source of natural calcium for growing children and older adults, and helps improve bone strengthening.
Energy for weight watchers – Finger millet is a good source of energy for weight watchers, as it contains the amino acid tryptophan that reduces the appetite. Besides, being high in fibre, it provides a feeling of fullness when consumed, and keeps the urge to eat frequently under control.
Beats high sugar and cholesterol – Ragi is beneficial for diabetics as well as those with high cholesterol, as the high fibre content of Ragi makes it a food item with low glycaemic index. That is, it results in slow increase in blood sugar level.
Good mix of amino acids – Due to a good amino acid mix in ragi, it is beneficial for tissue repair, relieving migraine, improving the metabolic rate of the body, optimal muscle coordination, and helps reduce the bad cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol). The amino acids lecithin and methionine eliminate excessive fat from the liver, and in turn reduce the cholesterol content of the body.
Source of iron – Being a good source of iron, it is beneficial of individuals with low haemoglobin level.
Excellent baby food – As ragi is low in fat, and is gluten free, it is easily digested. It is therefore, given as first foods to babies in the form of Ragi Seri. Being a good source of calcium in the diet, it is good for bone development in babies.
Also good for new moms – Besides, it is also given to new mother to improve the haemoglobin levels. Lactating mothers are made to eat green ragi, as it improves milk production.
Ragi mudde is a common preparation of ragi eaten with sambar. Being high in fibre, ragi is incorporated in multi-grain biscuits and bread to enhance the fibre content of the product. Ragi can be used to make porridge, upma, cakes, biscuits, dosas and many other preparations.
Though a cheap crop, but it is high in nutritive value and extremely beneficial.
Image through Wiki Commons
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