The first few years of a child’s life are crucial for physical and cognitive growth. The growth proportion at this stage is much higher than in any other life stage. Furthermore, this foundation affects their entire life cycle. Among other factors, food is one of the most important and controllable factors. Traditional crops such as rice, wheat, maize and millets are good energy sources for the body. However, when thinking of a child’s growth, the crucial factor is choosing the best crop to rely on. This article discusses the nutritional benefits of millets, how they are a better option over rice and their benefits for the child’s growth.
Millets: An Overview
Millets are grown as cereal crops or grains worldwide. They are highly variable small-seeded grass. In addition, they have a high nutritional content. Nutritionists believe that millets are many times better than wheat or rice in their nutritional properties. Millets are rich in iron, zinc, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamins and proteins. They are usually tiny in size and have a round shape. Furthermore, different millets boast various nutrients sufficient for a developing human body. The types of millets that children can consume are:
Pearl Millet (Bajra)
It is the most commonly known and available millet. People in Africa, Asia, and the Arabian Peninsula’s southern coast grow and consume it widely. It offers reasonable quantities of calcium, magnesium, fibre and protein.
Finger Millet (Ragi)
Popularly known as Ragi in India, finger millet grows in slightly colder climatic regions. It is rich in amino acids and proteins. It facilitates brain growth in growing children. In addition, it has a high concentration of calcium and iron, which are beneficial for bones and RBC formation.
Amarnath Millet (Rajgira)
Rich in protein and dietary fibre, it is a healthy millet that improves digestion and cholesterol levels. As a result, it is beneficial for your cardiovascular health. In addition, it is high in calcium, vitamins and other minerals.
Foxtail Millet (Kakum)
It is rich in carbohydrates that help balance blood sugar levels. In addition, it has a high iron content. Finally, for growing children, it helps develop a healthy immune system.
Sorghum Millet (Jowar)
Also known as ‘Jowar’, Sorghum millet is rich in micronutrients, protein, iron and fibre. It also has high antioxidants and helps boost the body’s metabolism.
Barnyard Millet (Sanwa)
It is a healthy millet rich in dietary fibres. As a result, it helps regulate bowel movements. In addition, its high calcium and phosphorus content helps strengthen bone density, which is essential for children.
It is digestible millet that contains calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. In addition, it significantly strengthens the nervous system.
Are Millets Better than Rice?
It is a never-ending debate about which grain is healthier for your child’s growth. For example, some experts believe that millets are healthier, whereas most nutritionists suggest that millets are better for your child’s development.
Several research studies believe that rice is a healthy food crop as it helps maintain a healthy weight. In addition, a survey suggests that long-term rice consumption leads to better nutrient intake and diet quality in children. In addition, it shows that rice consumption ensures higher intakes of vitamin D, folate, magnesium, iron, protein, vitamin B12, thiamin, niacin, and zinc, all essential for a child’s healthy development. However, millets are still a healthier choice over rice for children. Here is why:
Both rice and millets have enough fibre. However, millets have a higher fibre content than rice. Hence millets can be a better option, especially for improving a child’s digestive system, bowel movements and weight regulation.
Rice has approximately 2.69% of protein, and they have high carbohydrates. At the same time, millets are low in carbohydrates than rice and contain a higher amount of protein.
Vitamins and Minerals:
Although rice also offers some vitamins and proteins, millets have higher compositions of essential minerals and vitamins. In comparison, the overall profile of rice is not as healthy as millets.
Comparing the Nutritional Composition of Millets and White Rice
Nutritional Composition of White Rice
Rice is a good source of carbohydrates and easy to digest for everyone. USDA data provides the macronutrient, vitamin and mineral profile of cooked rice.
One hundred grams of cooked rice offers:
- Energy: 130 kcal
- Protein: 2.69g
- Fat: 0.28g
- Carbohydrates: 28.2g
- Fibre: 0.4g
- Vitamin E: 0.04mg
- Vitamin B6: 0.09mg
- Iron: 1.2mg
- Zinc: 0.49mg
- Sodium: 1mg
- Magnesium: 12mg
Rice lacks vitamins like vitamin B12, vitamin A and vitamin K, essential for a child’s overall development.
Nutritional Composition of Millets
According to USDA, below mentioned is the profile for 100g cooked millets, providing data on macros, vitamins and minerals.
One hundred grams of cooked millets offer:
- Energy:119 kcal
- Protein: 3.51g
- Fat: 1g
- Carbohydrates: 23.7g
- Vitamin E: 0.02mg
- Vitamin B6: 0.1mg
- Calcium: 3mg
- Zinc: 0.91mg
- Sodium: 2mg
- Magnesium: 44mg
It is evident from the data that millets have a better and healthier nutritional profile than white rice. In addition, they also offer various health benefits for children.
Benefits of Consuming Millets
1. Promotes Child Growth
Studies show that eating millets lead to better growth in children. When examining the nutritional benefits, the research found that it can boost growth in children and adolescents by 26% to 39% when you replace rice with millets in your children’s diet. Results also suggest it can combat malnutrition in children. Children who were examined and served millet based meals found a relative increase in the following:
Children who started consuming millets had a 28.2% height increase than children who ate rice.
Children suffering from malnutrition often have less than the required body weight. For example, children who ate millets saw an increase in body weight by 26% than other children.
Millets are also helpful in providing children with a good body structure. For example, the examined children showed a 37% increase in chest circumference.
These research studies found that millet consumption can be a better option for small school going kids. In addition, it may help them to fight malnutrition and give them a strong and healthy body development.
2. Improves Cardiovascular Health
The HealthifyMe nutritionists state that implementing millet-based tasty meals and recipes may help children and adults get more nutrition from food. As a result, they will have a healthier body and lifestyle.
Besides encountering malnutrition in children, millets can also reduce type-2-diabetes risk and iron deficiencies. Unfortunately, children can also have high levels of cholesterol. Millets are a good meal source for those who have increased cholesterol levels. They help lower cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart problems in children when they grow up. In addition, millets can help fight cardiovascular diseases, obesity and calcium deficiencies.
3. Contains Abundance of Calcium
Calcium is an essential nutrient for a child’s growth as it strengthens the bones and teeth. Available evidence shows that 28% of the calcium in finger millet is bioavailable. Furthermore, it states that finger millet can give you 100mg of calcium per 100g of grain. Therefore, if rightly consumed in adequate amounts, it can help overcome calcium deficiencies.
4. Helps Manage Body Weight
Obesity is a significant cause of worry in young generations, and so is being underweight. These occur due to changed lifestyle and eating habits and irregular patterns of both. Research on 300 children determined that children who consume fast foods and unhealthy eating have abnormal BMI. This study proved a direct relationship between childhood obesity with dietary habits. Millets are a source of complex carbohydrates and are rich in fibre. The high fibre content helps in your bowel movement, keeps the child full for longer and helps flush toxins out of the body.
5. Prevents Diabetes
Compared to other food varieties, millets are more affluent in micronutrients yet have a low glycemic index. As a result, millets can help regulate blood sugar in some children who suffer from irregular blood sugar levels.
6. Other Benefits
- Millets are a high-protein food. Cooking does not deplete the protein as it does with quinoa. Therefore, millets are beneficial to muscular growth and development in children becoming more sedentary day by day.
- Millets are high in fibre and low in simple sugars, making them a good carbohydrate source. As a result, it has a low glycemic index, and it demonstrates reduced blood sugar levels compared to wheat or rice. Hence, it is a great idea to add them to a child’s diet, wherein there already tends to be an abundance of sweet and sugary foods.
- Millets are high in fibre and moisten the colon, which helps youngsters avoid constipation. In addition, millet is high in prebiotics, beneficial to intestinal health. Millets are also high in magnesium, a mineral that is essential for normal neuromuscular function. It also aids in natural muscle contractions. In addition, it is necessary for bone development.
Different Ways to Consume Millets
After knowing several health benefits, it’s essential to understand the best ways to consume millets. Eating the same meal every day is not possible for most children. Children tend to be picky about what they eat and have a unique food palate. Change in taste and food combinations is a requirement for them. So why not give the following a try!
Ways to Eat Millets as a Part of Your Daily Diet
- Most households use wheat and rice flour as essential ingredients in their meals. However, replacing these flours with millet flours can be healthier and tastier. For example, you can use millet flour to make chapatis, pancakes, biscuits and bread.
- Millets can replace rawa in delicious dishes like upmas, idli, dosas, etc.
- You can make a perfect combination of millets with salad. Likewise, you can combine millets with a variety of vegetables. It not only boosts taste but also provides you with enhanced nutrition.
Adding Millets to Various Meals
- Breakfast: Dosa, upma or pancakes serve a great deal of nutrition in the morning.
- Lunch: Millet chapatis or millet salad keeps you active during the daytime
- Snacks: Millet cupcake is a snack liked by everyone
- Dinner: You can have millet soup, noodles or pasta, which is light and easy to digest
Healthy Millet Recipes for Children
Millet is also known as a “wonderful meal” for children, as the nutritious grain aids in their growth and development.
Cooked MIllets (The Most Common Millet Recipe)
It is a simple, fail-safe way for cooking millet grain on the stovetop, complete with thorough instructions.
- Millet: 1 cup
- Water: 1 to 2 quarts
- Oil or Butter: 1 tsp (Optional but recommended for fluffy millet)
- In a pressure cooker, combine millet, water, and a teaspoon of oil. Use 1.5 cups of water per cup of millet if using pre-soaked millet. For unsoaked millet, use 2 cups of water.
- For pre-soaked millet, close the cover and cook for 1 to 2 whistles on medium-high heat. It will take about 5 minutes to complete. We should cook unsoaked millet for 2-3 whistles, or about 7 to 8 minutes.
- Remove it from the fire and let the pressure freely release.
- Fluff it up with a fork once the pressure is released fully.
Millets Ladoo Recipe
It is an excellent option for growing kids and pregnant mothers. Children can be picky about their taste. Millets ladoos are a tasty and nutritional recipe which makes them happy. It is high in calcium, iron, proteins and fibres.
- Finger Millet: 50 g
- Pearl Millet: 50 g
- Wheat flour: 25 g
- Cashews: 1 tbsp
- Jaggery: 100 g
- Ghee: 1 tbsp
- Heat ghee in a pan and fry all flours and millets in it
- Melt jaggery with 25% of water in it and boil until it becomes thick
- Turn off the flame and add roasted flours little by little and fastly, be concerned for lumps
- Add cashews or nuts and mix them well
- Make the balls by greasing your hands, and ladoos are ready.
Millet Curd Rice
This meal is healthful, probiotic-rich, and easy to make with a bit of millet and yoghurt.
- Millets (cooked): 4 cups
- Curd (for a dairy-free version, use any plant-based yoghurt): 1½ cups
- Water: 1 cup
- Cumin seeds: ½ tbsp
- Mustard seeds: 1/2 tsp
- Black peppercorns (whole): ½ tsp
- Curry leaves: 10
- Chilli (red): 1
- A smidgeon of hing
- Salt to taste
- Fill a mixing dish halfway with cooked millet. Allow freshly cooked millet to cool slightly before mashing it with the back of a spoon or a potato masher.
- Add yoghurt to the millet that has been cooled and mashed.
- Mix well and add water as needed to achieve the desired consistency. Set this aside for now.
- Heat the small pan. When the pan is hot, add the oil.
- Add the mustard seeds now. The cumin seeds are next.
- When the seeds begin to spatter, add the red chile.
- Finally, add the entire peppercorns and cook for about a minute. Then, turn off the heat and add the curry leaves.
- Mix this tempering into the millet yoghurt mixture thoroughly.
With the inclusion of various vegetables, millet khichdi is a healthy and straightforward meal that is delicious. It is a one-pot, dump-and-go recipe that you can serve as a primary meal.
- Millet: 1 cup
- Black-eyed peas or lentils (green gramme, red lentil, pigeon peas, etc.): ½ cup
- Water: 4 cups
- Medium-sized potatoes: 3
- Carrots: 2
- Green beans: A dozen
- Cloves: 3 (optional)
- Cardamom Pods (green): 2
- Red chilli flakes: ½ tsp
- Powdered coriander seeds: ½ tsp
- Turmeric powder: ¼ tsp
- Salt to taste
- Add soaked and washed lobia and millet to a pressure cooker or an Instant Pot inner pot.
- Chop whichever vegetables you like; I used potato, carrot, and beans.
- Add the turmeric, red chilli powder, coriander powder, salt, cloves, and cardamom, and mix well.
- Add the water and pressure cook for 15 minutes at 2-3 whistles. Select pressure cook mode on an Instant Pot and cook for 8 minutes on high pressure. Make sure the VENT is closed.
- Allow 10 minutes for the pressure to relax or execute a force release naturally.
- Make a tadka with all of the tadka components listed above.
- Add the tadka to the cooked millet mixture, stir thoroughly, and season with salt if necessary.
- The millet khichdi is ready when we add coriander leaves.
Millets for Infants
When prepared appropriately, millets are pretty safe for infants. Antioxidants, protein, vitamins, and minerals abound in millets. In addition, millets are very easy to digest. They are often gluten-free, making allergies to them quite unlikely. Although, it is crucial to note that millets contain antinutrients that can pose a little harm to the body. Hence, it is vital to consume it safely.
The Bottom Line
Ensuring the correct dietary habits is of utmost importance for a parent as it helps inculcate healthy eating patterns in your child. It is no secret that children need nutrient-rich diets that are also well balanced. Their bodies need the nutrients and minerals for growth, and it also helps them adopt a healthy eating pattern from the start. What they do in these budding years shapes a significant chunk of their future health. Hence, serving each food group in appropriate portions is best to facilitate their overall growth and development.
Unfortunately, modern culture is shifting towards unhealthy eating habits. Having high nutritional foods like millets makes your child fit for a lifetime. Implementing millet-rich foods is advisable as it will give them better health. In addition, you can cook millets in exciting ways and serve them as both savoury and sweet items. So, choose a healthy millet recipe and let your child enjoy the delicious taste with immense health benefits.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Does millet increase height?
A. Many researchers claim that children who eat millets experience an increase in their height by 1.5% in an average of 3 months. In addition, millets contribute a boost of 26% to 39% to the overall development of children.
Q. Which millet will increase weight?
A. Siridhanya millet may aid in underweight problems. Many children suffer from malnutrition and weight problems; Siridhanya is a better option over other millets to gain weight. Besides this, Pearl millet is high in fat and can boost weight gain. Therefore, Pearl millet can be an excellent alternative to the Siridhanya millet.
Q. Which millet is best for daily use?
A. Pearl millet can be a good choice for daily users. It has high fibre and calories. It keeps you full for a longer duration and has enough calories. Ragi and Jowar are best suitable for snacking throughout the day. You can include them in one meal in your day.
Q. Does millet make babies fat?
A. Millets are incredibly safe for infants. These have rich antioxidant properties and are rich in protein and fibre. Millets are easy to digest and gluten-free. Some types of millets may aid in weight gain but not fat gain. Millets rarely get allergic to infants.
Q. Can we give millet to a 9-month-old baby?
A. We can introduce millets into a baby’s life after 6-7 months. You can provide them with homemade millet food. However, it is imperative to consult a doctor at this young age before making any dietary changes in your small kids.
Q. What are the side effects of millet?
A. Millets are safe when consumed in adequate amounts. It is a staple food, and millions of families consume them as a daily part of their diet. However, there is a limit to everything. If consumed excessively, it may result in adverse side effects. For example, it may result in iodine deficiency and goitre formation. Skin dryness, slow thinking and depression may also occur due to overuse of millets.
Q. Which porridge is best for a baby?
A. Pearl millet porridge is best for babies. You can cook it on a medium flame for one minute. Then, keep stirring it continuously till it thickens; make sure no lumps are present. Then, you can serve it lukewarm to your little one.
Q. Do millets have gluten?
A. Millets are naturally very healthy and do not contain any gluten. A gluten-free diet helps reduce inflammation and also aids in digestion. In addition, people should use gluten-free products to boost energy and help lose excess weight.
Q. Can I eat millet at night?
A. Millets contain tryptophan. Yes, one may eat it as a night meal. Millets contain serotonin, which is responsible for reducing cortisol in the body. Cortisol is a stress hormone. A cup of millet porridge can reduce stress if taken daily before bed.
Q. Are millets good for pregnancy?
A. Millets are rich in iron, protein, fibres, and antioxidants. All these nutrients can be considered a perfect diet for pregnant and lactating mothers. In addition, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and folate are essential for pregnant women. Millets contain all these nutrients.