A generation ago, many Indians, especially in the southern part of the country especially Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, were familiar with ragi or finger millet (Eleusine coracana L.). The once well-known cereal is however totally absent in most people’s diets today. This is quite surprising and unfortunate, considering the nutritive and therapeutic value of finger millet for the human body. Besides, it is a very adaptable crop that is admirably suited to Indian climatic conditions, making it doubly significant. It is easy to digest as it is gluten free; people who are sensitive to gluten can easily consume Finger Millet. Ragi is considered one of the most nutritious cereals. It has different names in local languages.
Important health benefits of finger millet or ragi
High Protein content
Ragi has very high protein content which is of the order found in rice. Few varieties of Ragi even contain double the protein found in rice. Protein found in finger millet is good quality protein since it has eleusinin which can be easily absorbed by the body. Unlike most cereals, Ragi also contains tryptophan, methionine, and cystine which are important for maintenance of health.
Rich in Minerals
Ragi is full of minerals. Calcium, Phosphorous, Iron and Potassium are found in Ragi. The concentration of Calcium in Ragi is five to thirty times that found in other cereals. Finger Millet is certainly a natural alternative to health supplements. Consumption of Ragi is known to have a positive impact on people who have low hemoglobin count and those at risk of osteoporosis. In a study “The Lost Crops of Africa” by National Academies Press, Ragi has been called a Super Cereal. The study elaborated that people from Uganda and Sudan have healthy and robust physiques despite consumption of just one meal a day; this could be due to finger millet.
Act as Antioxidants, keeps young and reduces cancer risks
Finger Millet contains antioxidants which help in lowering cell damage by controlling oxidation of cells. Oxidation is a cause of cancer and aging. Studies have found that people consuming finger millet based diet are relatively lesser prone to esophageal cancer compared to those consuming maize/ wheat based diet. Ragi is known to inhibit cross-linking of collagen. Cross-linking of collagen reduces elasticity and leads to stiffness. This is mostly associated with aging. Vital amino acids like Methionine and Lysine present in it make the skin tissues less prone to wrinkles and sagging.
Finger Millet for bone health
Ragi is rich in Calcium which helps in strengthening bones. It is an excellent source of natural calcium for growing children and aging people. Ragi consumption helps in the development of bones in growing children and in the maintenance of bone health in adults. Ragi keeps diseases such as osteoporosis at bay and could reduce a risk of fracture. 100 grams of Ragi contains 344 mg calcium.
Lowers diabetes risks
Finger Millet’s phytochemicals help in slowing digestion process. This helps in controlling blood sugar level in the condition of diabetes. Phytochemicals are found in outer layers of grains/ seeds, therefore it is important to consume whole grains. The outer coat of Ragi seed also contains polyphenols in substantial quantity compared to rice or wheat. Preliminary studies have also shown that Finget Millet can help in faster wound healing. “It is best to add it to your morning meal or have it for lunch in order to keep your system on track the whole day”
Lowers blood cholestrol, prevents cardiovascular disease
Finger Millet contains amino acids Lecithin and Methionine which help in bringing down cholesterol level by eliminating excess fat from Liver. Finger Millet also contains Threonine amino acid which hinders fat formation in the liver, which brings cholesterol level of the body down.
Excellent source of natural iron – for Anaemia
Ragi is an excellent source of natural iron and thus a boon for anemic patients and also for those with low haemoglobin levels. Once ragi is allowed to sprout, the Vitamin C levels tend to increase and lead to easy absorption of iron into the bloodstream. “For the optimum absorption of iron, you can consume it in the form of Ragi Dosa, Ragi malt or Ragi Balls, with plenty of vegetables and a generous squeeze of lime or a bowl of tangy Sambar.” Finger millet has been found to act against a number of bacteria including Bacillus cereus, which causes food poisoning, Salmonella sp., which causes a typhoid-like fever
Losing weight and Relaxation
Ragi contains an amino acid called Tryptophan which lowers appetite and helps in keeping weight in control. Ragi gets digested at a slower rate thus keeps one away from intaking excessive calories. Also, fibers present in ragi give a feeling of fullness thus controls excessive food consumption. Ragi consumption helps in the relaxing body naturally. It is beneficial in conditions of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Ragi is also useful for migraines.