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Why Nachni (ragi) rotis are good for weight loss and managing diabetes

Research shows that ragi is a fine choice for people living with diabetes, as it is higher in fibre, minerals and amino acids than white rice, says Dr David Chandy, Consultant, Endocrinology, Sir H. N. Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai

Finger millet is commonly known as ragi. It is an extraordinary source of calcium and potassium. (Photo: Shalini Rajani)

Written by Dr David Chandy

Often the healthiest food happens to be the one we grow up with. And so it is with ragi or finger millet, which has been cultivated since 4,000 years in the southern states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar up north and Maharashtra in the west. It is a sturdy crop and stays pest-free after harvesting. So it doesn’t need chemical fertilisers and pesticides, making it a safe food. It is also a cost-effective source of protein, iron, calcium and fibre and a rare source of amino acid. And although Bollywood actress Kiara Advani may have just popularised it, saying she has ragi rotis, popularly called nachni rotis, for lunch, it is the most body-friendly gift that nature has given us.

High in nutrients

Finger millet is commonly known as ragi. It is an extraordinary source of calcium (350 mg %) and potassium (410 mg % ). It is known to have several potential health benefits, some of which are attributed to its polyphenol contents.

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It has a carbohydrate content of 70 %, protein 8 %, crude fibre 3.4 % and mineral 2.7% that is comparable to other cereals and millets. Its crude fibre and mineral contents are markedly higher than those of wheat (1.2% fibre, 1.5% minerals) and rice (0.2% fibre, 0.6% minerals); its protein is relatively better balanced; it contains more lysine, threonine and valine than other millets. The chemical score (percentage of the most limiting amino acid compared to a standard protein like egg protein) of finger millet is about 50 which is relatively better than other millets, jowar and pearl millet.

Though low in fat content (1.3%), it is high in PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids). The lower fat content could be one of the contributing factors for the extremely good shelf life of finger millet.

Good for diabetes

Research shows that ragi is a fine choice for people living with diabetes, as it is higher in fibre, minerals and amino acids than white rice. Plus, emerging research shows it may improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels. However, processed finger millet needs to be avoided. This is why. The mean value of Glycemic index [GI] of upma made from decorticated or processed finger millet (husk is removed from the grain) is high at 87, similar to the GI of white polished rice.

Ideal for weight loss

Ragi is gluten-free, so the sugar load is far less. Being rich in fibre, it takes more time to get digested in the stomach. As a result, it keeps you fuller for a longer time. This stops the urge to consume more food, thus reducing excess calorie consumption eventually.

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Best for heart health

Whole grains like finger millet are connected to lower risk of heart disease. Finger millet is full of dietary fibre, which helps control the “bad” cholesterol that can accelerate plaque build-up or atherosclerosis.

Improves gut health

The fibre in ragi can also help support your digestive health. Insoluble dietary fibre is “prebiotic,” meaning it helps support the good bacteria in your gut. Eating prebiotics like the fibre in millet can support gut health by keeping your digestive flora healthy. This, too, aids weight management.

A variety of meal options

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There are many ways in which ragi can be included in our daily diet.

a) Nutritive Laddus: These are nutritionally dense with protein, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants which make them a healthy substitute of traditional or conventional laddus. They have a good flavour and a long shelf life.

b) Multi-grain flour: Multigrain flour, by combining wheat and finger millet in the ratio of 7:3 (wheat: finger millet), is one of the simple, semi-finished products suitable for making chapati. However, the colour of the chapati turns slightly dark. Fortification of finger millet in chapatis not only improves the taste but also helps in controlling glucose levels in diabetic patients very efficiently. The bulkiness of the fibres and the slower digestion rate make us feel fuller on fewer calories and, therefore, may prevent us from eating excess calories. The high fibre content eases constipation.

c) Ragi Idli and Dosa: Fermented foods may also be prepared by mixing ragi in equal amounts with other grains and dal. Among fermented foods, idli and dosa are very common as breakfast foods and even as main cafeteria food in some parts of the country. Finger millet is already widely used as one of the ingredients in such foods in south India. It not only improves the taste but enriches the food in terms of protein, calcium and fibre.

D) Others: Ragi cakes, biscuits, papad and dhokla

First published on: 01-12-2022 at 09:13 IST
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