The FAO Committee on Agriculture (COAG) forum has accepted the proposal for an International Year of Millets and slotted it for 2023. The Government of India led the initiative for an International Year of Millet, through the UN system and garnered support from many countries. This will be a major success for popularising millets, which can play a key role in overcoming malnutrition and health concerns like diabetes. It will also be critical for climate change measures in drylands and important for smallholder and marginal farmers.
Millet is a common term to categorise small-seeded grasses that are often termed nutri-cereals or dryland-cereals and includes sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet and kodo millet, among others.
An important staple cereal crop for millions of smallholder dryland farmers across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, millets offer nutrition, resilience, income and livelihood for farmers even in difficult times. They have multiple untapped uses such as food, feed, fodder, biofuels and in brewing. Therefore, millets are smart food as they are good for health, for the farmer and the planet.
Here are some health benefits of millets:
* Nutritionally superior to wheat and rice owing to their higher levels of protein with more balanced amino acid profile, crude fibre and minerals such as iron, zinc, and phosphorous, millets can provide nutritional security and protect against nutritional deficiency, especially among children and women.
* Anaemia (iron deficiency), B-complex vitamin deficiency, pellagra (niacin deficiency) can be effectively tackled with an intake of less expensive but nutritionally rich food grains like millets.
* Millets can also help tackle health challenges such as obesity, diabetes and lifestyle problems as they are gluten-free, have a low glycemic index and are high in dietary fibre and antioxidants.
* Millets are nutri-cereals which are highly nutritious and known to have high nutrient content which includes protein, essential fatty acids, dietary fibre, B-Vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, potassium and magnesium.
* They help in rendering health benefits like reduction in blood sugar level (diabetes), blood pressure regulation, thyroid, cardiovascular and celiac diseases.