7 Amazing Benefits of Millet

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Rebecca Zinger (RD, LD)

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The health benefits of millet include its ability to protect the heart, improve the digestive system, can detoxify the body, improve respiratory health, boost the immune system, increase energy levels, and improve the muscle and nerve health.

What is Millet?

Millet is a group of small-seeded grasses, which is cultivated throughout the world, for human consumption. It is mainly grown in developing countries, but its ability to grow in relatively harsh, arid, and dry environments makes it a highly versatile crop.

Although there are different varieties of millet grown around the world, the most common cultivar is Pennisetum glaucum, also known as pearl millet. In terms of history, millet likely originated in Africa but then spread throughout Asia and the Middle East roughly 10,000 years ago.

India cultivates over 8 million tons of these grains every year, followed by Africa and China. Millet can be used as a traditional cereal, and can also be used in porridge, snacks, and other types of bread. Millet is a good source of carbohydrates and fiber, like other grains. It is also a good source of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and organic compounds that can boost human health in various ways.

As Celiac disease has become more commonly diagnosed and researched over the past year, millet has been a good gluten-free option for those who suffer from reactions when gluten is consumed. Cross contamination is still possible and millet should be purchased from factories that do not produce other grains that contain gluten. Millet is gluten-free, so Celiac sufferers can turn to it as their source of grains, instead of wheat. When in doubt read the packaging. In terms of basic food staples, millet provides the most energy, as well as the most fat and B-vitamins.

Ceramic bowl filled with millet seeds kept on a wooden table

Nutrition Facts

Millet, raw
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]8.67
Energy [kcal]378
Protein [g]11.02
Total lipid (fat) [g]4.22
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]72.85
Fiber, total dietary [g]8.5
Calcium, Ca [mg]8
Iron, Fe [mg]3.01
Magnesium, Mg [mg]114
Phosphorus, P [mg]285
Potassium, K [mg]195
Sodium, Na [mg]5
Zinc, Zn [mg]1.68
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]0
Thiamin [mg]0.42
Riboflavin [mg]0.29
Niacin [mg]4.72
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.38
Folate, DFE [µg]85
Vitamin B-12 [µg]0
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]0
Vitamin A, IU [IU]0
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.05
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]0
Vitamin D [IU]0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]0.9
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.72
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.77
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]2.13
Cholesterol [mg]0
Sources include : USDA

Millet Nutrition Facts

Millet is important because of its uniquely high content of nutrients. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, it contains high starch levels, B vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, magnesium, and fats. Furthermore, there are high levels of dietary fiber, which contribute even more to the health benefits of this important grain!

Health Benefits of Millet

Let’s take a look at the amazing benefits of millet.

Protects Heart Health

Researchers from the University of Kentucky have shown a link between whole grains and the prevention of heart disease risk. Millet can be one of the healthier grains to add to your diet if you want to protect your heart. It is a rich source of magnesium, which is an important mineral for reducing blood pressure and the risk of heart attack or stroke, particularly in the case of atherosclerosis.

Millet is also a great source of potassium, which further keeps blood pressure low by acting as a vasodilator. Reducing your blood pressure and optimizing your circulatory system is one of the best ways to protect your cardiovascular health.

Controls Cholesterol Levels

Cholesterol levels go hand-in-hand with heart health, so the high fiber amount in millet makes an ideal food for those who are trying to lower their cholesterol (aim for below 200mg/dL). Dietary fiber also helps to eliminate bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) from the system while promoting the effects of good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol).

Can Help to Prevent Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease affecting millions of people around the world. Millet is a beneficial food in many countries (where diabetes is less frequently found). Perhaps it is because one of the effects of millet is to help reduce the chance of type 2 diabetes, thanks to the significant levels of magnesium found in it.

Aids in Digestion

Millet can help move your gastrointestinal system, says Journal of Range Management on JSTOR. It also helps to eliminate problems like constipation, excess gas, bloating, and cramping. By regulating your digestive processes, you also improve your nutrient retention and reduce your chance of more serious gastrointestinal conditions like gastric ulcers. Regular digestion and elimination of waste also help optimize your kidney, liver, and immune system health, as those organ systems are closely related to the body’s metabolic activities. It is important to not eat too much millet in one sitting or else there might be adverse side effects.

Health benefits of millet - infographic

Detoxifies the Body

Millets are a rich source of phenols and antioxidantsaccording to a study by Dr. Linda Dykes, et al., Texas A&M University. Many of the antioxidants in millet can clean up toxins from your body. Quercetin, curcumin, ellagic acid, and various other beneficial catechins can help rid your system of any foreign agents and toxins by promoting proper excretion and neutralizing enzymatic activity in certain organs.

Helps to Prevent Asthma Symptoms

Research has come to light showing that millet can significantly improve the quality of life for people suffering from asthma since childhood. Although some of the evidence is controversial, it is shown that significantly less wheezing and asthma attacks (by more than 15%) were seen in children who had a large intake of grains like millet. As wheat is a common allergen associated with asthma and wheezing, millet does not have the same components and hence, does not have this negative effect.

Word of Caution: Given the modern stresses on our body, particularly to our glandular system, the excessive work needed to digest and process millet may be damaging. Consider speaking to your doctor about your glandular and thyroid health before making a major shift to a diet that includes millet.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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