What is Millet, Types of millets and their health benefits


What is Millet?

Millets, the small-seeded grass has been cultivated for more than 10,000 years. Four decades ago, millets were India's staple food. Now, they're being replaced by rice and wheat to the extent that people have forgotten how to incorporate them into their daily diet. 
Today, given the health benefits of millet, they are making a comeback from the forgotten pages of history. Not just good for health, millets play a vital role in the sustainability of the planet. Thanks to its short growing season, its capacity to withstand extreme temperatures, and drought resistance, millet is a solution to India’s major issues like water scarcity, extreme weather and soaring population. And probably that’s why millet is also known as a superfood.

Why 2023 is declared the International year of millets?

As proposed by India, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets (IYM). Prime Minister Narendra Modi aims to make IYM 2023 a ‘People’s Movement’ and also to position India as the ‘Global Hub for Millets’.

What is the government’s plan of action?

In April 2018, millets were rebranded as “Nutri Cereals” and the same year, the government declared it the National  Year of Millets to generate more production and demand. 

On December 6, 2022, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) organised the opening ceremony for the IYM 2023 in Rome, addressed by Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar. A delegation of senior government officials from India also participated.

The Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare last month hosted a special ‘Millet Luncheon’  for the Members of the Parliament, which was attended by Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankar and the Prime Minister. The Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs has planned 15 activities in January — engaging sportspersons, nutritionists and fitness experts through video messages, and conducting webinars on millets with leading nutritionists, dieticians and elite athletes. 

The Ministry of Food Processing Industries will be organising Millet Fair-cum-exhibitions in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. FSSAI will organise Eat Right Melas in Punjab, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Punjab are scheduled to carry out specific activities for sensitisation and promotion of IYM besides conducting millet-centric activities including  Mahotsavs/Melas and food festivals, training of farmers, awareness campaigns, workshops/seminars, placement of hoardings and distribution of promotional material in January. 

The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) will be participating in a trade show in Belgium where it will showcase the diversity of Indian millets. 

Indian embassies across more than  140 countries will be participating in the celebration of IYM during 2023 by conducting side events involving the Indian diaspora through exhibitions, seminars, talks, and panel discussions.

Why is increasing the consumption and production of millet important to India?

Millets are primarily grown during the Kharif season in rainfed areas as these crops require less water and agricultural inputs than other cereals. Millets production has great potential to generate livelihoods, increase farmers’ income and ensure food and nutritional security, not only in India but also in other parts of the world. Unless consumption is increased, the demand will not be generated to motivate farmers for shifting to millets. Increasing consumption in India will help improve people’s health since millets contain many nutrients and minerals crucial for the human body. Millets are rich in dietary fibre and this helps control blood pressure and sugar levels. Though the awareness of the health benefits of millet has improved post-Covid, there is still a long way to go. Production of millets is crucial to promote its consumption and meet future demand.

Why are millets said to be climate-friendly?

An article at ORFonline tells us that millets use 70% less water than rice; grow in half the time as wheat; and need 40% less energy in processing. They are hardy crops that can withstand extreme heat conditions.

Which country is the largest producer of Millet?

It is a proud movement for Indian farmers as India is the largest producer of Millet in the world. Accounting for 20 % of global production and 80% of Asia's production. According to FAO, the aim for 2023 is to increase Important millet crops grown in India are Sorghum (Great millet), Bajra (Pearl millet), Ragi (Finger millet) and small millets viz., Korra (Foxtail millet), Little millet, Kodo millet, Proso millet and Barnyard millet. These were often referred to as coarse cereals but realizing the nutrient richness of the grains they are now gazetted as “Nutricereals” by the Government of India.
In India, millets are cultivated majorly in 21 states in an area of 12.53 million hectares, producing 15.53 million tonnes with a yield of 1237 kg/ha.

Where millets are grown in India

There is a major impetus in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Haryana. Rajasthan has the highest area under millets cultivation (29.05%) followed by Maharashtra (20.67%), Karnataka (13.46%), Uttar Pradesh (8.06%), Madhya Pradesh (6.11%), Gujarat (3.94%) and Tamil Nadu (3.74%). The states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have increased their area under millets over the recent years.

English NameHighest Producer state
Finger milletKarnataka
Pearl milletRajasthan
BarnyardTamil Nadu
Foxtail milletAndhra Pradesh
BuckwheatJammu and Kashmir
KaduMadhya Pardesh
Little milletMadhya Pradesh
Proso milletTamil Nadu
Browntop milletAndhra Pradesh

Events on millets in 2023

The Millets & Organics International Trade Fair 2023, the largest fair is organised by the Department of Agriculture and KAPPEC, Government of Karnataka. ICCOA is the Knowledge partner. The fourth edition of MOITF to be held on 20-22 January 2023 coincides with the International Year of the Millets (IYOM) 2023. It will be a platform for farmers, farmer groups, domestic and international companies, and central and state institutions to connect and explore opportunities in agri-horticulture, processing, machinery and agri-technology.

What is the theme of the National Conference on Millets 2022?

Union Minister of State for M/o Food Processing Industries, Shri Prahlad Singh Patel, inaugurated the National Conference on Millets on the theme 'The Future Super Food for India' in New Delhi, organized by industry body ASSOCHAM with the support of M/o Food Processing Industries.

7 Amazing Health Benefits of Millets

Including millet in your diet lowers the chances of heart-related diseases, cancer and other serious ailments. It boosts immunity, stabilizes body heat, prevents respiratory issues and detoxifies your system. Need more reasons to add millet to your diet?

  1. Fights Anemia
    Anaemia is an extremely dangerous disease caused due to iron deficiency. It is common among women during pregnancy and children. Millets are rich in iron, folic acid, folate and copper, making them a perfect food for curing anaemia.
  2. Aids digestion
    An unhealthy digestive system can be the root cause of many ailments. Unhealthy digestion prevents the body from absorbing essential nutrients for its growth. As a rich source of fibre, millets aid in regularising bowel movements and relieve gastrointestinal disorders.
  3. Prevents asthma
    Wheat is often considered an allergy-causing food by Asthma patients. However, due to the composition of millet, they are an ideal choice for asthma patients.
  4. Stabilises cholesterol
    As a rich source of fibre, millets are known to lower the cholesterol levels in our bodies and prevent clogging of the arteries.
  5. Recommended for Celiac patients
    Most grains contain gluten and cause allergic reactions in people suffering from celiac disease. Celiac patients are gluten intolerant and hence can not consume staples such as wheat. Thus, millet , being gluten free, fulfils their requirements. It is considered a grain due to its texture but is seed which makes it a good alternative.
  6. Prevents obesity
    Being a rich source of fibre, millets keep hunger in control. It regulates digestion and reduces the chances of obesity.
  7. Stabilises blood sugar level
    Diabetes paves the way for a host of diseases. A high amount of magnesium found in millet is known to increase the efficiency of insulin in the body. This, in turn, helps to regulate blood sugar levels and lower the chances of diabetes.

Nutritional Value of Millet

Millets contain essential nutrients like carbohydrates, good proteins and phytochemicals. In comparison to wheat and rice, millets contain higher levels of minerals. Millets contain 7-12% protein, 2-5% fats, 65-75% carbohydrates, 15-20% fibre. They are also a rich source of potassium vitamins and dietary minerals such as iron, zinc, manganese, copper and calcium. And the best part, millets are gluten free.

What millets called in Hindi

English NameHindi Name
Finger milletRagi/Nachini
Pearl milletBajra
Foxtail milletKangni
Little milletSama
Proso milletChena
Browntop milletChoti Kangni

Foxtail millet(Kangani)

Kangani is traditionally known as a Hot food. It is believed that if people suffering from fever, drink a glass of Kangani porridge and wrap themselves in a woollen blanket and sleep so their fever would be gone by the time they wake up.

Finger Millet (Ragi/Nachani)

Ragi is considered the coolest and the richest millet in terms of its taste and nutrition. Ragi is plentiful in minerals, especially calcium which builds and strengthens bones and teeth. Ragi is also rich in other minerals and fibre. It contains a treasure of vitamins B1 and B2 which help in different biological functions. Rice is a poor source of calcium with a value of 10 mg whereas Ragi has huge amounts of calcium i.e. 344 mg per 100 gm. It is recommended in many therapeutic diets.

Little Millet(Sama)

“It's a COO…..L food dude” be probably how GenNext would describe Saama, the Little millet. Saama in summer is the best way to beat the heat. Saama offers a refreshing and soothing alternative to other foods.

Pearl Millet(Bajra)

Bajra known for its delicious Rotis and maida is also a great storehouse of nutrients. The energy content is 361 kcal per 100 gm and tops the list of energy-giving grains. It also has 132 mg of carotene per 100 gm. Carotene is the most sought-after micronutrient in the food industry. Most of us search for Beta Carotene in pharmaceutical capsules to keep ourselves healthy. Bajra offers this essential vitamin at no additional cost.


Jowar is not only a staple food for millions of Indians but is also a versatile millet. Jowar is rich in protein, a good source of energy and contains a lot of iron as well. Jowar has 10.4 g of calcium and 4.1 mg of iron per 100 g.  A range of good qualities and tastes is embodied in this wonder millet.

Barnyard(Sanwa Millet)

Sanwa millet (Echinochloa frumantacea) is a tiny, white grain which is bigger in size than semolina but smaller than sago (sabudana). It is often called as 'Sanwa rice' as it is similar to broken rice after cooking. In India, Sanwa has great importance during fasting days, especially on Navratri. The Barnyard millet or Sanwa rice as it is popularly known has high levels of protein, calcium, iron, minerals, and vitamin B complex. It is also low in carbohydrates and gluten free, making it a boon for those with gluten allergies, type II diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.

Buckwheat Millet(kuttu)

Buckwheat, like amaranth and quinoa, is a pseudo cereal. This means it has all the nutritional and cooking properties of a grain, but it is actually a seed. It is gluten free, packed with nutrition, low Glycemic Index as compared to wheat and rice, and to sum it all up, can be easily used just like any millet. Studies indicate that people who regularly eat buckwheat products have lower cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood glucose levels. By helping to manage these risk factors, a diet rich in buckwheat helps to reduce your chances of developing cardiovascular disease.

Kodo Millet(Kadu)

The Kodo millet, also known as cow grass, rice grass, ditch millet, Native Paspalum, or Indian Crown Grass originates in tropical Africa, and it is estimated to have been domesticated in India 3000 years ago. The domestication process is still ongoing. In southern India, it is called varaku or koovaraku. Being naturally rich in fibre, millets also help to reduce problems like constipation, flatulence, bloating and stomach cramping. Millets are a good source of magnesium which is known to be promoting heart health. It helps to reduce blood pressure.

Proso Millet(Chena)

Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum L.) is a warm-season grass with a growing season of 60–100 days. It is a highly nutritious cereal grain used for human consumption, bird seed, and/or ethanol production Proso millet grain can be used for human consumption, livestock feed, and bird seed - a common use in the United States. Proso millet has multiple benefits when consumed as human food. Proso millet is rich in minerals, dietary fibre, polyphenols, vitamins and proteins. It is gluten free and therefore, ideal for gluten-intolerant people. Proso millet contains high lecithin which supports the neural health system.

Brown top Millet(Choti Kangani)

Brown top millet or Korale millet is the rarest of all millet varieties and has great demand owing to its dense nutritional profile and its ability to adapt to climate change. Brown top millets are cultivated abundantly in dry regions of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and parts of north-central India. It is rich in fibre, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium and many other important minerals. Browntop millet eases constipation and helps in detoxifying the body. It helps to control high blood pressure and acts as a probiotic for respiratory disorders. It is also recommended for skin and arthritis problems.

Indian government launched the campaign, especially for Millets. Visit the given link to see those campaigns https://www.mygov.in/campaigns/millets/


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