Millet has been seeing an increase in popularity in recent years and rightfully so, this small seed satisfies customer interest in a number of food trends including: clean-label, gluten-free, allergen-free, free-from, plant-based, whole-grain and ancient grain.
Thought to have originated in Africa over 10,000 years ago, millet is actually a group of gluten-free, small seed grasses that are widely grown across India, Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, France, and now in the United States.
It is one of the most sustainable crops world-wide due to a very low water requirement and short growing season. Because millet is widely available, it is lower in price than many other ancient grains. It is higher in protein than corn or rice and nutritionally similar to quinoa but costs much less.
Small in size and creamy white, gray, yellow, or red in color, millet is an excellent flavor absorber which can be used in whole seed, flour, and puffed forms. Millet develops a creamy but delicate texture when cooked or offers a crunchy bite when used as raw or toasted seed. Puffed millet’s mild flavor makes it conducive to a wide array of product applications from bars to cereals to crackers and coatings.
Millet also packs a nutritional punch. High in fiber and relatively high in protein, it offers a variety of trace minerals and antioxidants attributed to good health but not usually found in more common grains. It is considered to be one of the most digestible grains available.
Millet’s high levels of fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese contribute to a variety of health benefit claims.
There are many health benefits associated with the consumption of whole grains, including reduced risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even some cancers. When used in a whole-grain form and in substantial quantities in a finished product, millet can be credited with these same benefits.
Millet is also heart-healthy. In addition to its whole-grain benefits, millet boasts high levels of magnesium and potassium which are useful to reduce and maintain low blood pressure and decrease risk of heart attacks, strokes and atherosclerosis. Millet is a good source of fiber, noted for lowering cholesterol levels.