Foxtail Millet: Health benefits and Uses

Foxtail millet is known by numerous vernacular names in different parts of India. Some names include Kakum in Hindi, Navane in Kannada, Kang in Gujrati, Kaon in Bengali, Kangni in Punjabi, Korralu in Telugu, Thina in Malayalam, Kang in Marathi, and Thinai in Tamil. It is scientifically known as Setaria italic. Indian states growing foxtail millet include Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Foxtail millet is referred to as a “smart millet” and production of this grass seed is encouraged for its benefits for being good for the farmer, good for the individual and good for the planet. This tough millet is a farmer –friendly crop that is drought and temperature resistant and can be cultivated with minimal resources including water and fertilizers categorizing it as a product of organic farming. An added advantage for farmers is its short growing period of just 75 to 90 days then it’s harvested and used not only for human nutrition but also for feed and fodder. Being one amongst the oldest cultivated millets, it is available in the form of semolina or flour and is considered one of the most easily digested millets.

Ironically, cultivation of foxtail millet is seen largest in resource poor countries that are potential benefiters from the nutrient dense qualities of these millets. They can be extensively utilized for their high nutritional densities in treating malnutrition globally.

The peculiar nutty and unique flavor of this millet is also increasingly being utilized internationally in gourmet preparations as a gluten –free hypoallergenic ingredient. Other channels of utilization of this millet includes its therapeutic use for children and pregnant women for its high iron and copper levels that are being utilized for building a healthy body and increasing immunity.

Energy (kcals)331 kcals
Protein (g)8.92 g
Fat (g)2.5 g
Fiber6.3 g
Calcium (mg)31 mg
Iron (mg)2.8 mg

Energy: The exceptional energy density of foxtail millet is being utilized in everyday diets as well as for preparation of high energy special foods. A proportion of starches present in foxtail millet are known as resistant starches, these are referred as so, due to their lack of digestibility in humans. Resistant starches although not absorbable are a healthy inclusion in the diet for their positive affect on glucose metabolism, diet related diseases and weight control. Foxtail millets are also a source of healthy complex carbohydrates that can balance blood sugar and manage high cholesterol, hence beneficial for heart patients. It is abundant in dietary fibre, which is good for digestion and constipation and cleans bad cholesterol.

Protein: Among the millets, foxtail millet has the highest protein content and ensures proper functioning of the nervous system—it actually has double the quantity of protein as rice. It has significant concentration of essential amino acids that can serve as a valuable addition for vegetarian diets that are predominantly protein deficient. It is rich in lysine and methionine, than most other cereals. Thus, this high-quality protein is well digestible by humans and has a good net utilization in the body.

Fat: Millet fat comprises mainly of 85% unsaturated fatty acids that are also known as good fats. Foxtail millet is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids that are referred to as oleic acids. These fats reduce the digestibility of starches and add on the low glycemic index properties of this grass seed. It also contains a high degree of stearic and linoleic acids, which help in maintaining a good lipid profile.

Vitamins and minerals: Foxtail millets are rich in B vitamins, particularly is an excellent source of vitamin B12, essential for the heart and nervous system, supports stronger bones, improves digestion and powers weight loss. It is also a storehouse of other minerals like magnesium, copper, iron and zinc, and are known to have higher concentrations of the same as compared to refined grains. Foxtail millet is a great immunity booster as well. The iron in it boosts brain development. Consumption of foxtail millet is encouraged by women and young children, especially for growth and immunity, owing to its high mineral profile.

Processing methods like fermentation and soaking are employed to these millets to alleviate the anti-nutritional factors and improve nutrient bioavailability in these nutrient dense foods. These methods have been used from ancient times for improving taste, texture and easier cooking procedures for these millets. Some common traditional preparations made using foxtail millet are “navane uppitu” and “navane dosa” in Karnataka.