CHENNAI: The importance of health and physical well-being has become abundantly clear during the pandemic. Along with the inclusion of a daily exercise regimen, people have also begun to re-evaluate their dietary choices. At such a time, superfoods such as millets are soon becoming a favourite option. While this column has walked you through the benefits of several millets little, finger, pearl, kodo and proso, it is time to shine the spotlight on foxtail a rich source of fibre, magnesium, calcium and vitamins. Better known in Tamil Nadu as thinai, foxtail can be recognised by its leafy stem that bows slightly due to the weight of its earhead when grown.
The crop requires tropical or temperate weather with low to moderate rainfall to grow. Hence, it finds a space in farms of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar. However, the crop is not resistant to extreme drought or waterlogging. Sown in Kharif or Rabi season, the crop typically grows 4-6 feet in height and matures in 80-100 days. When the earheads are dry, the whole plant or the ears are cut down. With its impressive nutritional profile and taste, foxtail can seamlessly replace certain ingredients in your daily diet.
“Whatever you can make with rice, you can also make with the millet from idli, dosa, upma and pongal to ladoo, adhirasam, murukku and pakoda. However, I recommend preparing sweet dishes with foxtail millet since it pairs very well with jaggery. You can completely cut out the white sugar,” says home chef, TV presenter and author Krishnakumari Jayakumaar. She reports that the millet has been recently gaining popularity apart from its bird feed status and only available at organic stores, has made it to the shelves of local markets.
Dr PV Lakshmi, chief dietitian at Gleneagles Global Health City, recommends replacing a meal with millets for their health benefits. “Four months ago, a patient with extremely high blood sugar visited us. She was suggested foxtail millet in her diet, and exercise. After a month, her blood sugar reduced drastically. It was a wonderful change. Her cholesterol level also improved due to the fibre content in the millet,” she informs. Krishnakumari and Lakshmi further elaborate the health benefits of foxtail millet:
An alternative for diabetics
Foxtail millet contains four times the fibre content of rice. The fibre-rich millet is ideal for those with high blood sugar or suffering from diabetes.
High dosage of magnesium
Consuming 100 grams of the millet satisfies 25 per cent of the daily requirement for magnesium. High levels of magnesium in foxtail can prevent a few types of cancer, regulate asthma attacks, and relieve
Aids weight loss
Foxtail contains the secondhighest quantity of fibres in all cereals and millets. Fibre-rich foods ensure healthy body metabolism and are good for weight loss. It also prevents constipation.
Reduces the risk of osteoporosis
A rich source of calcium, the millet is a good food source to increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to be brittle. People with arthritis can benefit from incorporating foxtail millet in their meals.
High zinc content in this millet ensures improved immunity, much-needed these days. Merely 100 grams of foxtail consumption fulfils 25 per cent of the daily requirement of the essential mineral. Additionally, zinc also facilitates faster healing of wounds.
For the gluten-intolerant
Foxtail millet contains no gluten and thus can be used as a food source for those who suffer from gluten intolerance or following gluten-free diets.
Foxtail millet sweet pongal by Krishnakumari Jayakumaar
Foxtail Millet: 1 cup
Moong dal: 1/4 cup
Jaggery: 1 cup
Ghee: 2 tbsp
Cashew nuts according to preference
Cardamom powder: 1 tsp
Water: 4 1/2 cups
Clean and soak the foxtail millet for at least five hours.
In a hot, heavy-bottom pan, dryroast the moong dal, wash it and keep aside.
To the pan, add four cups of water and bring it to a boil.
Add millet and dal to the water.
Once cooked, mash the cooked millet and dal. Dissolve jaggery in ½ cup of water and strain it. Pour
it in the pan with the millet.
In another pan, heat ghee and roast the cashews. Top your pongal with the cashews.
Add cardamom powder to the pongal and mix well.
Serve hot or cold.
NUTRITIONAL VALUE FOR FOXTAIL MILLET (PER 100 G)
Energy: 331 kcal, Protein: 12.3 g
Fibre: 8 g, Minerals: 3.3 g
Fat: 4.3 g, Carbohydrates: 60.9 g
Zinc: 2.4 mg, Calcium: 31 mg
Source: Dr PV Lakshmi, chief dietitian, Gleneagles Global Health City