HYDERABAD: Once regarded as the poor man’s food, millets have now come to occupy shelves in high-end supermarkets of urban areas. The crop has carved out a niche for itself in the health-foods category and retail stores claim a remarkable increase in sales of millets.
Unfortunately, as Express finds out, increase in millet consumption in Hyderabad and other parts of Telangana, continues to be mere tokenism. According to the ‘Food consumption pattern in Telangana state’ report released by Prof Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU), millets form a shockingly low 0.03 per cent of the total cereal consumption in urban areas of Telangana and 0.06 per cent in rural areas.
This is shockingly low when compared to the recommendation of millet-consumption by the Hyderabad-based National Institute of Nutrition (NIN). A balanced diet according to the NIN is one which provides 60-70 per cent of total energy (calories) from cereals and millets and of this, about 40-60 per cent should be from millets and rest must be from cereals like rice and wheat. However, the food consumption pattern data shows that people in the State are getting their entire energy from same old rice and wheat-based products and not millets.
As per the report, the average cereal consumption in a month in Telangana’s rural areas is 14.1kg whereas it is 11.4 kg in urban areas. However, of this millets formed a miniscule part - 0.89kg in rural and 0.38kg in urban areas.
With rising instances of lifestyle diseases, consumption of millets becomes even more important. It may be also mentioned here that Hyderabad has one of the highest incidences of diabetes and hypertension among all cities in the country and was also once infamous as the diabetic capital. Moreover, millets will also help in preventing people from suffering the adverse impacts on health due to micro-nutrient deficiencies, also known as hidden hunger.
Why are millets good?
NIN Scientist-E M Subba Rao explains, “Millets have a high fibre content which makes one feel full despite consuming less amounts of it thus restricting the overall carbohydrate intake. Although rice, wheat and millets have similar amounts of carbohydrates, due to low fibre content, people eat more of rice and wheat to feel stomach-full, as compared to millet.”
Millets also have lower glycemic index, gluten and are much less processed than rice or wheat. Processing makes rice and wheat more dangerous to health, said Rao. He added, “Millets are also high in micro-nutrients like iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, riboflavin, folic acid and thiamine. While the human body cannot absorb all the micro-nutrients available in millets, it will have access to more quantities of micro-nutrients from millets than in rice and wheat.”