Ragi Rage

Don’t point a finger at this millet. It is gluten-free and has nutrients that keep your body and heart healthy

12/31/2016 3:14:51 PM
written By : Nithya Subramanian Print

Finger millet or ragi, which for centuries was known as a poor man’s cereal is now considered a super food. 

Grown widely in arid regions, according to K T Acharya, author of Indian Food: A Historical Companion, The Food Industries of British India and A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food, ragi originated in East Africa and came to India around 2000 BC.

In his book, Acharya said that many tribal and religious ceremonies are attached to this cereal in East Uganda, where six of the nine species grow. “The cultivated ragi species that came to India was Eleusine coracana, a tetraploid form with round seeds. This does not cross with the native Indian wild form, which is diploid and had oblong seeds, and so cultivated ragi developed in isolation in India.”

However wild ragi grains have been found in Surkotada in Kutch, a late Indus valley site, and in about 1800 BC both wild and cultivated grains were discovered in Hallur on the banks of the river Tungabhadra. Paiyamapalli in Tamil Nadu showed ragi at 1390 BC was perhaps the cultivated form. It is believed that these cultivible species came to India in several ways: landward across the Sabaean lane, up the seaward ledge of Africa, by way of the dhow traffic from Arabia, or as part of the direct monsoon-propelled traffic across the Indian Ocean in both directions. 

It was a common grain at one time in Tamil Nadu, and there are several references to it in early literature to “kelvaragu”. 

Today ragi is a powerhouse of health benefiting nutrients that help in reducing weight and also acts as a treatment for multiple diseases. It is considered a very important weaning food for babies. Here are some of its benefits:

Helps in Weight Loss: Ragi benefits weight loss due to the presence of a special amino acid, Tryptophan that helps in curbing appetite. It also has a higher rate of fibre compared to any other grain keeping the stomach fuller for a longer period of time. 

Increases Bone Strength: When it comes to calcium, there is no other plant source that comes even close to finger millet. It is loaded with calcium and vitamin D that makes it a vital component for increasing bone strength. It helps development of bones in children, maintains bone health and prevents bone erosion in adults. It also works as an effective food to avert Osteoporosis.

Controls Diabetes: Regular consumption of ragi has been found to reduce the risk of diabetes because of its high content of dietary fibers and polyphenols. It also has a low glycemic index that makes it an ideal snack to prevent late night food cravings and help to maintain blood sugar within safe range.

Reduces Cholesterol: Ragi has been proved to work wonders in bringing down blood cholesterol levels and is one of the best home remedies for heart health. The key amino acids Lecithin and Methionine present in the cereal helps in lowering cholesterol by extracting and cutting out excess fat from the liver, and the amino acid Threonine prevents formation of fat in the liver. Ragi, in the unripe, green form can also help in controlling high blood pressure and hypertension.

Aids Relaxation: The abundance of antioxidants help in fighting damage causing free radicals and reducing oxidative stress. It works as a natural relaxant and helps in relieving stress related ailments like anxiety, hypertension, depression and headaches. It also helps in relieving sleep disorders like insomnia along with cerebral pains and migraine.

Good Source of Protein and Amino Acids: Ragi is one of the best natural protein sources. This helps in muscle functioning, maintaining metabolism, blood formation, fighting anxiety and depression and also promotes the release of growth hormones.

Treats Anemia: Ragi sprouts is a good source of iron that helps in increasing blood formation in persons suffering from anaemia or low haemoglobin levels. Vitamin C increases the level of iron absorption in the body and therefore it is best to have sprouted Ragi in the form of Ragi flour or Ragi malt. 

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