Friday, July 03, 2015

Magical Super food - Finger millet (Ragi)


  • Finger millet is a powerhouse of health benefiting nutrients that help in reducing weight and also acts as a treatment for multiple diseases like Brittle Bones, Osteoporosis, Anemia and Diabetes. It’s also known as African finger millet,red millet is an annual plant widely grown in arid areas of Africa and Asia. Its botanical name is Eleusine coracana. But across the length and breadth of this country it is known as ragi, mandua, nachni and so on.
  • It is a natural relaxant that helps in relieving stress and anxiety. It is one such rare cereal that doesn’t need to be polished and, therefore, can be consumed in its purest form with all its goodness intact and has a naturally delicious taste...a little like subtle cocoa so you don't even need to use spices with it. When it is roasted in ghee it even looks like melted chocolate! As a food, it shares a high nutritional profile and an equally high sustaining power; it, therefore, most definitely, qualifies as a Super Food. It has the amazing property of being suitable for the 0 to 90 age groups.
  • Millets are one of the most important cereal grains. These are consumed by more than 1/3rd of the world’s population. It is the 6th cereal crop in terms of the world’s agricultural production. A majority of the world’s commercial millet crop is produced by China, India, Greece, Egypt and Africa. There are several varieties of millet available throughout the world. The most commonly found millets are Jowar (Sorghum), Sama (Little millet), Ragi (Finger Millet), Korra (Foxtail millet) and Variga (Prose millet). Bajra and Sama are high in fat while Ragi has the lowest fat.

  • Ragi in India is one of the important cereals which occupy the highest area under cultivation among the small millets. The state of Karnataka is the largest producer of ragi in India. Finger millet is originally native to the Ethiopian Highlands and was introduced into India approximately 4000 years ago. 
  • It is very adaptable to higher elevations and is grown in the Himalaya up to 2,300 m altitude. Ragi is seldom attacked by pests hence can be grown safely without pesticides. It is an economical source of nutrition for developing countries.At the ground level, in the farms, this hardy grain grows in very diverse eco-zones. 
  • It requires very little care and can thrive even in drought conditions. It is also resistant to pests and diseases, ensuring that the food basket of a farm is never empty. With a 1ton per hectare yield, it has the highest productivity among the small millets of India.

  • Once harvested, the seeds keep extremely well and are seldom attacked by insects or moulds. The long storage capacity makes finger millet an important crop in risk-avoidance strategies for poorer farming communities.

      Ayurvedic perspective

  • Guna(Quality)- Laghu
  • Rasa (Taste)-Madhur, Tikta, Kashay
  • Vipak(Metabolism)- Madhur
  • Virya (Potency)-Sheeta (cooling)
  • Prabhav (Impact)- Tridosh-shamak
  • Therapeutic uses-Trisna(Thirst), Karapada daha(burning sensation of palms and feet),Swasa (Asthma),Kasa (Cough),Jwaropdrava (complications of fever)etc  
  • From an Ayurvedic perspective, ragi is considered Sweet, Warming, Dry and Light. Due to its light, warming and drying effect, ragi is considered compatible in the treatment of high Ama, high cholesterol, decreased digestive fire, diabetes, excess weight, oedema and other excess Kapha (mucous/fluid) conditions.
  • If taken in excess it may aggravate Vata or Pitta but if cooked with a little oil and/or milk and some cooling spices (like cardamom), it  can be transformed into a relatively tridoshic grain.Finger millet is an wholesome food as it regulates all three humors and is good for curing vitiated pitta.

      What makes it Super food…
  • Ragi is rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. In comparison to rice and wheat it is also quite high in protein.
  • It is particularly high in thiamine, calcium,riboflavin and iron and also the essential amino acid, methionine, so is commonly used in Asia for feeding growing infants.
  • It has a very low glycemic index, is alkaline and is gluten free.
  • If consumed regularly, ragi could help in keeping degenerative diseases, malnutrition and premature ageing at bay.
  • Ragi is a great source of calcium (at a whopping 344mg per 100g) compared to Brown rice, corn and wheat.Ragi is low in fat and a fair source of protein.
  • Regular consumption of Ragi promotes optimum weight, controls blood sugar and promotes sound mind.

      Various methods to use ragi In food..
  • Finger millet is processed by milling, malting, fermentation, popping, and decortications.
  • One must add here that due to its outer covering, finger millet has to be ground whole and used only as flour. But what could seem as a processing disadvantage is actually a nutritional advantage as this increases its fiber content
  • Finger millet is normally consumed in the form of flour-based foods such as roti (pancake), mudde(stiff porridge/dumpling),ambil(thinporridge)upma,vermicelli,pasta,sweets(halwa),noodles,papad,soups,cakes,biscuits,dosas, idlis and ladoos etc.
  • In Jharkhand and Bihar, where it is known as mandua, the finger millet flour is used to make delicious pancakes, both savoury and sweetened with gud, while Garhwalis prefer to make rotis out of it. One must mention here the special “thag roti”, so called because the outer layer is made of wheat, with an inner stuffing of millet. Given the heat generating property of finger millet, this roti is specially made in winter and relished after a hard day’s work when energies need to be replenished.
  • The grain is made into a fermented drink (or beer) in Nepal and in many parts of Africa. The straw from finger millet is used as animal fodder.
  • Ragi malt porridge is made from finger millet which is soaked and shadow dried, then roasted and ground. This preparation is boiled in water ,milk or yogurt. In southern parts of India, it is a recommended food, by doctors, for infants of six months and above because of its high nutritional content. Homemade ragi malt is one of the most popular infant foods till date.
  • Puttu is a traditional breakfast of Kerala, usually made with rice powder together with coconut and steamed in a cylindrical steamer. The same preparation is also made with ragi powder, which makes it more nutritious.
  • Multi grain flour preparation by combining wheat and finger millet in the ratio of 7:3 (wheat: finger millet) is one of the simplest ways of incorporating ragi in the daily diet as no Indian meal is complete without the Indian style bread or roti. Fortification of finger millet in roti is very helpful in controlling glucose levels in diabetic patients efficiently.

      Magical uses of Ragi

      Increases Hemoglobin 
  • Ragi is an excellent plant source of natural Iron. Its consumption helps in Anemia. Vitamin C increases iron absorption. Sprouted ragi develops vitamin C in the process of sprouting, therefore the iron in ragi becomes more bio available when consumed as sprouted ragi flour or ragi malt.Include it in your daily diet and cut out artificial iron tablets or tonics.
       Promotes weight loss
  • Ragi contains an amino acid, Tryptophan which reduces appetite. It has a much higher amount of dietary fiber compared to white rice and other grains. It is also a low fat cereal and most of the fats are in the unsaturated form. This makes it the best choice in grains for people trying to lose weight.
  • The bulkiness of the fibers and the slower digestion rate makes one feel fuller on fewer calories and therefore helps prevent excess caloric consumption.

      Good source of calcium
  • When it comes to calcium, there is no other plant source that comes even close to Ragi. It is loaded with calcium and vitamin D that makes it a vital component for increasing bone strength.
  • Go natural, replace over the counter calcium supplements with ragi porridge that works as a super calcium supplier for growing children,aging people,pregnant ladies,working women etc.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.
  • Instead of popping a pill, you can as well substitute that with ragi porridge. Boil a glass of water, put a spoon of ragi flour into boiling water, add a little salt and let it cool. Drink it with a pinch of salt and butter milk. This will not just cool your body, but also gives you strength.
  • Thus Ragi helps to keep bone problems at bay and could reduce risk of fractures too. Consumption of Ragi helps prevent arthritis and to recover from fractures faster.

       Rich in fiber     
  • The high level of dietary fiber in this cereal aids in proper digestion, normal bowel movement and prevents constipation. The insoluble fibers present in Ragi assists movement of food through the intestines while the insoluble fibers retain water thereby easing the passage of waste. Include it to your daily diet in order to protect your digestive system and avert risks of constipation and other digestive disorders.
  • It is not easily digestible, hence normally consumed by hard manual laborers. The bran of finger millet causes indigestion hence it needs to be soaked, powdered and the bran/husk is removed, then it is dried and consumed to prevent indigestion problems

       Healthy choice for vegans
  • Millet is one of those food grains which are loved by vegans and vegetarians because of the high amount of protein in it. It helps to meet the daily protein requirement from a complex carbohydrate than animal sources. It doesn’t contain extra saturated fats and other unhealthy ingredients that the animal sources contain.

       Diabetes control
  • The low glycemic index in millet slows down the digestion process and keeps the blood sugar level at a constant ratio. Millets increase insulin sensitivity for people suffering with diabetes and also helps to control the sugar levels for non-diabetics especially type2 diabetes. Thus, regular consumption of Ragi can decrease fasting glucose by 32 percent and can eliminate insulin resistance by 43 percent. Hence, Ragi is very beneficial for diabetic patients.
  • 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.

       Mental relaxation
  • The abundance of antioxidants, mainly Tryptophan and amino acids in Ragi help in fighting damage causing free radicals and reducing oxidative stress.One amazing benefit of Ragi is that it helps in relaxing the body naturally.
  • It is found to be beneficial in conditions of anxiety, depression, hypertension, migraine and insomnia. Tryptophan in millet raises the serotonin level in the body which helps with stress reduction. A cup of millet porridge every night can help you to get sound and peaceful sleep.

       Lowers triglycerides
  • Consumption of millet regularly  helps  to decrease triglyceride levels in the body.It thins the blood to prevent blood platelet clumping, thereby reducing the risk of sunstroke and coronary artery disorder.

       Lowers bad cholesterol
  • Vitamin B in millet helps to break down carbohydrates and fat more efficiently. It reduces homo cysteine level in the blood to prevent cholesterol from bonding and forming deposits. Niacin prevents cholesterol from getting into the blood stream and raises high density lipoprotein (HDL) in the blood. This protects the blood vessels from atherosclerosis and hemorrhage.
  • Ragi has been proved to work wonders in bringing down blood cholesterol levels and is one of the best home remedies for heart health. It controls the cholesterol level by reducing plaque formation and preventing blockage of blood vessels thereby cutting down the risk of stroke and other heart diseases. 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.

       Reduces blood pressure
  • Magnesium in millet relaxes the muscles that line the inside of the arterial wall, which helps to reduce blood pressure.

       Reverts skin aging
  • The high amount of antioxidants present in millets fights free radicals present in the body which slows down the ageing process.Lipoic, an antioxidant found in millet, produces valuable anti-inflammatory results by increasing cell metabolism and circulation. This anti-inflammatory property increases blood circulation in the body to reduce acne and fine lines on the skin. Consuming millet helps to retain the natural moisture content in the skin. It makes dull looking, dry skin, healthier and fresher.
  • Millets are rich in Vitamin E, which is an amazing vitamin for the skin. It penetrates through the layers of the skin, assisting the body with the natural wound healing process. It even lubricates the skin and forms a protective layer that serves to keep the free radicals away from the wound. 
  • Scar tissue has a different cell structure than that of healthy skin, making it rigid. Alium, an antioxidant found in millet, boosts the blood flow to scar tissue. It blends in the development of new skin, minimizing the scars. It increases the speed of the skin repair system, firms the skin and prevents further damage.
  • Antioxidants in millets fight stress and neutralize free radicals in the body. This helps reverse the signs of ageing on the skin. It maintains proper health of the skin by rejuvenating skin cells. Ubiquinone in millet is also used in beauty products to reduce wrinkles on the face. Ragi not only helps in maintaining proper health and keeping diseases at bay, but also works wonders for maintaining youthfulness and vitality of skin by blocking premature aging. Ragi can be used to be the most effective natural anti aging drink. 
  • The vital amino acids Methionine and Lysine present in the cereal helps in creation and maintenance of collagen. It is a substance that supports the skin tissues to make it supple and lively thereby making it less prone to wrinkles and sagging.

  • Pregnant and lactating women are advised to consume Ragi as it helps to increase the production of breast milk in the body. This will enable the mother to feed the child for a longer period of time.Ragi proves to be a great cereal for pregnant and lactating women due to its high calcium and iron content.
  • It’s rich in folic acid which helps in brain development of baby and  calcium  in ragi will helps in bone development of child.Ragi is also rich in dietary fiber and hence bowel friendly.

       Improves lactation
  • Ragi is a great source of nutrition for new mothers as it help in improving the hemoglobin levels. Lactating mothers are suggested to include Ragi in their daily diet in order to improve milk production. 
  • It also enriches the milk with all the essential minerals for the body like iron, calcium and vital amino acids that is extremely important for the child as well as the mother.

       Child growth and weaning
  • Due to its high calcium content and easy digestibility, its grains are malted and used for weaning babies.babies. Ragi helps to fulfill the necessary mineral requirement of growing children and therefore helps in proper growth and development.

       Promotes hair growth
  • Millets are rich in protein, a nutrient highly recommended for people suffering from hair loss. Healthy hair requires sufficient intake of protein, as most of the hair itself is made of protein. The protein found within hair cells is known as keratin, which is directly responsible for the composition of each strand of hair. Lack of protein can lead to severe hair loss. Thus, an adequate intake of millets strengthens hair, making it stronger and less prone to breakage.
  • Magnesium in millets reduces inflammation in the scalp to treat scalp conditions like eczema, psoriasis and dandruff. Millet is also beneficial for treating premature balding. Consuming millet will help in ameliorating metabolic syndrome, a health condition which causes premature balding. Millets promote the circulation of blood circulation in the scalp and promote hair growth.
  • Stress increases cortisol level in the body leading to massive hair shedding. Magnesium present in millets control hair loss by reducing cortisol level in the body. Premature graying of hair is caused mainly due to oxidation of the tissues. The potent antioxidants in millets effectively prevent the corrosion of tissues, thereby reducing the possibility of premature graying.

       Women Friendly                    
  • Menopause,the phase of life which no woman can escape from.  Menopause brings with it a great deal of irritation and annoyance which is mainly due to hormonal imbalance. The intensity of menopausal symptoms experienced by every woman varies, depending upon her tolerance level and her other health and nutritional issues.Intake of food like ragi will not only provide nourishment but also prevents osteoporosis which is a very commonly faced problem during menopause. It also helps to keep your mind and body calm.
  • Because of its high level of magnesium, millet is a great food for women who suffer from unbearable pain and cramps during their menstrual cycle.
  • Research has shown that calcium in millets helps reduce irritability and nervousness to some extent. It has also been found to be particularly effective in alleviating symptoms associated with PMS (pre-menstrual stress)
  • Food having low glycemic index and high fiber content is recommended in PCOD. Ragi consumption fulfills both the requirements and it will also control weight gain in the same condition.

       Geriatric tonic
  • The Ragi based foods are highly suited for elderly due to their high calcium and iron content. 
  • Chewing efficiency decreases in old age hence this can be one more reason ragi is recommended in old age as person needs less efforts in chewing ragi if given in the form of porridge.

       Gluten free food
  • Celiac is a disease which damages the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. People who suffer from this disease cannot tolerate gluten. This makes millet a perfect food for them since it is completely gluten-free. It is a wonderful grain alternative for people who are gluten-sensitive. Ragi malt is good for those allergic to milk and dairy products. It is one of the least allergic and most digestible grains.

       Lowers the risk of gall stones
  • Consuming foods high in fiber also prevent the formation of gallstones, especially in women. Insoluble fiber speeds up intestinal transit time and reduces the secretion of bile acids that contribute to the gallstone formation. Several researchers have found that people who consume high amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber have 13% lower risk of developing gallstones when compared to those who don’t.

       Fights diseases/Prevents cancer
  • Millet contains several health friendly nutrients that are required for proper functioning of the body. Iron and copper content in millet is needed for the production of blood cells and to improve blood oxygenation.
  • It also contains phosphorus which is conducive to control blood pressure. These minerals, along with the phyto-nutrients can help build a formidable defense against all types of diseases and cancers.                                                                                                     

  • With its multiple benefits, ragi, the “forgotten food”, always favored by hard working labor classes across India, is fast becoming a sought after Super Food. The finger millet has indeed covered an amazing journey; it started by being considered a coarse grain, especially from the colonial times, to becoming today, in post-colonial times, a grain duly recognized for all it has to offer ecologically, nutritionally and gastronomically, as a true super food, which packs in a powerful punch in its tiny grains.
  • The recent trend of zero figure and lean structure has led to people turning towards fat free diets, vegetables, cereal based meal plans and multi-grain recipes. But most of the packed, ready to eat cereals that are available in the market are loaded with gluten's, sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup. In order to stay healthy and have an envious figure, it is important to choose even your health foods wisely. It’s best to opt for 100% natural and unrefined cereal like Ragi.
  • Excessive dependence on processed and ready to eat foods has increased the risk of chronic diseases in modern urban life. Ragi is more of a rural food that hardly gets prominence in urban diet. But it is high time we renovate our eating habits, go back to the basics and include natural cereals like Ragi in our daily diet in order to have healthy and disease free lives in the long run.
  • It takes only a few weeks for our body to adapt to new kind of food. Be a little patient and soon you’ll start liking the taste of millets, if you don’t already. Incorporate millets into your daily food intake in some form or the other and experience the magical health benefits.

  • It is an extremely nutritional cereal that possesses an overall health. However, high consumption of Ragi is avoided as its high intake could increase quantity oxalic acid in the body; therefore, it is not advisable to patients having kidney stones. 
  • If at all constipation is encountered in some people. In order to overcome this black raisins are soaked in hot water and can be consumed along with finger millet porridge.
  • Millet contains a small amount of goiterogenic substance which restricts iodine absorption in the body leading to goiter and other thyroid complications. Goitrogens in foods are usually reduced by cooking. But in the case of millets, cooking or heating actually increase the goiterogenic effect. Hence, people suffering from hypothyroidism should be careful with their millet intake.
  • Two-three tablespoons of Ragi flour is safe to consume three times a week in the above conditions as per expert advice.

       Stay healthy !


manoj said...

Could you post a menu for kidney stone patients.

Vaishali G Kamat said...

Ragi Pudding / Nachnyache Satva

1 cup ragi seeds
3/4 cup grated jaggery
2 tablespoon grated coconut
1 tsp elaichi powder
2 tablespoon ghee
10 cashew nuts
8 almonds
1/4 tsp salt

Soak the Ragi in 5 cups water for 4 hours.

Cut the nuts into pieces and soak them in little water for 2 hours.

Next day, drain the water. Grind the ragi seeds with grated coconut by adding 1/4 cup water.
Keep on straining till the mixture is clear/almost clear and passes easily through the strainer.

In a heavy bottomed utensil preferably nonstick or aluminium, add the ground mixture.
To this add the jaggery, ghee,boiled nuts and salt.

Keep on stirring on low-medium flame.
While stirring ensure that the mixture does not touch the bottom of the utensil.
Stir till the edges separate.

Grease any container with 1 tablespoon ghee and pour in the mixture.
After cooling, refrigerate it for 4-5 hours.
Cut it into small pieces and serve.

Unknown said...

I have read wheat with ragi/corn is a balancing flour. Is this true?
My mom has been advised to avoid rice by an ayurvedic doc and I am looking at options. My mom thinks ragi will be hard to digest so thats a concern plus you mention its a goitrogen so thats a little worrying.
Can u provide some pointers?

Many thanks for a very informative post.

Vaishali G Kamat said...

No need to worry your mother can have ragi flour with Wheat flour in equal quantity.She can even have ragi malt with milk/coconut milk base. Having the frequency of ragi twice or thrice in a week is ok if she feels it's heavy on her digestive system..

Unknown said...

It is my great pleasure to visit your website and to enjoy your excellent post here. I like that very much. zymactive

Vaishali G Kamat said...

Thanks :)

Unknown said...

Hi mam, my daughter is 11 months old she have only 6.8 Kg she is very slim but she is active.But our concern is how to increase her body weight (birth wt = 3.2 kg) .What type of neutrinos food will feed pl suggest me.
Our daily food:
Morning manna ragi health mix- wont eat
Afternoon white/red rice-eat little
evening fruits apple banana-little
night again rice-little

Nikita said...

I had Thyroid test last week. My TSH level is 4.95. Can we eat raagi/bajra/wheat chapati? Can i have Regular milk tea?

Vaishali G Kamat said...

Yes Nikita you can have all these things but less frequently ( 1-2 times in a week)

Anitha said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful blog! This is so informative. I had a question as well can normal healthy individuals including children eat or drink ragi daily?

Unknown said...

Is ragi bad for hypothyroid people? Since it contains small amounts of goitrogens will the effects be substantial? What if one is taking it then ok to take ragi..?

Shivani said...

I am on diet .. I am having Ragi malt every day n I like it .. can I have it every day ??

Vaishali G Kamat said...

Ragi can be consumed 2-3 times in a week as daily intake can lead to constipation. Ragi is more suitable in cold season compared to warm season.

Anonymous said...

I have high prolactin level, non pregnant.Is it good to have Ragi malt?

Anonymous said...

Hi Madam, Your blog is very informative.I have one doubt Madam, I have Hypothyroid and i am taking daily one tablespoon of ragi flour with buttermilk.You said Ragi contains Goitrogen. Can i take daily one tablespoon of Ragi flour daily or Just 2-3 days with one tablespoon of ragi flour?

Unknown said...

Hello doctor,

Help plz.i have hypothyroid 21.14. And tryglicerides 250..I take ragi sankati from 2 days.lunch.since its goiteric properties should I stop taking or limit it to 2 times a week.please give a diet content to lower to normal all my levels.thank u in advance.

Nazneen said...

My mother is 79 and suffers from parkinsons. She has problem with passing motions. How often can I give her ragi satva?

Unknown said...

Does ragi increse bodily heat ?

Unknown said...

Superb and wbole article on ragi.thank you vaishali

siva Krishna said...

Ragi laddu and ragi jaava are the things which my mom used to give us in the evenings. its been a long time listening to this words. will try to make this Ragi laddu this weekend. Thank you for showing the process.

Vijayalakshmi said...

Is Raagi ball or mudde prepared with cooked rice and Raagi powder good for vata type and does that also reduce weight. Is it easy to digest. Does it constipate?
I want to eat mudde but do not want to loose weight or get constipated. How can I make or eat mudde without getting the side effect?

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