Pearl millet is one of the oldest cultivated grains that has been grown in the region of Africa as well as Southeast Asia. The name Bajra is a traditional Hindi name for the pearl millet. It is known by many names depending upon the country and region. It is the main source of nutrition in the region that is the main producer of this grain. It is not only limited to these two regions but now it has been grown and consumed by different parts of the world as well. The pearl millet can be found in different colors, for instance, they are grown in shades of white, yellow, grey, brown, and bluish-purple. Bajra or the pearl millet is a seed of the pearl millet plants. These seeds are edible in nature and hence they are typically cooked as a cereal grain and sometimes they are finely ground and used as flour.
Pearl millet became quite popular in the West because they are rich in protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Furthermore, they are gluten-free. That is the plus point, or we can say the main reason behind their popularity.
Attributes of the Pearl Millet (Barja)
Pearl millet is a small round whole grain that is grown in India, Nigeria, and other Asian and African countries. It is considered one of the oldest grains that have been used for both the consumption of humans as well as feed for livestock or birds. There are multiple advantages of pearl millet but one of its important aspects is that it can survive in harsh environments and has less fertile soil. The crop belongs to the Pinaceae family, they differ in color, appearance, and species. The Bajra (pearl millet) is divided into two subcategories;
- Major millets – major millets include:
- Proso (or white)
- Minor millets – minor millet includes:
- Brown top
- Adlay (or job’s tears)
Pearl millet is one of the most widely produced types of major millet and it is a variety of major millets intended for human consumption. Therefore, we can say that millet is a type of cereal grain that is small and hard. It belongs to the grass family. One of the best things about millet is that it can survive in harsh weather conditions and environments. Millets are considered a major food component. Various traditional foods and beverages such as roti (tortilla), bread (fermented or unfermented), porridge, baby foods, millet wine, millet nutrition powder, etc. are made up of millets.
Nutritional insights of the Bajra (Pearl Millet)
The nutritional insights of the Pearl Millet (Bajra) or the Pearl Millet considering 1 cup that is about 170 grams can be described in the following points; 
- It contains about 201 calories.
- The protein value is 6 grams.
- The fat in the given quantity of bajra is 1.7 grams.
- The carbs are 40 grams.
- Fibers are 2 grams.
- The content of sodium is about 286 grams.
- Folate content value is about 8% of the daily value.
- Iron content value is about 6% of the daily value.
- Magnesium content value is about 18% of the daily value.
- Thiamine content value is about 15% of the daily value.
- Niacin’s content value is 14% of the daily value.
- Phosphorus content value is 14% of the daily value.
- Zinc content is about 14% of the daily value.
- Riboflavin content is about 11% of the daily value.
- Vitamin B6 content is about 11% of the daily value.
Therefore, we can summarize by saying that cooked millet is a good source of protein as well as carbs. Moreover, they are also a good source of fiber, iron, and zinc. The good number of vitamins and minerals available also plays a vital role in making it more beneficial. It is gluten-free, with antioxidants, polyphenols, and phytochemicals, all of these are important to maintain a sustainable human health condition .
What are the health benefits of Pearl Millet (Bajra)?
Millet is rich in nutrients and plant compounds. Therefore, it may offer multiple health benefits.
- It acts as a probiotic as well as prebiotic
- Probiotic – Probiotics are “living microorganisms” that when administered in the proper amount results in a health benefit for the host.
- Prebiotic – Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth and activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon.
- Millets have certain properties that are essential and helpful to prevent many health problems. Health problems that include;
- It helps in lowering blood pressure.
- It helps in lowering the risk of heart disease. Because they are a good source of magnesium that is known to be capable of reducing the effects of migraine and heart attack.
- It also helps in the prevention of cancer. As they are known to be rich in phenolic acids, tannins, and phytate all these acts as “antinutrients.” Therefore, these antinutrients reduce the risk for colon and breast cancer in animals.
- It helps in lowering the chances of cardiovascular diseases.
- It also helps in decreasing the number of tumor cases.
- It helps in increasing the time span of gastric emptying.
- It also provides roughage to the gastrointestinal.
- It is an alkaline-forming food hence, Alkaline based diet is often recommended to achieve optimal health, meaning when it combines with digestive enzymes. The soothing alkaline nature of millet helps to maintain a healthy pH balance in the body, crucial to preventing illnesses.
- It also helps in reducing the problem of diabetes.
- It also helps in reducing the problem of celiac disease because it is gluten-free therefore, an ideal option for people who are suffering from celiac disease (it is an immune-mediated enteropathy triggered by the ingestion of gluten in genetically susceptible individuals).
Apart from these benefits, pearl millet or bajra also has key features like;
- They are rich in antioxidants. – antioxidants are important for the human body as they lower the effect of oxidative stress in the human body.
- They might help in lowering cholesterol.
- They are considered to be a gluten-free diet.
- It also helps with weight loss.
- It also contains nutrients that may support healthy hair, skin, and nails.
How to cook Pearl Millet (Bajra)?
Bajra is regarded as a versatile ingredient that can be used to replace rice, quinoa, oats, and other grains in many dishes. For instance, they can be cooked like couscous or quinoa. Ground millet makes a great substitute for, or addition to, whole wheat flour in baked goods. Puffed millet can be eaten as a snack or used as a substitute for puffed rice. You can easily find pearl millet (bajra) in any supermarket or in health stores. As for the preparation you can;
- Soak them overnight before cooking, this will lower their antinutrient content.
- Take 1 cup of Bajra (millet) which is about 170 grams.
- Add 2 cups of water to it which is about 480 ml. After that, boil it for about 20 minutes. This results in cooking a nice fluffy grain.
- If you want your bajra (millet) to be more like porridge, you can also add up to 1 additional cup (237 mL) of water, dairy, or broth for that.
- Research also sums up that it is found that pearl millet flour that was fermented and frozen for 2 days had a 30% increase in levels of some phenolic compounds. Phenolic compounds are chemicals in plants that help your body respond to aging, inflammation, and chronic disease
Apart from this, you can also use it as flour. In fact, research that has been conducted shows that making baked goods with millet flour significantly enhances their nutritional profile by increasing their antioxidant content .
Are there any risk factors for eating Pearl Millet (Bajra)?
There are no such risk factors of eating pearl millet (bajra) but there are certain facts that are considered to be important while consuming a moderate amount of the bajra or millet there is only one risk factor, and it can be elaborated here;
- They have antinutrients that might block the absorption of other important nutrients.
Hence, to avoid such problems you always need to soak them overnight prior to cooking.
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