Millet is a grain-like food that has been used throughout history as a staple in some countries. Today it is gaining popularity around the world. Its versatility makes it a great substitute for other common grains. In addition, its unique nutrient profile makes it a good source of necessary minerals that will complement any healthy diet.
The origin and history of millet is linked to Ethiopia where it is used to make a flatbread called "injera" and India where it is used in the flatbread "roti." At one time is also served as a staple grain in parts of Europe. Throughout the U.S. it is most commonly found as a component of birdseed, but is beginning to show up on store shelves for human consumption due to its many health benefits.
Millet is gluten-free and safe to eat for those who suffer from Celiac disease or for those who experience gluten sensitivity. It is a healthy alternative to gluten containing grains such as wheat. Millet is most recognized nutritionally for being a good source of the minerals magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. Research has linked magnesium to a reduced risk for heart attack and phosphorus is important for the development of body tissue and energy metabolism.
If you have ever seen common birdseed it is likely that you have seen millet; a small, round grain-like seed. Millet is, in fact, a seed, but because of its nutritional components and the way it is used in cooking, it is classified as a grain. Millet comes in a variety of colors often including white, gray, red and yellow. When shopping for millet you will most likely find the pearled, hulled variety.
Millet can be used in a variety of ways and is a great substitute for other grains such as couscous or rice. Cooking millet with less water will result in a rice-like grain. Millet can be made creamier and almost like mashed potatoes when more water is added during the cooking process. Cooked millet can replace hot cereals such as oatmeal for a different breakfast option. To add a nutritional boost to your baked goods, millet can be ground into a very fine texture and added during the preparation of the batter.
Millet is still catching on as a food for humans throughout the U.S. It may not be readily available at all supermarkets. Many smaller health food stores do carry millet. If you are struggling to find it, talk with your local grocer about special ordering it or order it online. Substitute millet for some of your regular grains each week to benefit from its nutrients and to add variety to your healthy diet.