Millets as an Integral Part of Nutritional Diet in India

Millets as an Integral Part of Nutritional Diet in India

T. K. Hrideek (Kerala Forest Research Institute, India) and K. U. K. Nampoothiri (Central Plantation Crops Research Institute, India)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5207-9.ch007
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Millets are small grained cereals belonging to the family Gramineae and they include major millets and minor millets. Millets are quite important from the point of food and nutritional security at regional and house hold level. In India's dry lands, they play a significant role in meeting food and fodder requirements of farming communities. Millets are found to have high nutritive value comparable and even superior to major cereals with respect to protein, energy, vitamins and minerals. They are also rich sources of phytochemicals and micronutrients. Since millet is gluten-free, it is an excellent option for the people who are suffering from atherosclerosis, diabetics and heart disease. In the face of increasing population and stagnant wheat and rice production, millets can be a promising alternative in solving the problem of food insecurity and malnutrition, because of their sustainability in adverse agro-climatic conditions. These crops have substantive potential in broadening the genetic diversity of the food basket and ensuring improved food and nutrition security.
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NABARD (2007) summarized the history of millets as follows: From African highlands finger millet was taken to India about 3000 years ago and to Europe at the beginning of the Christian era. Later, the crop was widely distributed both in many African countries as well as in the Indian subcontinent. They have been a part of the human food system from time immemorial. Many types of millets have been found in Harrapa and Mohenjadaro archaeological sites. Africans were known to use millets in their myriad culinary courses. The leader of the Shang Dynasty in the 2nd millennium BC was known as Hou Chi, ‘The ruler of Millet’. Indian vedic scriptures like Sathapatha Brahmana have ample references to millets. Kalidasa, in his legendary literary masterpiece ‘Shakuntala’, has sage Kanva pouring foxtail millet while bidding farewell to Shakuntala in Dushanta’s court.

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