Ragi (Eleusine coracana) is a type of whole-grain food that is considered one of the most nutritious in the world. It is a cereal grain that’s mostly grown in India and eaten throughout Asia. It’s also a common grain in Africa.

Ragi has a high protein content, and low glycemic index, and is rich in fiber, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and riboflavin. It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and is gluten-free. 

When consumed regularly, it can boost cardiovascular health, promote weight loss, and boost digestive health.

See also, Benefits of Teff and Health Benefits of Amaranth

Millet grain in a spoon with brown background

What is Ragi?

Ragi is a type of red-colored millet also known as finger millet. It’s largely grown in the southern states of India, where it has been consumed for thousands of years. 

The husk of finger millet is removed by milling or winnowing before it can be used in recipes.

The bran and germ of finger millet are high in dietary fiber and contain several health-promoting compounds such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, and zinc.

Ragi has a neutral taste and can be used in many dishes, including as breakfast cereal or couscous. It can also be made into flour which can be used to make porridge and various types of breads and pastries.

Ragi flour is an excellent source of important nutrients, including the B vitamins like folate and thiamine, which are essential for cell growth.

Health Benefits of ragi

1. Reduces the risk of heart disease

Heart disease is a broad term that refers to many different heart disorders. These disorders can damage the heart muscle, leading to heart failure or death. Heart disease can also cause other problems, such as stroke and pulmonary embolism.

Heart disease is caused by a combination of lifestyle choices and genes. The most important thing you can do to reduce your risk is to maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, avoid smoking, and follow a healthy diet.

Whole grains like finger millet have generally been shown to lower the risk of heart disease in various ways.

For one, they are high in soluble fiber, which has been shown to lower bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood. This prevents plaque formation, which then prevents atherosclerosis or the hardening of arteries.

Finger millet is also high in magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, which are all essential for heart health. Magnesium is especially important because it helps to keep the heart muscle cells relaxed and functioning properly.

2. Prevents type 2 diabetes

Diabetes type 2 is a chronic disease that occurs when the body cannot control the level of sugar in the blood. This can happen because the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or because the body can’t use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. 

So eating foods that are low in calories and sugar can help keep sugar levels within normal range and prevent diabetes.

Finger millet has a low glycemic index, meaning it does not raise blood sugar levels as quickly as other foods. 

It also has a high fiber content, which can help slow down glucose release into the bloodstream. 

In addition, millet is a good source of magnesium, a mineral that promotes blood sugar regulation and improves insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes.

3. Supports digestive health

Digestive health is important for overall well-being. Without a healthy digestive system, you can’t absorb nutrients from food, and your body can’t detoxify properly. 

Digestive problems can also lead to a number of other health issues, including inflammation, weight gain, and diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Millet is a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which can help promote a healthy digestive system by maintaining regularity and reducing constipation and other digestive issues. 

Finger millet is also rich in prebiotics which helps feed probiotics (the good gut bacteria). This, in turn, promotes healthy digestion, nutrient absorption, and improved immunity.

4. It’s rich in potassium

The high amount of potassium in finger millet can help prevent high blood pressure, regulate nerve and muscle function, prevent heart disease, and improve blood sugar control.

5. Strengthens bones

Finger millet contains a lot of calcium and magnesium, which are essential for bone health. Additionally, finger millet has other nutrients, including vitamin B6, that support the body’s ability to absorb minerals and vitamins.

6. Prevents anemia

Anemia is a condition in which there is a shortage of red blood cells (RBCs). There are many types of anemia, but the most common is iron-deficiency anemia.

Iron is essential for the formation of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.

Finger millet is a good source of iron, and it can help prevent anemia in people who are deficient in this mineral.

7. Good for pregnancy

Folate and iron are important nutrients for pregnant women. 

Folate is important for the development of the neural tube and can help reduce the risk of major birth defects in the baby’s brain and spine, while iron helps carry oxygen to the baby’s cells. 

In addition, folate and iron may play a role in reducing heart disease risk in later life.

Finger millet is a good source of both folate and iron and can promote a healthy pregnancy as well as a healthy mother and child.

8. Promotes weight loss

Regular consumption of ragi can help you lose weight. This is because finger millet is a good source of fiber, which can help you feel fuller longer, thus preventing unnecessary snacking or overeating that can lead to weight gain.

Fiber also regulates blood sugar levels which can help keep your energy levels stable throughout the day.

Another reason is that finger millet is a good source of protein. Protein promotes weight loss in a few ways:

  1. It helps you feel fuller longer after eating, which helps you control portions and eat fewer calories.
  2. Protein helps you feel more satisfied with your food, so you’re less likely to overeat.
  3. Protein can help speed up your metabolism and help you burn more calories.
  4. Protein can help curb cravings for unhealthy foods.

9. It’s rich in antioxidants

There are many health benefits to consuming antioxidants, including reducing the risk of diseases such as cancer and heart disease. One type of antioxidant found in many plant-based foods is called a flavonoid. Finger millet is a rich source of flavonoids, which makes it an excellent choice for those looking to increase their antioxidant intake.

Flavonoids are potent antioxidants and have been shown to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. They also help prevent cell damage caused by other toxins and pollutants.

Ragi is also rich in other antioxidant compounds, like phenolic compounds, which have also been shown to protect cells against damage.

10. Fights inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or illness. It helps the body heal and protect itself. However, inflammation can lead to pain, redness, and swelling, and if not controlled, chronic inflammation can result in the development of various diseases.

Some of the nutrients that finger millet contains that help to prevent inflammation include fiber, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin B6.

These nutrients work together to help protect the body from the harmful effects of inflammation, which can include pain relief, improved joint function, and quicker healing.

Other grains to read about

  1. Foxtail Millet
  2. Gluten-Free?
  3. Benefits of Oatmeal
  4. Is Quinoa Gluten-Free?
  5. Is Buckwheat Gluten-Free?
  6. Is Popcorn Gluten-Free?

 

How to Cook Ragi

To cook finger millet grains, rinse the grains in a fine mesh strainer

In a large pot or Dutch oven, add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. You can also use vegetable broth for added flavor and benefits. 

Add the rinsed grains and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30-35 minutes or until tender and fluffy.

Fluff with a fork and let it sit covered for another 10 minutes before serving.

Cooked finger millet grains can be used in many different recipes, including as a substitute for regular rice. You can use them in place of brown or white rice in stir-fries, soups, and side dishes.

Ragi Flour Recipes

There are many ways to use finger millet flour in cooking. Some of the most popular recipes that use this flour include:

1. Ragi Porridge

Combine four tablespoons of ragi flour with 2 cups of water in a pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes or until the porridge is thickened. Top with fresh fruit, nuts, or honey if desired.

2. Use it as a replacement for other flours in baking recipes

If you’re trying to reduce the amount of unhealthy flour in your recipes, using finger millet flour can be a great way to do that. 

It has a mild flavor and doesn’t add too much moisture, so it can be used as an alternative to wheat flour, cornmeal, or other ground grains.

3. Add it to soups and stews for a hearty texture

Finger millet is a high-fiber grain that will help thicken and add body to your soup or stew.

Also, its mild flavor can easily take on the flavors of the other ingredients. Try adding it to Indian dal or lentil soup for a healthy, hearty meal.

4. Mix it with other flours to create unique recipes

You can use finger millet flour to create more traditional recipes like bread recipes by mixing it with other regular flour. For example, try adding finger millet flour to your regular bread recipe for enhanced color, taste, and nutrition.

5. Make cookies and other pastries

Finger millet flour can be used to make cookies, brownies, and other sweet treats. The subtle flavor of the flour makes these desserts taste like they have more depth than they would with other types of flour.

6. Polenta

Polenta is a type of cornmeal that can be used as a breakfast cereal, side dish, or dessert. 

It can be made from any form of cornmeal, but there are several types of polenta that use different methods and ingredients. 

Finger millet flour is one type of polenta flour and can be used to make both savory and sweet polenta recipes.

To make savory polenta, boil water in a large pot and add salt. Then slowly add ragi flour while constantly stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula. 

Once the polenta begins to thicken, reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for about 20 minutes, stirring every 5-6 minutes. 

Serve as is or top with cheese and roasted tomatoes or sautéed mushrooms.

To make sweet polenta, the steps are the same but instead of salt, add maple syrup or any other natural sweetener. Top it with salty caramelized pears or any other toppings of choice, and enjoy.

Instead of water, you can opt to use plant-based milk richer texture. 

7. As a healthy replacement for wheat flour in baking recipes

Finger millet flour can be used in place of wheat flour in most baking recipes. It has a mild flavor that goes well with any ingredient and is high in fiber, which makes it a healthy replacement for wheat flour. 

Millet is also gluten-free, so it can be used to replace bread flour in many gluten-free recipes.

Other Millet Recipes to Try

  1. Millet Porridge 
  2. Black Bean and Millet Salad
  3. Millet Tabouli
  4. Coconut Millet

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a healthy, filling grain that’s low in calories and easy to digest, look no further than ragi (or finger millet). 

Ragi is a gluten-free grain that has been used as a food staple in India for centuries. Not only is ragi high in fiber and nutrients, but it also contains several health benefits that make it an ideal choice for people of all ages.

It can improve digestive health, lower cholesterol, promote weight loss, maintain healthy bones, support a healthy pregnancy, and regulate blood sugar levels, which makes it an ideal choice for people with diabetes or other metabolic conditions. 

Additionally, ragi is a good source of minerals such as magnesium, copper, and manganese, which are important for overall health.

It’s also a good source of antioxidants which can help fight free radicals that can damage cells.

Ragi is also easy to incorporate into the diet, and with the examples above, you can easily include this grain in your regular meals.

 

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