Indian cuisine, while still dominated by certain popular crops such as wheat and rice, is nowadays diversifying, to include a myriad variety of millets – with ragi becoming a favourite among all age groups. Although numerous unique types of millet and legume plant produce were a staple agricultural and food in ancient times, they gradually diminished in use due to widespread cultivation of rice and wheat. However, owing to their immense nutritional content, remarkable health merits and the emphasis on incorporating nourishing millets in the diet by the United Nations, ragi has made a significant comeback to desi kitchens across all parts of India.
Scientifically termed as Eleusine coracana, ragi is an annually cultivated cereal crop that thrives in any geological landmass in optimal as well as extreme weather such as drought conditions. The common English name of ragi is finger millet, as the top portion of the grains hold five demarcated spike-shaped projections, which resemble the five fingers in the hands. Known as “Ragi” in Hindi and Kannada, the other local names include “Kezhvaragu” in Tamil, “Nachni” in Marathi and “Taidalu” in Telugu. Belonging to the botanical family of Gramineae plants, ragi is a grass with a height of up to 2 meters, comprising narrow, green leaves and seeds in the form of florets, in shades of red, brown, purple.
The seeds from this flourishing grass are separated carefully, then dried thoroughly, cleaned of debris, dirt and stocked in the form of grains. Ragi is commercially packed and sold in two forms – the small, rounded reddish-brown grains or fine, milled and malted flour. Thereby, this makes it effortless to incorporate ragi in several standard desi recipes of dosas, chapatis, idlis, puttu, in addition to sweet dishes like halwa, barfi and kheer. Nevertheless, besides its extensive availability and ease of cooking, ragi also offers a multitude of beneficial nurturing elements and fantastic wellness incentives, truly making it a super-food for overall wellbeing.
Nutritional Content Of Ragi:
Ragi is bestowed with a plethora of essential nutrients – carbohydrates, calories for energy needs, proteins for growth, development and polyphenols, healthy fats for metabolism. Moreover, it is an excellent source of dietary fibers for promoting digestion. With almost zero cholesterol and sodium content, is it heart-friendly as well.
Packed with ample amounts of vitamin C and vitamin E, ragi elevates immunity, enriched skin, hair texture and delivers protective antioxidant functions in the body. It is rich in vitamin B1, B2, B3 and folic acid, as well as vital minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and iron, for enhanced bone strength and red blood cell synthesis in the system.
This array of valuable constituents in ragi make it a superfood, to be eaten as part of routine diet by people of all ages and reap the umpteen benefits it confers for overall health, wellness.
Health Benefits Of Adding Ragi To Regular Diet:
Controls Blood Sugar Levels
Indeed ragi contains vast quantities of carbs, calories which increase sugar concentrations in the system, but it is also infused with tannins, phytates and other polyphenol antioxidants, which facilitate smooth digestion and keep blood glucose levels in check. Also imbued with dietary fibers, proteins, ragi is a rather nutritious option for people with diabetes, assisting in maintaining normal body weight, active energy metabolism and enriched gut wellness.
Augments Cardiac Functions
Possessing negligible amounts of cholesterol and sodium, ragi is a wonderful plant source of proteins, healthy fats in regular food, aside from serving as a nutrient-dense cereal grain for those with heart ailments. Furthermore, ragi is also inherently high in vitamin B3 content, which efficiently increases good HDL cholesterol and decreases bad LDL cholesterol in blood, to avert instances of excess fat accumulation clogging heart blood vessels, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and ensure optimal heart muscle operations.
Supports Gluten-Free Diet
Many individuals acquire a high sensitivity to the gluten proteins in wheat, giving rise to celiac disease. Hence, ragi is a pure, plant-based cereal crop devoid of any gluten and can be easily substituted for wheat in gluten-free meal plans. Since ragi is loaded with complex carbohydrates and dietary fibers, only measured portions of the grain must be consumed on a daily basis by those with gluten intolerance, to prevent indigestion issues and uplift overall wellness.
Improves Blood Circulation
Blessed with the goodness of key trace mineral iron and folic acid i.e. vitamin B9, ragi confers noteworthy advantages for assuring the healthy red blood cell synthesis in the body. It also guarantees proper supply of nutrients to other organs, tissues in the system, to assure their healthy functioning. Ragi efficiently treats iron deficiency conditions and offers sufficient amounts of calories to improve stamina and lower fatigue, exhaustion, lethargy caused due to anemia.
Supplies Resilient Bones
Ragi is instilled with copious volumes of the bone-fortifying minerals – calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. These work in synergy, to increase bone mineral density, enhance joint flexibility, elevate muscle function, for uplifted health of structural and connective organs, tissues in the body. In addition, consuming ragi in controlled quantities as part of routine diet aids in lowering the risk of encountering debilitating illnesses such as arthritis, osteoporosis in later years, by toughening bones, joints.