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Millets

Grain-processing of millets raises new concerns in the consumption of millets.

Context:- Grain-processing of millets raises new concerns in the consumption of millets.

  • Millets are a group of cereal grains that belong to the Poaceae family (grass family).
  • Millets are primarily grown during the kharif season in rainfed areas as these crops require less water and agricultural inputs than other cereals.
  • As proposed by India, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has declared 2023 as International Year of Millets (IYM).
  • Nutrients – The nutritional content of millets includes carbohydrates, proteins, fibre, amino acids, and various minerals.
  • Different millet varieties have different nutrient profiles.
Millet VarietyRich in
Pearl milletHigher protein content than rice, maize, and sorghum
Foxtail milletAmino acid lysine
Finger milletMore crude fibre than wheat and rice
Proso milletAmino acids leucine, isoleucine, and methionine
  • Processing of Millets – ‘Whole grain’ refers to the endosperm, germ, and bran (pericarp + aleurone) whereas ‘refined grain’ refers only to the endosperm.
  • Each millet kernel consists of 3 major parts, called pericarp, endosperm, and germ.
  • The pericarp has an outer covering called the husk.
  • The husk and the pericarp together protect the kernel from inhospitable ambient conditions, disease, and physical damage.
  • The husk is removed from the grains because it is composed of cellulosic matter that the human body can’t digest.
  • Decortication of Grain – Removes any other outer covering and expose the seed.
  • Both mechanical and hand-worked removescrude and dietary fibre.
  • Milling – Grinding the grains into flour, and sieving to remove large ‘impurities’, including bran.
  • Sieving makes the flour more digestible and its nutrients more accessible to the body but reduced nutrient content due to the loss of bran.
  • The longer the grains were milled, the more protein, fat, and fibre contents the process removed.
  • Polishing – Polishing is the process where the bran and the germ are rubbed off.
  • For example, brown rice is changed to white rice by polishing.
  • Effects of polishing – Processing and preparing millets for consumption can affect nutrients in three ways:
    • Enhance them
    • Suppress/remove them
    • Ignore them
  • Polishing which removes 8-10% of grain weight also removed 60-80% of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese in both varieties.
  • The loss of bran also compromised the grains’ fibre content.

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