Bajra For Health: Pearl Millet Uses, Benefits, Side Effects
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The world today is increasingly becoming interested in millets thanks to their incredible health benefits. In fact, given that 2023 has been designated as the International Year of Millets by the United Nations, the focus is now even more on understanding the health benefits of millets. One such delicious and ancient millet you should know more about is Bajra. Bajra, also known as Pearl Millet, is one of the most ancient grains of India. According to the Central Council For Research In Ayurvedic Sciences, Bajra is an ancient millet that is mentioned in Ayurvedic texts like Nali under the list of Trunadhanya or Kudhanyavarga foods. 

So, grown in the semi-arid regions of the Indian subcontinent for centuries, the use of Bajra as a crucial component of Indian agricultural and culinary heritage is well known. Bajra is well-suited for cultivation in India’s regions with hot and dry summers, which is why states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana and Maharashtra produce pearl millet as a major crop. In these regions, farmers usually sow bajra seeds in early summer and the harvest is usually reaped in the monsoon and fall seasons. Because it doesn’t require much rainfall or water, Bajra is a hardy and resilient crop which also comes in handy during times of drought and food shortage. 

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Bajra Nutritional Content: Expert Opinions 

“Millets in general are supremely beneficial for one’s health and they definitely should be added to your daily diet or as often as possible,” says Nisha Singh, Clinical Nutritionist, Integrative Sports Dietitian, Founder of NutriWellness by Nisha Singh. “If we talk about Bajra in particular, its health benefits are many. If someone were to follow the traditional and seasonal cooking practices of India, then Bajra provides a lot of heat to the body, which is why Bajra was always the preferred millet to be used during winters. Bajra is also hyperlocal, so are bodies can easily adapt to it and assimilate the nutrients from it more easily.” 

Despite being a plant-based source of nutrition, Singh says that 100 grams of cooked Bajra roughly has the same quality and quantity of nutrition as 100 grams of eggs would, making it a great source of essential nutrients for vegetarians, vegans and everybody else alike. According to the US Department of Agriculture’s plant database, 170 grams of cooked Bajra has 201 calories, 6 grams of protein, 1.7 grams of fat, 40 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, and plenty of sodium, folate, iron, magnesium, thiamine, niacin, phosphorous, zinc, riboflavin and vitamin B6. 

Benefits Of Eating Bajra or Pearl Millet 

Want to add Bajra or pearl millets to your diet for nutrition? Here are some excellent health benefits you can gain from eating bajra. 

1. Powerhouse of Protein: “Bajra is a good source of protein, comparable almost to an egg,” Singh says. “So, 100 grams of cooked Bajra would roughly provide the same protein as 100 grams of boiled eggs would.” This works really well for those hoping to build or maintain muscle mass. 

2. Rich in Nutrients: Singh says that Bajra is loaded with essential minerals like iron, magnesium, copper, phosphorous and manganese. Bajra also has plenty of B vitamins, like niacin, thiamine and B6. Together, these nutrients are crucial if you want to maintain overall health and immunity. 

3. High in Fiber: An excellent source of dietary fibre, Bajra, Singh says, is very easy to digest and appetising. Not only is Bajra delicious with a nutty flavour, but also adds bulk to stool, promotes bowel movements and keeps the gut healthy. 

4. Weight Management: Singh says that various aspects of Bajra’s nutritional value combine to make this dish incredibly beneficial for weight management. Because it has a high fiber content and low glycaemic index, Bajra can not only keep you fuller for longer but also control your appetite and reduce calorie intake. 

5. Gluten-Free: For those with gluten allergies and insensitivities, Bajra is perfectly healthy for consumption. Because it is naturally gluten-free, Bajra is a safe alternative to wheat and other grains for those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. 

6. Blood Sugar Check: Bajra has a low glycemic index or GI, which can be quite the boon for those with blood sugar issues. “Bajra is very good for blood sugar control and prevents sharp sugar spikes, which is great for those with diabetes,” Singh says. 

7. Heart Health: “Bajra is great for is great for heart health because it helps with cholesterol management,” Singh says. Minerals like magnesium in the Bajra grains can not only help relax blood vessels and keep blood pressure in check, but also lower bad cholesterol levels to improve heart health. 

8. Antioxidant Properties: Singh says that Bajra is great for your skin, hair and nails for a number of reasons. Apart from protein, which helps with collagen production, Bajra also contains plenty of antioxidants like polyphenols and flavonoids which reduce oxidative stress and help slow the age-related signs of ageing. 

Side Effects Of Eating Bajra: Some Details To Know 

While Bajra and other millets grown across India are usually considered to be good for health, eating them can also cause some side effects. For example, Singh says that Bajra is a warm food and if you overeat it or eat it every day, it can cause some health problems too. “The problem is that when you find out a particular food is very healthy, people start eating it on a daily basis,” she explains. “If you are overeating Bajra or any millets for that matter, it can cause discomfort and bloating.” So, here are some common side effects of eating Bajra that you should know about. 

1. Antinutrient Content: While Bajra or pearl millet is loaded with nutrients listed above, it also has a prominent antinutrient called phytic acid, which can bind with iron, zinc and other minerals and stop their absorption in the body. Sprouting or fermenting Bajra can help reduce the phytic acid amount. 

2. Digestive Issues: Those with digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease, foods with a high fiber content can lead to digestive discomfort and other symptoms. So, eating Bajra when you have these pre-existing conditions can be counter-productive. 

3. Kidney Stones: Quite like the harmful phytic acid, Bajra is also rich in oxalates which can lead to the fomation of kidney stones. For those with a history of kidney stones and urinary tract problems, eating high-oxalate Bajra can therefore be harmful.   

4. Goitrogenic Properties: Goitrogens are compounds that interfere with iodine absorption and some studies say that millets are rich in these compounds. For those with thyroid issues, eating excessin=ve Bajra may cause negative health effects.  

5. Stomach Issues: As mentioned before, Bajra is a warm food that can generate a lot of heat in the body. While this might help in winters, excess Bajra consumption during hot months can cause gas, flatulence, bloating and even loose motions. 

Uses Of Bajra: Know How Much Pearl Millet To Eat 

Now that you know all the benefits and side effects of eating Bajra or pearl millet as a part of your regular diet, here is how much you should be eating according to our expert. “A single serving of 30 grams of Bajra should be sufficient for Bajra consumption two to three times a week,” Singh says. “You can use Bajra flour to make rotis or bhakris, and these must always be topped with a little bit of ghee.” 

Now, if you are wondering about the culinary uses of Bajra or pearl millet, then here are some easy ways to cook up a nutritious storm with the millet. 

1. Salads: Boiled or sprouted Bajra can be used to make the healthiest, vegetable-loaded salads in the world.  

2. Flatbreads: From rotis and bhakris to multigrain bread, tacos and even pizza base, Bajra flour can be used to whip up plenty of homemade flatbreads. 

3. Khichdi Or Porridge: Boil the Bajra grains until mushy and you have the perfect base for a simple and healthy Khichdi or Porridge. 

4. Puffed Grains: Bajra grains turn puffy and crispy when dry roasted over time like popcorn. This puffed Bajra can be used to make plenty of healthy snacks. 

5. Sweets: Bajra grains and flour can be used to make everything from Kheer to sweet pancakes with ease, though excess sugar consumption is not good for health.