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All about “Millet”, wheat substitute?

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Millet is a cereal native to Africa that is still little used here, although it is more and more easily found on the market. It can replace wheat in gluten-free diets since it lacks this protein.

Features of millet:

  • Source of fiber;
  • Source of vegetable proteins;
  • Source of iron;
  • Source of phosphorus;
  • Source of magnesium.

What is millet?

Millet identity card

  • Type: Cereal;
  • Family: Grasses;
  • Origin: Africa;
  • Season: All year round;
  • Color: Light brown;
  • Flavor: Sweet.

Features of millet

When harvested, the main components of millet grain are the germ, bran and endosperm.

Word from the nutritionist

Millet is a cereal, so it is considered a starchy food. One serving corresponds to approximately 120g of cooked millet.

Nutritional values

For 100g of cooked millet:

Nutrients                                                               Quantities                                                              
Protein 3.51 g
Fat 1 g
Carbohydrates 20.74 g
Water 71.41 g
Fibers 2.93 g
Sodium 2 mg
Phosphorus 100 mg
Calcium 3 mg
Potassium 62 mg
Magnesium 44 mg
Zinc 0.91 mg

Benefits of millet: why eat it?

  1. Animal studies have shown that consumption of millet protein leads to an increase in “good” cholesterol (HDL) compared to a benchmark protein, milk casein. The authors also observed, in a diabetic mouse model, a decrease in insulin and an increase in adiponectin in the blood, two elements associated with a decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. To date, no studies have been performed in humans; it is therefore not possible to validate these results which seem very promising. One thing is certain, millet protein deserves more study, as have soy and fish proteins, whose beneficial effects on blood cholesterol are well established.
  2. One serving of millet fills 13% of daily phosphorus requirements. Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body, after calcium. Aside from its essential role in the formation of bones and teeth, it participates among other things in the growth and regeneration of tissues and helps to maintain the pH of the blood. It is also one of the constituents of cell membranes.
  3. Millet is a source of magnesium. A 125 ml serving of cooked millet meets about 10% of the daily magnesium requirement. Magnesium participates in bone mineralization, protein construction, enzymatic actions, muscle contraction, transmission of nerve impulses, dental health and the functioning of the immune system.
  4. Millet contains zinc and it meets part of the daily needs in adults. Zinc is involved in particular in immune reactions, in the production of genetic material, in the perception of taste, in the healing of wounds and in the development of the fetus. Zinc also interacts with sex and thyroid hormones. In the pancreas, it participates in the synthesis (production), the storage and the release of insulin.
  5. Whole millet grain contains dietary fiber, but in smaller amounts than most other whole grains.

Choose the right millet

Choose the form of millet you need based on how you want to use it.

The different varieties

You can find millet in the bulk food section of supermarkets and in health food stores. It is generally pearl millet, peeled. Flour, semolina, flakes and millet noodles are also found, albeit more rarely.

Keep well

Grains, semolina and flakes: at room temperature for a month, then keep them in the refrigerator.

Flour: in the fridge or freezer.

Millet preparation

How to cook it? How to match it?

Note: rinse the millet seeds well before cooking.

Millet is suitable for many culinary preparations. Steamed, prepared as a porridge, porridge or pudding, added to soups, stuffings and salads, it can also be stir-fried like corn, prepared with meat pies with vegetables or served with tomato sauce. You can also spread it in a gratin dish, cover it with vegetables (for example, zucchini and eggplant slices), a bechamel sauce and grated Gruyère cheese, and put the dish in the oven for about 20 minutes. at 175 ° C (350 ° F).

It is possible to replace wheat flour with millet flour up to 50% in cake mixes and 80% for cookies. Breads, muffins, pancakes, pancakes, tortillas and waffles can also be partly made with millet.
You can sprout whole millet and add it to salads or sautéed vegetables.

In the countries where it is grown, various dishes have emerged over the centuries and have become classics.

  • Koko (fermented porridge): mix two parts of flour for one part of water, cover and allow to ferment for 24 to 48 hours. Then cook gently for about fifteen minutes in three parts of boiling water. Add lemon juice or sour milk (which you will have made sour by pouring the juice of a lemon), honey, maple syrup, dried fruit, or enrich with peanut butter, sesame or almond. You can replace some of the millet flour with corn flour. Rich in “friendly” lactic acid bacteria, this porridge can truly be called a probiotic.
  • Bassi salte (Senegalese couscous): it includes, on the meat side, chicken thighs, beef and lamb or mutton offal; side vegetables, sweet potato, carrot, cabbage and turnip; sauce side, onion and green onions, garlic, leek, tomatoes, tomato puree and hot pepper; side garnishes, raisins, cooked white beans and honey. The vegetables and meat are returned to the oil and then cooked with the sauce ingredients until tender. The millet semolina is steamed over the pan including the meat and vegetables until the grains are well swollen. Place in the middle of a serving plate, take a ladle of sauce, add the honey, stir well and pour over the semolina. Add the raisins and beans to the semolina and stew all around. One can, without problem, omit the meat.

The  dosas  are in

Dosas are the latest trend in Indian food in the West. Large restaurants are dedicated to this giant pancake made of fermented lentils and rice. A variety of side dishes is offered: chutneys, lentil purees, fromage blanc, potatoes and spicy vegetables, etc.

  • Dosa: this very thin Indian pancake is traditionally prepared with rice or millet (in a proportion ranging from 50% to 70%), and a legume (30% to 50%). The two foods are individually soaked for a few hours, then ground, mixed and fermented one to two days with water. When cooking, dilute if necessary with water so as to obtain a light pancake batter, which must be spread in the pan using a brush or a wooden spoon. To save time, you can replace the grains with cereal and legume flours, and omit the soaking step.
  • Rossi, chapada (flat bread): mix millet flour and water, salt lightly, work the dough to soften it and put it to rest for an hour or two warm, covered with a damp cloth. Take dumplings and spread them with a roller, then bake in a pan in a little oil or clarified butter. To vary, add cumin seeds and peppercorns to the preparation.
  • Millet pilaf: sauté the millet grains in a dry pan. Add two or three times their volume of boiling water, coriander seeds, cinnamon, thinly sliced ​​onions in oil, saffron, orange zest, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook 15 to 20 minutes. You can also bake it in the oven; in this case, it takes 40 to 50 minutes of cooking.
  • Stew: serve steamed millet grains with a stew made of cabbage, onion and garlic, boiled in oil and to which will be added thyme, red pepper, curry powder, tomatoes, broth, peanut butter, carrot , rutabaga, potato and chickpeas.

Side effects

Cereals contain anti-nutritional factors, that is, substances that interfere with the absorption and use by the body of important nutrients, such as proteins and minerals.


Phytates are found naturally in all cereals. They have the property of binding to minerals such as calcium, iron and zinc and making them less bioavailable. The amount of phytates in millet is comparable to other grains. When the grain is shelled or ground, the proportion of phytates as well as the quantity of minerals are substantially reduced. Millet, in its refined form, therefore has less negative impact on the absorption of iron and zinc.

Goitrogenic substances

As their name suggests, these compounds cause the onset of goiter by interfering with the production of thyroid hormones. The nutritional impact of goitrogenic compounds is very low in industrialized countries where there is almost no more iodine deficiency, unlike some countries where the diet is very little varied. The goitrogenic substance in whole millet is called thionamide. As it is found in the endosperm and bran, husking and heat treatment of the grain have the effect of considerably reducing the content.

Trypsin inhibitors

Trypsin inhibitors. These inhibitors have been isolated from pearl millet. They can interfere with the assimilation (digestibility) of proteins by the body. Fortunately, they are deactivated by heat and, in human nutrition, millet is always eaten cooked.

History of millet

The term “millet” is a diminutive of “millet”, which derives from the Latin millium, which means “thousand” by allusion to the numerous grains of the plant. The word appeared in the French language in 1256. “Mil” is still widely used in Africa. In Quebec, this last word designates the timothy, a grass cultivated for hay and belonging to a completely different botanical genus.

We call “millet”, generically, several cultivated and wild plants whose grains are used in human food in Asia and Africa, or in animal food in Europe and North America. In various regions, buckwheat, corn or sorghum is called “millet”. However, in general, the word designates pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum), which represents 50% of all world production, as well as common millet (Panicum miliaceum L. subsp. Miliaceum) and bird millet (Setaria italica) , which account for 30%, and finally the finger millet (Eleusine coracana) which represents about 10% of production.

Pearl millet

In Africa, many malt beverages are made from sorghum and millet. These “beers” are considered nutritious rather than intoxicating drinks. Short-lived and low in alcohol, they are rich in vitamins, proteins and minerals.

Pearl millet was domesticated about 4,000 years ago in what is today the heart of the Sahara. Tolerating the extreme desert conditions, he replaced wheat and barley, the cultivation of which was confined to the coastal regions of Africa, where water was more abundant. The sixth largest cereal in the world, it is a staple food in Africa and Asia, while in Europe and America, where its cultivation remains marginal, it is mainly intended for farm animals.

Common millet

Common millet is native to China. Its domestication, which preceded that of wheat, is very old. It was already cultivated 8,000 years ago or 9,000 years ago in Greece and China. In the latter country, it was one of the five sacred plants and, for a long time, it dominated rice. Until the end of the Middle Ages, it played an important role in the diet of Europeans, particularly in the center and the east, before being gradually replaced by the potato. Today, on this continent as in America, it is grown there only as fodder, unlike Asia, where it is a basic cereal. As with pearl millet, hundreds of local varieties have been selected and are still grown today.

The other millets

Other types of millet were domesticated in America, Australia, Africa, Asia and Europe during prehistoric times. For millennia, the small grains of these various botanical species have allowed multitudes to survive, develop and flourish. Some species have disappeared or returned to the wild while others still constitute the staple food in regions of Africa or Asia where the ungrateful soil does not allow any other cereal to be obtained. This is particularly the case for millet of birds and finger millet.

For further

Organic gardening

Like all cereals, millet requires large areas for its cultivation and is therefore hardly suitable for small family vegetable gardens. However, it can be grown as a green manure, especially in flower beds that will receive potatoes the following year. Indeed, it has recently been discovered that it acts against the nematode of lesions (a microscopic worm which attacks vegetables with tubers and roots) and makes it possible to protect the harvest of the following year and to limit the use of chemical nematicides . Sow on the fly when it is no longer likely to freeze (late May, early June in southern Quebec). You can also grow only a few plants of this spectacular plant which is generally considered in the West as an ornamental plant.

Ecology and environment

In Asian and African countries, and particularly their poorest regions, millet and its big cousin, sorghum, provide subsistence food for millions of people. Easy to grow, undemanding, resistant to drought (millet is the most resistant of all cereals), biodiversified and, therefore, adapted to the many ecological niches that characterize these regions of the world, they are also rich in protein, carbohydrates and lipids, while being little or not allergenic.

However, in the province of Anda Pradesh, in the south of India, where 75 million people live, an international development program threatens these traditional cultures. It is proposed to replace them with export crops (cotton, soybeans and rice), whose needs for water as well as chemical fertilizers and pesticides are much higher and are likely to pose significant pollution problems, all by causing an erosion of the genetic biodiversity of local varieties of millet and sorghum. This program also provides for the displacement of 20 million peasants for whom no alternative means of employment and income have been foreseen.

Finally, NGOs are wondering what the local population will eat, which currently benefits from healthy, nutritious food (particularly rich in tryptophans and cystine) and tasty, while the crops that we plan to establish are intended for animal feed and for the manufacture of alcohol for industrial use.

For all these reasons, nearly 140 groups from all over the state have formed the Andra Pradesh Diversity Defense Coalition to defend their desire to preserve traditional cultures which allow them to adequately feed the population without exhausting soils, rather than turning entirely to polluting export crops, which are a source of foreign exchange for only a few privileged few and deprive a large part of the population of work, income and food.

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