Foxtail Millet – Nutrition Facts, Health Benefits, Side Effects

Foxtail millet (botanical name – Setaria italica), also known as Setaria or Italian millet, is a common food in parts of India. It was a staple diet among the people of ancient India.

According to scientists, this grain is so old that no wild plant of the species is known to exist today. It is a relatively drought-tolerant crop compared to other grains. In the present day, this cereal is grown in southern Europe, North Africa, America, and Asia. It grows very fast and matures in about 75–80 days.

Setaria italica grains are approximately 2 mm in length and the glumes can be red, white,  brown, yellow, or black.

Nutrition Facts

It is a good source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamin E, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B9 (folate), pantothenic acid, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, copper, manganese. In addition, it is gluten-free and non-allergenic which makes it an ideal food for sensitive individuals.

Health Benefits

Cardiovascular Health

This grain is an excellent source of potassium. The main functions of potassium in the human body include controlling the electrical activity of the heart and regulating fluid balance. Also, this mineral plays an important role in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and healthy blood pressure in the human body.

A potassium deficiency includes the following symptoms:

  • severe headaches;
  • anemia;
  • heart palpitations;
  • abnormal heartbeat;
  • inactive reflexes;
  • muscle weakness;
  • fatigue.

100g of this grain contains 195mg of potassium which is about 6 percent of the daily recommended intake.

Boosts Circulation

Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, allows oxygen to be used by the body and it helps the body break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to produce energy. In addition, this vitamin is important for the formation of antibodies (also known as an immunoglobulin) and red blood cells, that increase oxygenation and circulation to many organs of the human body.

Moreover, it is one of the essential components of the glutathione redox cycle, which is an important defense system of endothelial cells (cells which line the interior surface of lymphatic vessels and blood vessels). A deficiency in riboflavin can include:

  • a sluggish metabolism;
  • anemia;
  • a sore throat;
  • fatigue;
  • changes in mood, like – signs of depression and increased anxiety;
  • swelling of mucous membranes;
  • inflamed tongue and mouth;
  • skin inflammation and skin disorders, particularly around the face and nose;
  • lip or mouth crack or sores;
  • nerve damage.

100g of this grain contains 195mg of riboflavin which is about 17 percent of the daily recommended intake.

Good For Type 2 Diabetics

Dietary fiber comprises the edible parts of plants (fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, herbs, legumes, grains) which cannot be absorbed or digested in the small intestine and passes into the large intestine intact.

Eating plenty of dietary fiber regularly is strongly associated with a lower risk of stroke (which occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is severely reduced), heart disease, and colorectal cancer.

Dietary fiber is also a superstar when it comes to keeping blood sugar (glucose) stable because it helps prevent blood-sugar spikes following carbohydrate (or fat) consumption and allows type 2 diabetics to maintain better control of their blood-glucose levels.

Moreover, fiber can prevent irritable bowel syndrome and diverticular disease (a digestive condition which affects the large intestine ). Actually, medical treatment for these conditions usually includes increasing the intake of foods rich in fiber.

100g of this grain contains 8,5 g of dietary fiber which is about 34 percent of the daily recommended intake.

Skin Health

Vitamin B3 is an important water-soluble vitamin for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system, particularly balancing cholesterol and blood levels. Also, it helps with healthy skin formation, brain function, and preventing type 2 diabetes mellitus.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, similar to other B vitamins, it helps the human body break down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into energy.

100g of this cereal contains 4,7 mg of vitamin B3 which is about 24 percent of the daily recommended intake.

Antioxidant Properties

Manganese is an essential trace mineral that is found mostly in the liver, bones, pancreas, and kidneys. Manganese actually functions as a potent antioxidant to neutralize free radical damage in the body.

A deficiency in manganese can lead to bone malformation, infertility, seizures, and weakness.

100g of this cereal contains 1,6 mg of manganese which is about 82 percent of the daily recommended intake.

Enhances The Immune System

Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine, activates enzymes responsible for manufacturing neurotransmitters, energy, white blood cells, and red blood cells in the human body. It also plays an essential role in synthesizing antibodies that are required to fight many different diseases.

Because pyridoxine is required to produce oxygen-carrying hemoglobin, a deficiency in this vitamin may cause you to feel inattentive and tired.

100g of this cereal contains 0,4 mg of vitamin B6 which is about 19 percent of the daily recommended intake.

Good For Pregnant Women

Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is required for the conversion of carbohydrates into energy, the formation of white and red blood cells in the bone marrow, and the production of RNA and DNA.

It is especially important for pregnant women (which helps prevent the fetus from developing major congenital deformities of the brain) to consume enough folate and not folic acid – the synthetic form of vitamin B9 which can increase the risk of cancer.

100g of this cereal contains 85 mg of folate which is about 21 percent of the daily recommended intake.

How To Eat?

Cook this grain as you would rice, however, with more water. It is recommended to use 3 cups of water to 1 cup of this grain.

Tip – if you soak (for 8 – 24 hours) it before consumption, you won’t require as much water when you cook it.

Side Effects Of Foxtail Millet

There are no clinically proven side effects regarding this grain, especially if you sprout or soak it (this removes most of the phytic acid content) before consumption.

Image credit – Shutterstock

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