Why Eat It
Nutrition Chart

Why Eat It

The smallest of our familiar grains, millet surpasses whole wheat and brown rice as a source of some B vitamins, copper, and iron. Its protein content varies greatly, depending upon the variety, but, in general, it is similar to that of wheat. Like most grains, however, millet is deficient in the amino acid lysine, so its protein availability is enhanced when it is eaten with beans or other legumes, which are rich in lysine. Millet is usually tolerated by people who are allergic to wheat.

An easily cultivated, fast-growing grain, millet was an important food in Europe in the Middle Ages, but it was supplanted by other grains, such as barley. However, it has long been a staple in North Africa, where it probably originated, and it is widely consumed in India, China, and Asia as well. In India and Ethiopia, finely ground millet is made into flatbreads called roti and injera, respectively. (Millet has no gluten, and so cannot be used for raised breads.) In the United States, millet is known principally as feed for birds and poultry. However, pearl (pearled) millet, which is the major type grown for human consumption, can be found in health-food stores and some supermarkets, always hulled and usually in whole-grain form. The tiny, pale yellow or reddish orange beads of millet can be cooked like any other grain. Occasionally, you may also see cracked millet sold as couscous (though the packaged couscous available in North America is most often made from semolina).


Simmering: Use 1 1/2 cups liquid to 1/2 cup of grain. If the grain is kept covered and undisturbed while simmering, it will be fluffy and separate, like rice. However, if it is stirred frequently and a little liquid is added from time to time, the millet will have a creamy consistency, similar to mashed potatoes. If you saute millet first, as for a rice pilaf, the cooking time will be cut in half. Cooking time: about 25 minutes.

Steaming: This method is most frequently used with cracked millet to make couscous. Soak the grain in water for about an hour, then steam it (traditionally, over a pot of simmering stew). Cooking time: 30 minutes.

Nutrition Chart

Millet/1 cup cooked

Total fat (g)
Saturated fat (g)
Monounsaturated fat (g)
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
Dietary fiber (g)
Carbohydrate (g)
Cholesterol (mg)
Sodium (mg)
Thiamin (mg)
Niacin (mg)
Magnesium (mg)
Zinc (mg)

Date Published: 04/20/2005
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