Potential Health Benefits of Millet Grains and Their Fractions
Epidemiological evidence from research studies has shown that diets rich in plant foods are protective against several degenerative diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular ailments, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and Parkinson’s disease.
Also, there is strong epidemiological evidence that whole‐grain cereals protect the body against age‐related diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and some cancers.
However, for years, the vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and fiber in whole grains were believed to be responsible for their health benefits, but recent research suggests that the combination of other bioactive substances also works to exert positive effects.
They include resistant starch; oligosaccharides; lipids; antioxidants such as phenolic acids, avenanthramides, and flavonoids; hormonally active compounds including lignans and phytosterols; and anti-nutrients such as phytic acid and tannins.
Millets must also be accepted as functional food and nutraceuticals because they provide dietary fibers, proteins, energy, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants required for human health. Several potential health benefits such as preventing cancer and cardiovascular diseases, reducing tumor incidence, lowering blood pressure, the risk of heart disease, cholesterol, and rate of fat absorption, delaying gastric emptying, and supplying gastrointestinal bulk were reported for millets.
Recently, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s nutritional guidelines put grains and grain products at the base of the food guide pyramid to emphasize grains or grain product consumption as part of a healthy diet for optimal health (USDA 2000, 2005).