Rajasthan is one of my favourite holiday destinations. It is impossible for one to ignore the intensity and range of colours in Rajasthan. Beautiful red and yellow turbans, emerald green and orange saris, and melodious sarangi playing in the background - the scene in Rajasthan is simply dazzling. And the food in Rajasthan is simply amazing! There are a wide range of interesting and delectable dishes in Rajasthan - from gatte ki sabzi, ker sangri and laal maans to bajra khichda and bajra roti with lasuni chutney. After talking with the locals, I learnt that bajra is a hardy crop grows well, even in drought conditions, high temperatures and low soil fertility, which is probably why it has become an integral part of Rajasthani food. Interestingly, Rajasthan produces the largest amount of bajra, and India is the number one producer of this grain. Technically, bajra is not a grain - it belongs to a family of small seeded grasses collectively referred to as 'millets.' India has seen bajra cultivation since pre-historic time - it came to India from Africa in about 2000BC.
We nutritionists look for foods that are nutritional powerhouses. Bajra fits the bill perfectly. Its nutritional profile is:
Nutritional Values Per 100 Grams:
- Energy: 361 Kcal
- Carbohydrates: 67gms
- Protein: 12gms
- Fat: 5gms
- Minerals 2gm
- Fibre: 1gm
- Calcium 42gms
- Phosphorus: 296 gms
- Iron: 8mg
Benefits Of Bajra:
1.Weight Management: Consists of complex carbs, bajra is absorbed slowly from our digestive tract, leading to greater satiety while ensuring a continuous flow of energy. This helps prevent overeating and in-between meal bingeing.
2. Gluten Free: The protein content in bajra is gluten free, making it a good change from the gluten heavy daily meals we consume.
3. Gut Health: Bajra is a rich source of insoluble fibre, which works as a pre-biotic in our gut, helping keep our digestive health in top form. Insoluble fibre also helps prevent overeating by adding bulk to the meals, leading to early satiety. Insoluble fibre is also vital for proper bowel cleansing and preventing constipation.
4. Helps Manage Diabetes: Diabetes control and prevention both are affected by fibre intake in our daily diet. The positive effects are well documented in a number of studies worldwide. Bajra has a positive effect on diabetes because its fibre content and the presence of slowly digestible starch, which takes longer to convert to glucose. This helps in managing diabetes and providing a sustained energy release for diabetics. Moreover, bajra is a good source of magnesium, which is associated with a lowered risk of diabetes.
5. Healthy Heart: Since bajra is a good source of magnesium, it is good for heart patients to add bajra to their diet. Magnesium is capable of preventing risk factors of cardiovascular diseases like BP and diabetes. Studies have also pointed towards a beneficial effect of magnesium on lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and it also protects against stroke.
6. Phytochemicals are present in abundance in millets. The most abundant polyphenols present in bajra include flavonoids - tricin, luteolin and acacetin. These have been shown to be anti-carcinogenic and antitumor, and may even help arrest the growth of breast cancer cells. Flavonoids act as anti-oxidants in our body and also help with boosting the immune system. Anti-oxidants are also associated with a positive effect on overall health, aging and are a protection against metabolic syndrome.
7. Packed With Omega-3 Fats: Bajra is a better source of healthy omega-3 fats as compared to other cereals. Omega-3 oils have been associated with lowering BP, triglycerides, slowing plaque development in arteries, maintaining a regular heart rhythm and are known to be cardio protective.
8. Full Of Iron And Phosphorus: Bajra provides modest amounts of iron and phosphorus. Iron is a very important nutrient for cognitive thinking, memory and also for energy. If you suffer from anemia (iron deficiency) you know that low iron levels can leave you feeling exhausted and weak due to lack of oxygen being delivered to tissues and a buildup of carbon dioxide. Iron rich foods are therefore important for your health.
Use it traditionally as a roti, khichri or porridge. Because of its rich nutritional profile, it is a great winter cereal. Bajra can be used as a salad, or in various south Indian dishes like uttapam. Better still, it can be added to the traditional dosa or idly batter to improve their nutritional quality. Use it in one meal at least twice a week to reap the benefits of this amazing traditional food.
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About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.