Friday, November 20, 2009

Millet: Not Just for Birds

"Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side." Ezekiel 4:9 - NIV

Here’s another pseudo-grain you can add to your list of super foods. It’s one of the oldest grains that has existed for thousands of years and was even mentioned in the Bible as the prophet’s bread. Oh millet, where have you been all my life?

This mustard seed-like grain is high in protein (higher than brown rice) and low in starch and they are perfect for the digestive system including the stomach and pancreas particularly the spleen organ, which is our energy battery. Millet is the only alkaline grain which counteracts acidity in the body. Just like quinoa, millet is great in cleansing the body while providing easy assimilated minerals that most people lack.

Millet is also high in silicon which benefits your hair, skin, nails, teeth and eye health. It’s absolutely a beauty grain. And if you’re suffering from arthritis and osteoporosis, it means that you’re body is highly acidic. Millet is high in alkaline minerals potassium and magnesium which supports the health of your bones, joints and ligaments. The magnesium content also eases menstrual discomfort and headaches, lowers high blood pressure and may even prevent gallstones in women.

Since millet has anti-fungal properties, it is the best grain to use for Candida albicans overgrowth. When you’re suffering from Candida, you need to avoid foods that are high in sugars and millet is low in starch (hence sugar), which is just perfect. Another thing that millet is good for is balancing blood glucose for diabetics and is excellent for the immune system as millet is the least allergenic of the grains.

There’s also a concern about millet and goitrogen. Goitrogen is a substance that prevents iodine to be absorbed in the body and is thus avoided with people who have thyroid problems. This problem only occurs if you eat huge quantity of millet and other foods that contain goitrogen. Although cooking them removes some of it, most doctors would advice patients to avoid foods high in goitrogen. In my opinion, eating a variety of whole foods will ensure that you’re getting the right nutrients (and that includes iodine). So there is no need to worry about eating them; just don’t eat them in industrial amounts. You can also soak the millet overnight. However, if you have a serious case of any particular thyroid disease, please proceed with caution and always consult your doctor.

Cooking millet is like cooking other types of grains. I like to toast them first in a little bit of oil with chopped garlic or shallots before adding the hot water or stock and then simmer until they’re cook.

Honestly, I still like quinoa more than millet but millet is cheaper than quinoa, which means I would need to appreciate millet more. I think I will.

Just in case you're wondering, the black specks are the black cardamom. :)

Basic Millet

Makes about 4-5 cups

2 -3 cups water, chicken or vegetable stock (please see note)
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp extra light olive oil or unsalted butter
1 cup whole millet

Optional Spices:
½ tsp unrefined sea salt
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp Thai saffron
2 black cardamom pods (removed from its shell)

Bring the stock or water to a simmer. Then peel and finely chop the garlic.

Place a heavy-bottomed pot or large pan with a lid over medium high heat. Add the oil/butter and millet and toast, stirring constantly until the millet starts to pop and jump around. Then add the chop garlic until fragrant. Be sure the millet doesn’t burn. If it does, simple remove the pot and lower the heat slightly, stirring constantly to cool.

Then slowly add the stock or water, salt and the optional spice. Bring to boil and reduce the heat immediately. Simmer until all the liquids have been absorbed, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from the heat and place a tea towel under the lid to absorb any steam for about 5 minutes. Fluff immediately with a fork and serve as a side dish.


Gluten-Free; Vegan (if vegetable stock is used)

The amount of water per cup of millet:
2 cups for water - slightly crunchy;

2-1/4 to 2-1/2 water - light and fluffy

3 cups water – soft and almost mushy

If you chose not to toast your millet, rinse them in water and drain. It’s quite possible if you don’t do either of the two, the outside of the grain will turn to mush before the insides are cook enough to lose their crunch.

When the millet is hot, the grains are quite sticky but when they have cooled down, they will separate.

You can also soak the millet for a few hours before cooking or sprouting if you’re worried about the phytic acid (a phytonutrient) and phytates (the salt of phytic acid). But sometimes both of them are beneficial. They are neither good nor bad. It depends on when you have them. If you consume them as part of your meal, their effect is negative by removing key nutrients from the meal that you’re consuming. But if you have it as a supplement, separate from the meal, they are quite beneficial working as an antioxidant in the colon without sacrificing the nutrients in the foods you eat. Also, their phytic acid mineral binding properties are helpful in removing excess minerals such as iron (too much can increase the risk of heart disease and colon cancer) from our body and even a small phytic acid can help reduce harmful iron absorption by half.

Health Blogger Award

A few days ago, I entered the 2nd Annual People's Health Blogger Awards for Wellsphere.The voting will end on December 15, 2009. Well, an award is an award but I joined because this is also my way of promoting the work that I do on my blog. The winners will be announced for the following categories: Best Overall; Blogger’s Choice and Best 100. I actually joined a little bit late but with your help, you can still vote for me by clicking on the Help me win badge at the upper right corner (on top of my profile) or on top of the paragraph. I have 19 votes and still needing about 170 (approximately). You may have to sign up but your vote will make a difference in other people’s lives through me. For those who have already voted for me along with your wonderful comments, thank you.

So, have you tried millet? If yes, please let me know what dishes you’ve done with it on the comment box. I would love to try it soon and please remember to vote. :D

Print Recipe


  1. Another very informative post.....great work to promote healthy eating through healthy food. I haven't tried millet yet. Will have to try one of these days. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Honestly speaking, I haven't eaten millet before. What's the taste of it like?
    Does it mean that I can replace millet with my rice and eat it occasionally, then I take its benefits?

  3. It looks a bit like couscous to me... I've never tried it but reading your post, I think I may now! And good luck with the Health Blogger Award...

  4. Hey Divina, this is no jokes at all! Bird seeds for human. What an interesting recipe! You're so good. You really are. Have a wonderful weekend. Cheers.

  5. Thanks for all the information, I will definitely try it, I love wild and brown rice but I wouldn't mind more diversity.

  6. @ Mary - Thanks. You may not like it at first but I started to like it in the ened.

    @ Christine - It's has a slight nutty flavor when you toast it. Something like couscous but heartier. Yes, you can replace it with rice occasionally.

    @ Trissa - Thanks Trissa.

    @ Kristy - Thanks Kristy. Not for birds anymore.

    @ Laura - thank you. I love wild and brown rice too. :D

  7. Another post full of great information. I've seen millet so many times, but have never cooked with it. That's going to change! I'll definitely be sending my dad to your site so he can read about the health benefits of millet for arthritis sufferers.

  8. I have never had millet before because I always thought it was for birds! hehehe it does look good though and now that I know it's super healthful and good for us I'm going to try making them.

  9. Ooh, I've got to try me some millet. I wonder what it's called in Korean!

  10. Thank you for introducing us to millet, I will definitely be checking out!

  11. oh so interesting a Zimbawean friend made it for me once they call it Gari love the nutritional info too lol

  12. I love millet, both my bird and I do :) nice version for a side dish!

    I made two recipes you can find on my blog that turned out delicious -

    Goat cheese, mushroom, millet “galettes” on leek “effilochée” with spicy red pepper coulis, -

    Stuffed zucchini with millet, spinach, parmesan and herbs,

    I will vote for you then!

  13. I have never had millet, it is surprising to see how healthy it is! I should tell my mom to eat this because she struggles with arthritis -- thanks for the informative post, and your pictures and colors are beautiful!

  14. I always had a millet spray in my parakeets' cage as a kid, then I started seeing it pop up everywhere as an 'heirloom' grain, and I was intrigued.

    Your post is the kicker for me to go buy some! Good luck w/HealthBlogger Award, you got my vote!

  15. We haven't cooked with millet in a long time, kind of forgot about it to be honest. Your bowl of millet looks so tempting that we've got to bring it out of retirement. Soon. Great write-up and beautiful photos!

  16. Divina and everyone else!
    Great post... beautiful pics too! Wow... I was just thinking of making some millet today!
    Here's my fav recipe using millet... always the hit of any party!

  17. I've never tried it but now I am intrigued...looks almost like quinoa. Wonder where I can find some...

  18. I love millet!! It's great to use in homemade veggie burgers as a binder, and it lends a different flavor that the usual brown rice. Also, if you stir it frequently when you cook it it'll get more mushy, kind of like cream of wheat or a porridge, and you could have it that way for breakfast.

  19. Hi Dvina, It's so funny I just prepared millet for dinner tonight and an upcoming post:) Your article is fantastic and very informative, which is great because I think millet doesn't get enough attention. I love millet and make several dishes. Someone mentioned that it looks like couscous and I have found it's a great alternative.
    Thanks for spreading the word on this wonderful grain.

  20. Really I've never tasted millet but I've experienced quinoa many times! I see both are healthy :)
    Excellent information and I'll try millet to see the result!



  21. I've heard some good things about millet, and now I've learned more from your post...but what does millet taste like? I'm really curious. It looks kind of like a dal/legume. Does it taste like one? Hmmm... :)

  22. Great info!I would love to try it!

  23. I like your take on phytic acid, that it's not all bad. So many people seem to think it's all bad, when, as you said, it can be beneficial. Congratulations, too, on your one year anniversary of blogging:)

  24. i always look forward to reading your blog and finding out something new and nutritious! i've not thought about eating millet before, so i'll keep a lookout for it in the grocery store next time i go. your bowl looks hearty and flavorful.

  25. Very informative indeed! If there are just more local restos here that offer the dishes you make, I would eat there often. :) Another excellent work!

  26. Thanks for all of your comments and for sharing your recipes with me. I hope to try all of them.

    @ experimentalculinarypursuits - try finding them at health food store or even whole food markets.

    @ The Nomadic Gourmet - they are more similar to couscous and it has a slightly nutty flavor.

    @ Kari - thank you. I haven't been to your site in awhile. Thanks for commenting.

  27. Great post! Very informative and beautiful bright photos. I have never made millet on its own. It is usually combined with other grains.

  28. Oh, wow, so much information! Thank you for this. It makes me want to try some millet. I love the way I feel when I eat food like this. And the cardamom would make it perfect, IMHO.

  29. Thank you for this informative post on millet. I've never heard of it and its picture doesn't even look familiar. After learning that it's healthy,I must check it out.

  30. Thanks for this information- I have always wondered about millet...

  31. I have never tried millet but I think I would now since I am unable to eat many foods and have to stick to soft foods. I guess it is a sign for me to get healthy!

  32. hello DIVINA
    it is true we do not use millet enough so thanks for hte reminder !! all the best from Paris where it rains today so perfect time opfr cooking !! cheers Pierre

  33. I feel like millet is so under appreciated! I'm so glad you are talking about it here... have your tried millet in muffins it is so fantastic!

  34. i thought millet was just for birds too until i saw japanese candies listing millet as an ingredient.

    will you post a food that can help control eczema, in the future?

    all 4 members in our family suddenly had eczema flare ups last year and doctors just kept prescribing us corticosteroids and the side effects scare me so i just tolerate the itch unless i'm super desperate.


  35. once again, reading your posts are always a learning experience. I've heard of millet, but it's helpful to see how it's used and prepared.

  36. What an informative post! I have never tried millet. I really have to if its so healthy and at least I now where to come when I want to cook it! :)) TQ

  37. Thanks for your additional comments.

    @ Anonymous - I will try to do a post about that as soon as possible.

  38. Thanks for the info, I will definitely eat more millet in the future, especially because of its benefits regarding hair and skin and its positive effect on blood sugar levels....but your info about phytic acid got me a bit worried.

    Does that mean that making millet a staple of your diet may lead to a zinc and iron deficiency? That would be bad for your hair and skin, wouldn´t it?

  39. Anonymous - Thanks for your comment. Not necessarily. Most of the minerals are still going to be absorbed and they're not as brutal compared to wheat which really needs to be soaked. You can soak millet for 6 hours and proceed with the recipe. The reason for this is to make the nutrients fully available instead of just partially available.

    Let's compare millet with wheat. We consume wheat in many forms every single day a few times a day. But wheat berries and flour are sometimes soaked in order for the nutrients to be fully absorbed. And wheat is the culprit of many inflammatory conditions we have today because we eat too much of them or they contain gluten which is hard to digest.

    Millet on the other hand is not being consumed by most people. They are eaten a few times a week. Good news is, they are gluten free and doesn't feed candida. Although they contain phytic acid, they are friendlier than wheat. If you're really worried about phytic acid, soak them for 8-24 hours with 1 tsp of whey, buttermilk or yogurt. 8 hours are fine with me. This method will definitely make all the minerals available. Then you just need to experiment with the amount of water needed depending on how long you soak it.

    I hope this helps. Feel free to write if you have more questions. Thanks.


Your comments, suggestions, feedback are all welcome.