Millets During Pregnancy – Nutritional Benefits and Recipes

8 min read

Written by Ambili Kartha

Ambili Kartha

Millets during pregnancy

If you have not come across millets and their nutritional benefits during pregnancy, let us introduce them to you. Millets are a group of small, seeded grasses with essential nutrients galore! Millets are grains that people have enjoyed since ancient times. It is categorized as a cereal, and its seeds have been used for nourishment and healing purposes for more than 10,000 years! But can one have millets during pregnancy? 

Though millets used to be common a few decades ago, we seem to have lost touch with them. In local languages, millets may be referred to under several names, and you have probably heard of them. Millets are adaptable grains, and in recent years, people have proudly gone back to their roots, displaying varieties of millets on kitchen shelves. Let’s find out if millets during pregnancy are good, and explore some recipes in this article.

In This Article

Importance of Millets For Pregnant Woman

Millet is easy to digest, contains a great amount of lecithin, and is an excellent food for strengthening the nervous system. Millets are rich in B vitamins, including niacin, B6, and folic acid. Magnesium, potassium, and zinc are found in excess in millets. Millets are cherished for their nutritional value, and millets are a rich source of carbohydrates and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and iron. Millets are good for those who are gluten-intolerant.

Pregnancy is a time when a woman’s diet needs to be balanced and nutritious. It is good to introduce millet to the diet of an expectant mother. Millets have a low glycemic index, which makes them immensely suitable for those with diabetes or gestational diabetes. Millets make their way onto tables, especially at breakfast times, for health-conscious mothers to be.

Pregnant women often receive advice about maintaining a good source of folic acid. Folic acid aids in preventing birth defects of the spine and brain in the fetus. Since iron is also vital for expectant mothers as a shield against anemia, it is important to add millets to the diet. Lack of iron can make pregnancy more difficult, and it may lead to problems during delivery.

Millets are rich in fiber and antioxidants, too. Let’s take a look at the nutritional value of millets and their health benefits during pregnancy-

1. Vitamins

Millets are rich in vitamins like riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, and folic acid, which play an essential role in expecting mothers. They support energy production and cell growth.

2. Minerals

There are high levels of minerals in millets, which are greatly involved in the various processes in your body. This includes energy production, blood formation, and muscle contraction.

3. Antioxidants

Millets contain antioxidants that aid in preventing damage from free radicals to the cells. This is vital during the pregnancy period, when the body is under increased stress.

4. Fiber

Millets are an important source of dietary fiber. It helps promote bowel regularity and prevents constipation. Regulating blood sugar levels is also one big advantage of fiber.

Different Types of Millets And Their Specific Advantages

Different Types of Millets And Their Specific Advantages

Food plays an important role in the development of both the mother and the fetus. Incorporating millets into the daily diet ensures that both the expectant mother and her fetus are getting the nutrients they require for a healthy pregnancy. All millet varieties belong to the poaceae family, but they differ in color, appearance, and species. Millets are of many varieties, like finger millet, foxtail, pearl, proso, and little millets like kodo and barnyard millets, etc.

1. Finger Millet or Ragi

Ragi belongs to the naked grains, which are millets devoid of the tough, indigestible husks. The simple feature of these grains is that they do not require any processing after harvest. They can be consumed right after cleaning. Such kinds of grains are widely cultivated around the world. These include jowar and bajra as well. Finger millet is a cereal alternative to wheat and rice. It is a gluten free grain totally loaded with protein and amino acids, which promote growth and boost brain health in children.

2. Foxtail Millet 

Foxtail millet belongs to the husked millet variety. They contain an indigestible seed coat that needs to be removed before cooking. Such grains undergo a hulling process to free them from their husks. Foxtail millet is loaded with protein and complex carbohydrates. They regulate blood sugar spikes, diminish bad cholesterol levels, and increase good cholesterol levels in your body. Foxtail millet, due to its richness in iron and calcium, helps maintain healthy blood levels and strengthens bones.

3. Pearl Millet or Bajra

Pearl millet contains abundant minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron, which are valuable in uplifting your overall health. It has rich amounts of protein and dietary fiber, which help you manage diabetes and support weight loss.

4. Proso Millet

Proso millet is also called common millet or hog millet. It helps keep the heart healthy and the respiratory system in check. These millets prevent diabetes, help balance cholesterol levels, and assist with digestion. Proso millet has cooling properties and can be eaten during the summer.

5. Little Millet

Little millet is a good option for fitness enthusiasts. It serves as a healthy alternative to rice. Little millet is bestowed with minerals such as zinc, iron, calcium, potassium, and vitamin B3. They support tissue repair, fat metabolism, cholesterol reduction, and energy production.

Health Benefits of Millets During Pregnancy

Health Benefits of Millets During Pregnancy

The following is a list of some of the health benefits that various millets offer to pregnant women:

1. Pearl Millet

Omega3 which is a vital nutrient for your health during the nine months of pregnancy, is present in abundance in pearl millet. Fatigue and weaknesses are commonly seen in pregnancy. You must have pearl millet since it is enriched with iron and phosphorus. The brain, memory, and energy are the other essential benefits of iron.

2. Finger Millet 

Finger millet contains calcium, iron, potassium, and amino acids, which are necessary for the growth and development of the fetus. Pregnancy may disturb your sleep pattern, and finger millet helps you sleep well at night. The tryptophan present alleviates sleeplessness. It regulates cholesterol levels, which is crucial since abnormal cholesterol levels may cause hypertension and delayed labor. Finger millet provides extra protein for fetal development and aids in boosting milk production.

3. Foxtail Millet

Foxtail millet enhances immunity, which is necessary for extra care during pregnancy. Calcium and the fiber content help with digestion and reduce constipation. This millet variety contains vitamin B1, which plays a huge role in your fetus’s brain development.

Millet Recipes And Meal Ideas For Pregnant Women

Millet Recipes And Meal Ideas For Pregnant Women

Millets can be cooked for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They have diverse uses. You can use millets instead of rice in your recipes, and your dishes will have significant health benefits. Adding a variety of millets instead of traditional grains like wheat and rice gives a distinct taste and flavor to the same dishes, along with a nutritional boost.

Millets can be eaten as porridge, a side dish, or as baking flour. They can be added to stews, soups, and even salads for unique flavor. Today, they have gained popularity in traditional dishes like idli and dosa as well. You can make use of millets to create healthy flatbreads, rotis, and pancakes. There are so many ways to include millets in your daily diet. These food grains are endless substitutes for cereals and millets in cuisine. Here are some millet recipes and meal ideas for pregnant women. 

1. Millet Porridge

Combine millet with milk and sugar to prepare porridge. Spice it up with cinnamon, vanilla, and raisins and transform your porridge into a creamy, fruity, and mildly sweet breakfast option.

2. Millet Pancakes

Use foxtail millet flour to prepare fluffy pancakes. They are a healthier alternative to regular pancakes.

3. Millet Smoothie

Start the day with a delicious cereal drink. Combine roasted and cooked finger millet, fruits, and soaked dates. Blend it to smooth perfection, and you can have it chilled too. This is a wholesome breakfast for you.

4. Mango Millet Lassi

The super grain millet is blended with mango, Greek yogurt, and cardamom to bring all sorts of tropical vibes to your day.

5. Moroccan Carrot Salad

You can give an international twist to your millets, by making a vegan Moroccan salad. Use carrots, boiled millets, some herbs, and spices to give a foreign flavor to your midday meal.

6. Cauliflower-Millet Soup

This light millet soup is quick to whip up with simple ingredients like lemon, cauliflower, and eggs if you are up for it.

7. Turmeric Spiced Millet Veggie Burger

Turmeric millet burgers have more bite and texture than an average veggie burger and the addition of turmeric makes it anti-inflammatory food.

8. Millet With Roasted Tomatoes And Chickpeas

As a wholesome vegan dinner this dish has a good balance of grains, protein, and vegetables.

9. Millet, Almond, And Pistachio Cookies

Up for a dessert? Then it is the best dessert idea to bake with millets, almonds, and pistachio, which is as good as a regular chocolate chip cookie and more filling too.

Tips For Including Millets in a Balanced Pregnancy Diet

Tips For Including Millets in a Balanced Pregnancy Diet

You can have all the varieties of millets in moderation during your pregnancy period. There is no guideline to denote which millet is suitable in a specific trimester of your pregnancy. The main idea is to ensure that the inclusion of millets in your regular meal is for nutrient diversity. The top three millets recommended for expectant mothers are pearl, finger, and foxtail millets.

Following are some tips to make millets a part of your balanced diet:

  • Drink plenty of water when you consume millet.
  • Make sure the millets are cooked well
  • Alter your grains, and too much of a good thing may not always be a great thing. Do not stick to one millet
  • Choose your millet according to the weather
  • Get creative with recipes. This way, you will not get bored of eating millets

Alternate your diet between millet, rice, whole wheat, and other grains. When you start off with millets during pregnancy, make sure they are cooked well. Undercooked millets will cause dehydration and digestion issues. Increase your intake of water. When you experience some heat because of the consumption of millets during the summer, try to pair it with cooling spices. Avoid consuming the same quantity of millets as you would of white rice or wheat.

Millets are the most under-utilized grains, but they are power packed with nutrition and protein. Expectant mothers need to be introduced to the nutritional benefits of millets during their pregnancy. In the past few years, we have become very millet aware and now these bland whole grains have made it to the menus of health-conscious households. So for a better health of both you and your fetus, be sure to include millets during pregnancy.

FAQ’s

1. What Are The Specific Nutrients Found in Millets That Are Beneficial During Pregnancy?

Millets are full of iron, protein, calcium, fiber, folate, and omega 3 which are extremely beneficial during pregnancy. Being gluten free, they are also a good option for women who develop gluten intolerance during pregnancy. Millets also have a low glycemic index (GI) so they work well for women with gestational diabetes as well.

2. Are There Any Precautions or Considerations When Consuming Millets During Pregnancy?

While millets are really good and beneficial during pregnancy, there are some precautions one should take while consuming them. See that millets are cooked well, have them in moderation, and drink plenty of water when consuming millets during pregnancy.

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Ambili Kartha,B. Sc Zoology (St Xavier’s college for women)

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