Nachni or ragi is known as finger millet in English and is produced in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and a few others states. Karnataka is the biggest ragi producer and has 58 per cent share in India’s ragi export. Although India is the highest producer of finger millet and contributes to about 58 per cent of its global production, very few Indians know about its health benefits and nutritional value. In Goa ragi is very popular and dishes like satva, pole (dosa), bhakri and ambil (a sour porridge) are prepared with it. Nachni ladoos and nachni bhakris are common preparations found in Maharashtrian households.
Ragi is a health giving grain and contains high amounts of calcium, iron and protein and has balanced amino acids, vitamin A, vitamin B and phosphorus. It helps reduce weight and also treats brittle bones, osteoporosis, anaemia and diabetes.
A few health benefits of this health giving grain:
Treating anaemia: Ragi is an excellent source of natural iron and those suffering from anaemia should include it in their meals. Vitamin C is known to aid the absorption of iron and ragi sprouts are one of the healthiest sprouts which increase iron and helps in blood formation. Once sprouted, the vitamin C increases and leads to iron absorption in the bloodstream.
Boosts lactation: Lactating mothers are urged to include ragi, particularly when green as it enhances milk handling and fortifies milk with essential amino acids, iron and calcium. Ragi is prescribed to mothers who wish to increase the quantity of milk.
Baby food: It is believed that ragi promotes better digestion. The high calcium and iron content is useful for the bone growth and overall development of the infant. Specially-processed ragi powders for infants are available widely to be used during weaning.
Gluten-free: People with celiac disease or followers of gluten-free diets can incorporate ragi into their meals as it is completely free of gluten. Not many cereals can boast of this property since gluten is a major nutrient in most cereals.
Calcium rich: Calcium is a significant factor when it comes to bone development and prevention of osteoporosis. Ragi is loaded with calcium and vitamin D which are vital components for increasing bone strength. Go natural, replace over the counter calcium supplements with ragi porridge.
High in fibre: As compared to white rice, ragi contains higher amounts of dietary fibre. It is also a good source of insoluble fibres and it has a low glycemic index, which helps maintain blood sugar levels. Due to this, ragi aids digestion, prevents over-eating and makes one feel full longer. The amino acids lecithin and methionine help decrease cholesterol levels by getting rid of excess fat in the liver. On the other hand, threonine hinders the formation of fat in the liver and provides overall reduction of body cholesterol.
Natural relaxant: The amount of amino acids and antioxidants in ragi help the body relax naturally and help fight damage causing free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. Common ailments like anxiety, insomnia, headaches and depression can be battled with ragi. The amino acid called tryptophan contributes to the relaxing effects of ragi. It also helps relieve sleep disorders like insomnia along with cerebral pains and migraine.
Anti-ageing: Ragi can be used as an anti ageing drink. Vital amino acids methionine and lysine present in the cereal help create and maintain collagen which is a substance that supports skin tissues and makes it supple and lively, thus reducing wrinkles and sagging.
Note: Consuming too much ragi should be avoided as it could increase oxalic acid in the body. Therefore, it is not advisable for patients suffering from kidney stones and urinary calculi to have large amounts of ragi).