Health Benefits of Finger Millet (Ragi)

Finger Millet (Eleusine coracana L.), also known as Ragi, is cultivated in drier parts of the world - mainly in Asia and Africa. Ragi has a distinct taste and is widely used in Southern Indian and Ethiopian dishes. Ragi is a rich source of Calcium, Iron, Protein, Fiber and other minerals. The cereal has low-fat content and contains mainly unsaturated fat. It is easy to digest and does not contain gluten; people who are sensitive to gluten can easily consume Finger Millet. Ragi is considered one of the most nutritious cereals. It has different names in local languages. It is known as Ragi in Telugu and Kannada, Kelvaragu/aariyam in Tamil, and Madua/Mangal in Hindi. 

Finger Millet (or Ragi) Nutrition Facts

Despite its popularity for generations, Finger Millet today struggles to find a place in the modern diet. We will take a look at immense health benefits that Finger Millet offers.

Finger Millet/ Ragi for High Protein content

Ragi has very high protein content which is of the order found in rice. Few varieties of Ragi even contain double the protein found in rice. Protein found in finger millet is good quality protein since it has eleusinin which can be easily absorbed by the body. Unlike most cereals, Ragi also contains tryptophan, methionine, and cystine which are important for maintenance of health.

Finger Millet/Ragi for Rich Minerals

Ragi is full of minerals. Calcium, Phosphorous, Iron and Potassium are found in Ragi. The concentration of Calcium in Ragi is five to thirty times that found in other cereals. Finger Millet is certainly a natural alternative to health supplements. Consumption of Ragi is known to have a positive impact on people who have low hemoglobin count and those at risk of osteoporosis. In a study “The Lost Crops of Africa” by National Academies Press, Ragi has been called a Super Cereal. The study elaborated that people from Uganda and Sudan have healthy and robust physiques despite consumption of just one meal a day; this could be due to finger millet.

Finger Millet/Ragi for Antioxidants

Finger Millet contains antioxidants which help in lowering cell damage by controlling oxidation of cells. Oxidation is a cause of cancer and aging. Studies have found that people consuming finger millet based diet are relatively lesser prone to esophageal cancer compared to those consuming maize/ wheat based diet.

Finger Millet/Ragi for youth

Ragi is known to inhibit cross-linking of collagen. Cross-linking of collagen happens when molecules forms cross-links between and within collagen molecules in the skin, tendons, and blood vessels. Cross-linking of collagen reduces elasticity and leads to stiffness. This is mostly associated with aging.

Finger Millet/ Ragi for losing weight

Ragi contains an amino acid called Tryptophan which lowers appetite and helps in keeping weight in control. Ragi gets digested at a slower rate thus keeps one away from intaking excessive calories. Also, fibers present in ragi give a feeling of fullness thus controls excessive food consumption. 

Finger Millet/ Ragi for bone health

Ragi is rich in Calcium which helps in strengthening bones. It is an excellent source of natural calcium for growing children and aging people. Ragi consumption helps in the development of bones in growing children and in the maintenance of bone health in adults. Ragi keeps diseases such as osteoporosis at bay and could reduce a risk of fracture.  

Finger Millet/ Ragi for diabetes

Finger Millet's phytochemicals help in slowing digestion process. This helps in controlling blood sugar level in the condition of diabetes. Phytochemicals are found in outer layers of grains/ seeds, therefore it is important to consume whole grains. The outer coat of Ragi seed also contains polyphenols in substantial quantity compared to rice or wheat.  In a study conducted in 2000, it was found that Finger Millet based diet helps diabetics as it contains higher fiber than rice and wheat. Also, the study found that diet based on whole finger millet has lower glycemic response i.e. lower ability to increase blood sugar level. This is due to the presence of factors in ragi flour which lower digestibility and absorption of starch. Preliminary studies have also shown that Finget Millet can help in faster wound healing. 

Finger Millet/ Ragi for lowering blood Cholesterol

Finger Millet contains amino acids Lecithin and Methionine which help in bringing down cholesterol level by eliminating excess fat from Liver. Finger Millet also contains Threonine amino acid which hinders fat formation in the liver, which brings cholesterol level of the body down.

Finger Millet/ Ragi for Anaemia

Ragi is a very good source of natural Iron. Ragi consumption helps in the condition of Anaemia.

Finger Millet/ Ragi for Relaxation

Ragi consumption helps in the relaxing body naturally. It is beneficial in conditions of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Ragi is also useful for migraines.

Finger Millet/ Ragi for Amino Acids

Ragi is rich in Amino Acids which are vital for normal functioning of the body and are essential for repairing body tissues. Finger Millet contains Tryptophan, Threonine, Valine, Isoleucine and Methionine amino acids. Isoleucine helps in muscle repair, blood formation, contributes to the bone formation and improves skin health. Valine is an essential amino acid which facilitates metabolism, helps in muscle coordination and repair of body tissues. It helps in balancing nitrogen in the body. Another essential amino acid, not found in most cereals, is Methionine which is useful in various body processes, helps in eliminating fat from the body and is the main provider of sulfur in the body. Sulfur is essential for the production of Glutathione - body's natural antioxidant. 

Finger Millet/Ragi for other health conditions

If consumed regularly, Ragi could help in keeping malnutrition, degenerative diseases and premature aging at bay. Green Ragi is recommended for conditions of blood pressure, liver disorders, asthma and heart weakness. Green Ragi is also recommended to lactating mothers in the condition of lack of milk production.

Ragi is an extremely nutritious cereal and is very beneficial for maintaining a good health. However, its high intake could increase quantity oxalic acid in the body. Therefore, it is not advised to patients having kidney stones (Urinary Calculi). Ragi could be enjoyed in different forms and preparations. Ragi Roti, Ragi Dosa, Ragi Porridge, Ragi Upma, Ragi Cakes, Ragi Biscuits are few popular dishes of Ragi.