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Bajra (Pearl Millet) Flour Health Benefits and Side-effects

Bajra (Pennisetum typhoies), a coarse millet grain, is popularly known as ‘pearl millet’ and has been grown in Africa and the Indian subcontinent since prehistoric times. 

The pearl millet ‘Bajra‘ is believed to have been domesticated on the Sahel zone of northern Mali about 4500 years ago. In India, it appeared around 3000 years ago and rapidly spread to southern parts of the country as well. Archeologically, bajra traces have been found in excavations done at the sites of Hallur in Karnataka and Rangpur and Rojdi in Gujarat. 

Bajra is considered to be the poor man’s staple nourishment. Besides feeding the humans, it is also used as a feed for the animals. Since it does well in drylands where there is scanty rainfall, it is characteristically grown in drought prone areas, areas with low soil fertility, high salinity and high temperature.

Bajra crop does well in areas where other cereal crops such as wheat or maize do not do well. Therefore, Bajra is mostly cultivated in states of Rajasthan, Maharasthtra, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.

Some other names by which it is known in other states of the country are-Kambu (Tamil), Sajjalu (Telugu), Kambam (Malyalam), Sajje (Kannada) and Bajri (Rajasthani, Gujarati and Marathi). Since it is grown in different parts of India, it comes in different colours-white, pale yellow, brown, grey, slate blue or purple. Bajra has the largest kernel of all varieties of millets, including Jowar.

Milling Bajra Grain into Flour

While it is rich in nutrients and is one of the best cereal crops for human health, its consumption is rather limited due to the non-availability of suitable form of consumption. The flour made out of bajra is generally coarse and the taste is a little bit on the bitter side.

1/2. Traditional Method of milling– In this method, which is used in rural areas, the mortar and pestle is used for removing the bran. Before the process starts, a little water is added to moisten the pericarp. It should be noted that using this process, the flour is consumed the same day since keeping it in store can lead to rancidity.

2/2. Using pearlers– A pearler is the name given to a milling machine which remove the bran from the grain of pearl millet. This bran is a nutrient rich by-product. It can be de-oiled to feed poultry and cattle. The flour is obtained after crushing the grains. 

In order to improve the shelf-life of the pearl millet flour, it is important to process it through the pearlers and reduce the fat content of the grain. 

Ways of using Bajra in Cooking

Bajra is ground into flour and then used in making of chapatis or paranthas. 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.

There are a wide range of delicious and nutritious dishes in Rajasthan that use bajra flour preparations, such as Gatte ki sabzi, Ker sangri and Red meat to bajra khichda and bajra roti with lasuni chutney.

It should be remembered that most of the dishes prepared with bajra flour require use of good amount of ghee. If this is not used, the dryness of the grain can cause constipation. So, right cooking is very important in using bajra in particular, and millets in general.

Nutritional Composition of Bajra

Bajra is rich in nutrition and it comprises of the following nutrients…

Total Fat4.2 g
Sodium5 mg
Potassium195 mg
Total Carbohydrate73 g
Protein11 g
Vitamin B-620%

1/7. High in fiber- Bajra is high in fiber. The insoluble fiber improves digestive system, eases bowel movement preventing constipation and reduces chances of related diseases. 

2/7. Phytochemicals- Bajra includes flavonoids such as tricin, luteolin and acacetin. These are antioxidants which remove free radicals, boosts immunity and protect against metabolic syndrome.

3/7. Omega 3 fatty acids- These are known to reduce blood pressure and levels of triglycerides. These are also believed to be responsible for reducing plaque in arteries.

4/7. Iron, calcium and phosphorous-All of these minerals are good for improving hemoglobin levels in blood, brain health and bone health.

5/7. Good source of protein-Proteins are building blocks of body. Protein builds muscle mass and nourishes each and every cell of body. For this reason, bajra is a good source of protein.

6/7. Rich in folic acid- Folic acid is used by our body for performing multiple functions. DNA synthesis, repair, cellular division, synthesis of protein and maturation of red blood cells.

7/7. Rich in zinc-Zinc is involved in cellular metabolism. It plays a role in immune system, protein synthesis, healing of wounds and is required during pregnancy, childhood and adolescence for normal growth and development. Bajra flour is a good source of dietary zinc.

Potential Health Benefits of Bajra Flour
1/11. Provides energy to body

Bajra flour is good source of energy because of high calorie value that is provides. Further, it is normally cooked with ghee which further adds calorific value to the food.

2/11. Promotes heart health

Bajra flour contains magnesium and potassium. These are important nutrients as it promotes health in a number of ways. Potassium dilates blood vessels which regulates the flow of blood in the body and prevents high blood pressure. It is also helpful in reducing the LDL cholesterol levels, diabetes, LDL

3/11. Weight reduction

By having more fiber component, bajra provides greater satiety as it slows down digestion. You do not feel like eating every now and then. This reduces intake of food which translates to reduction in weight naturally. 

4/11. Preventing cancer

By improving the digestive and excretory system of body, it is able to remove the toxins with ease, thereby preventing the occurrence of cancers of stomach, intestine and colon. Richness in fiber content and other nutrients contributes to this remedy.

5/11. Controls blood sugar

Presence of magnesium improves the insulin response by reducing its resistance. This works to cancel out high sugar levels in blood. Also, due to rich fiber content and consequent slowing down of process of digestion, these is less sugar level in the blood. This is because the slow digestible starch takes longer to convert to sugar when there is high fiber level in diet.

6/11. Good for gut health

Due to presence of insoluble fiber, it helps in bowel cleansing, improve gut health and prevent constipation. It is also responsible for attaining satiety which reduce hunger pangs and gives more time between the meals for body to remove toxins.

7/11. Prevents Anaemia

Anaemia is a condition in which there is decline in hemoglobin level in blood. Hemoglobin is essential for carriage of oxygen from one part of body to another. In order to improve the hemoglobin levels in blood, it is suggested to increase the intake of iron in diet. Bajra is a good source of iron, and therefore, it is good in preventing anemia.

8/11. Good for bones

Presence of phosphorous and calcium in bajra flour helps in strengthening of bones. Phosphorus helps in the absorption of calcium in body. This prevents bone related issues such as osteoporosis. 

9/11. Skin health and youthful look

When it comes to the health of the skin and reducing the wrinkles on skin, it is zinc nutrient which holds the key to achieve it. The bajra flour is rich in zinc and antioxidants which reduce the speed of ageing by providing nutrient for skin health.

10/11. Good for eyes

Presence of zinc and vitamin A helps in improving the eyesight. Zinc helps improve eyesight which is helpful in treating night blindness. Bajra flour is a good source of these nutrients.

11/11. Prevents Asthma

Bajra is highly beneficial for people who have chronic asthma because it contains Omega-3 oils that have anti-inflammatory properties.

Side-effects of using Bajra

1/4. Constipation– Bajra is a coarse millet rich in fiber. If consumed in large quantities, it might actually create the problem of constipation rather than resolving this problem. 

2/4. Thyroid Issues– Millets are known to inhibit the absorption of iodine which is important for thyroid functioning. If consumed in large quantities, this can create problem of goitre.

3/4. Stones-The oxalates present in the millets, including in Bajra flour, can cause problem of kidney stones. This happens when it is consumed too frequently and without proper cooking. 

4/4. Anti-nutrients– The phytic acid present in Bajra sticks to the nutrients which prevents their absorption into body. This limits the usefulness of bajra as a nutritious grain.  

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