Ragi, scientifically called Eleusine coracana, is an annually cultivated cereal crop, vastly found in the tropical regions of Africa and Asia, such as in Ethiopia, India And Sri Lanka. Being densely packed with a host of nutrients, ragi confers valuable health benefits such as enhancing digestion, reducing the risk of heart disease, slowing down ageing and managing diabetes. Also Read: 5 Reasons To Add Ragi To Your Diet ASAP
The common English name of Ragi is finger millet, owing to the appearance of the head of the grain comprising five spikes and thus, resembling the five fingers attached to the palm of the hand. This variety of annual grass grows up to a height of 1 to 2 m, belonging to the Gramineae botanical family. Leaves measure between 30 and 70 cm, being narrow and green. The straight or sometimes curved branches hold seeds arranged in florets, which can be brown, red or purple in colour. Widely distributed across several states in India, its local names include “Ragi” in Kannada, Hindi and Telugu, “Nachni” in Marathi, “Madua” in Bengali and “Kezhvaragu” in Tamil.
Finger millet crops are drought-resistant, tolerating slightly acidic to alkaline soils as well. This makes it ideal to propagate these plants through the year, in different geographical terrains across India, be it in the mountains or in the plateaus. Upon developing, the seeds of the ragi plant are dried, cleaned and stored as grains. Thus, commercially available ragi is either in the form of salubrious super-grains or threshed under high pressure and sold as flour, after applying various processing techniques such as milling and malting.
The humble millet ragi, is, in fact, an ultimate super-food! Buy our nourishing ragi products today, to enhance overall health!
Due to the immense popularity of other cereal crops such as rice and wheat, ragi had taken a backseat in the Indian food and nutrition scene for a long time, although they were a highly regarded nutritious yield in ancient agricultural practices more than 2000 years ago.
In the past three to four decades, thanks to in-depth research and the thrust by the UN FAO (United Nations Food And Agriculture Organisation) on incorporating millets in daily diet, to tackle malnutrition and a myriad other commonly occurring ailments, ragi has made a significant comeback as a frontrunner, for maintaining optimal health.
Ragi Nutrition Content:
Ragi displays a rather impressive nutritional profile, encompassing all the essential macronutrients - carbohydrates, fibers, fats and proteins, along with noteworthy levels of key micronutrients - vitamins and minerals. It has negligible levels of cholesterol and sodium, to promote heart wellness. In addition, ragi contains considerable quantities of vitamins C and E, to boost immune, skin and hair health.
The B complex vitamins - thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid as well as calcium, magnesium, iron and phosphorus are also found in ample amounts in ragi flour, truly justifying its status as a wholesome breakfast cereal and a superfood.
The nutrition values in a 100 g serving of ragi flour, according to the nutrient database of the U.S.D.A (United States Department Of Agriculture) are as follows:
Ragi Calories - 385
Total Fat 7%
Saturated Fat 3%
Polyunsaturated Fat 5%
Monounsaturated Fat 2%
Total Carbohydrates 25%
Dietary Fiber 14%
Folic Acid 3%
Vitamin C 7%
Vitamin E 4.6%
Ragi is, in fact, a favourable fibre rich Indian food, that serves as an alternative to other routine cereal and grain crops in the Indian diet regime such as rice, wheat or barley. It has the distinction of being a relatively rare plant source of crucial essential amino acids namely isoleucine, tryptophan, valine, methionine and threonine, thus complementing both vegetarian and vegan diets. Also Read: Top 3 Vegan Probiotic Foods To Boost Your Overall Health
Ragi Health Benefits:
Holistic Breakfast Food
Ragi comprises a vast array of key nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, B-complex vitamins, iron, calcium, antioxidants, proteins, fibers, sufficient calories and useful unsaturated fats. Following a deep sleep at night, the stomach and intestines display peak levels of metabolism in the morning. Hence, having ragi-based foods like ragi upma or ragi parathas for breakfast activates the digestive juices and ensures complete assimilation of nutrients found in ragi, which are absorbed into the bloodstream and transferred to vital organs in the body namely the heart, brain, lungs, liver and kidneys.
Supplies Essential Amino Acids
Ragi is composed of certain key amino acids, making it a unique plant-based source of high-quality proteins. It offers methionine, a sulphur-based amino acid to revive skin and hair health, valine and isoleucine which repair injured muscle tissues and threonine, to enable proper formation of teeth and enamel and protect the mouth from gum disease.
Supports Gluten-Free Diet
A significant number of young adults and older people tend to develop an intolerance towards the gluten proteins in cereals like wheat, that, unfortunately, is a regular ingredient in Indian dishes. Ragi, being organically gluten-free, can easily be substituted for wheat, to prepare chapatis, dosas and sweets or mithais, and is often recommended for patients with celiac disease.
It is important to keep in mind though, that the best time to consume ragi is in the morning, for being fiber-rich, its digestive process is more elaborate and it is usually not okay to eat ragi at night, especially for those with digestive problems and gluten allergies.
Fortifies Bone Density
Finger millet, being a fantastic source of natural calcium, strengthens bones in growing children. It also restores optimum bone density in older people, assisting in alleviating osteoporosis symptoms. While younger people can consume ragi daily, middle-aged and older adults need to eat measured servings of ragi, to augment bone health, while steering clear of gastrointestinal and kidney disorders.
Keeps Blood Sugar Levels In Check
Finger millet, although being high in calories and carbohydrates for instant energy, also comprises a plethora of phytates, tannins, polyphenols – plant chemicals that slow down the digestion process. This lowers high blood sugar in those with diabetes mellitus, making ragi a valuable addition to a diet for diabetes. Also, owing to its low digestibility and rich fiber content, ragi is the top food of choice for adults, for accelerating weight loss and managing other lifestyle diseases like diabetes and obesity.
Iron deficiency anaemia affects countless Indian men, women and children every year, leading to excessive fatigue and low productivity levels. Ragi is a powerhouse of iron, serving as a boon for people who experience low haemoglobin levels in blood, thus effectively treating anaemia. Also Read: Anemia: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Boosts Nervous System Function
Eating ragi in controlled portions on a daily basis assists in enhancing nerve impulse conduction, activating memory centres in the brain and relaxing the mind, due to elevated levels of the amino acid tryptophan. As the tryptophan brings about an equilibrium in the levels of serotonin – a neurotransmitter, ragi helps in treating anxiety and insomnia, by maintaining good moods and promoting sound sleep.
Augments Heart Health
Ragi is completely devoid of cholesterol and sodium, so recipes made with ragi flour can safely be consumed by those with heart ailments. Furthermore, the abundance of dietary fibers and vitamin B3 or niacin help to enhance good HDL levels and diminish bad LDL levels. This averts plaque and fatty deposits in heart vessels, easing cardiac muscle function and improving heart health.
Ragi For Pregnancy And Lactation
Sprouting some ragi grains overnight and consuming it next morning has massive benefits for the health of pregnant and lactating women. Due to the immense iron and calcium content in ragi, it is ideal to stimulate milk production and balance hormonal activities in expecting women and young mothers.
The comprehensive nutritional content in ragi makes it a perfect food for meeting a growing child’s ever-expanding nutrient requirements. A kanji or malt made with ragi flour is often fed to infants and young kids, particularly as a weaning food in the southern states of India. Owing to its starchy content, ragi does increase weight in young children, assisting in their routine development.
Ragi For IBS
IBS refers to irritable bowel syndrome, a commonly occurring intestinal disorder that causes unbearable pain along with abnormal bowel movements, diarrhoea, flatulence and constipation.
Ragi is blessed with the goodness of dietary fibers, with quantities higher than many other cereals such as wheat, barley and oats. Eating foods with increased fiber content positively influences bowel movement, regulating faecal bulk and promotes optimal passage of food and other materials within the intestines. In this manner, consuming a meal with ragi porridge for breakfast stimulates healthy metabolism, remedies IBS symptoms and even assists in averting the risk of colon cancer.
Ragi and Milk Porridge
2 tbsp ragi flour
1 cup milk
1 tbsp crushed almonds
2 tsp cardamom powder
½ tbsp honey
In a pan, warm the milk on medium flame.
Lower the temperature and add the ragi flour, cardamom powder along with crushed almonds, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.
Switch off the stove and set aside.
Add honey as per required taste.
Consume the ragi and milk porridge for breakfast, to pacify IBS and soothe the tummy.
Ragi In Ayurveda:
Ragi is an age-old nutrient-dense crop, that defined the agrarian scenario and food culture in several ancient civilizations. Its therapeutic applications are hence, of a tremendous magnitude, in Ayurveda - the traditional Indian system of medicine. The olden Ayurvedic scriptures praise the healing potential of ragi, in successfully battling hypertension or high blood pressure, averting cancer, treating depression and remedying liver disorders.
Effect On Doshas
Ragi, in essence, has a madhura rasa (sweet taste) with intrinsically laghu and ruksha gunas (light and dry qualities). It possesses ushna virya (heating potency), balancing the kapha (earth and water) dosha (element) while excessively influencing pitta (fire and water) and vata (air and ether) doshas. Moreover, it fosters the positive and equalizing states of mind namely sattva and rajas, effectively eliminating tamas or a negative mindset.
Lowers High Blood Pressure
Being rich in dietary fibers, ragi flushes out Ama toxins from improperly processed foods and hence circumvents them from getting clogged in blood vessels namely arteries, veins and capillaries. The unobstructed transport of blood and nutrients to and from the heart is thus facilitated, lowering high blood pressure i.e. hypertension.
Remedies Liver Dysfunction
Ragi is heaped with antioxidants, which provide for the prompt removal of harmful free radicals from the system, especially in the liver and gallbladder. In this manner, a balance between the bodily tridoshic states is attained wherein all unwanted fatty accumulations are wiped out of the body, ensuring healthy liver function.
Ameliorates Depression Symptoms
Comprising neurotransmitter regulating properties, ragi efficiently boosts the positive state of mind - sattva and suppresses lethargy or tamas. This works wonders in uplifting moods, sharpening the intellect and rehabilitating the brain from depression symptoms.
Ragi Uses For Skin And Hair:
Aside from being a panacea for practically every illness bothering the internal organs in the body, ragi flour also enhances external appearance by revitalizing skin and strengthening hair. This is chiefly owing to its amazingly high amino acid content and potent antioxidants. Moreover, the slightly coarse attribute of ragi flour makes it a wonderful exfoliating agent, that completely removes dead cells from the face, body and scalp, apart from providing a refreshing look and radiant glow to skin and hair.
Supplies Anti-Aging Benefits
The seed coat of ragi grains is composed of phenolic acids and flavonoids - two classes of antioxidants that are excellent free radical terminators with remarkable anti-ageing properties. This promotes new skin cell formation, concealing fine lines and wrinkles. In addition, the vast reserves of amino acids in ragi help boost collagen, maintaining suppleness and smoothness of skin.
Applying an herbal mask of ragi with some milk and honey or other natural infusions is a superb solution to get rid of suntan, UV ray damage and irregular skin complexion, due to the skin-tightening, protective and rejuvenating traits of ragi.
Reduces Acne And Boils
Ragi is imbued with tannins, which are plant compounds with anti-inflammatory qualities. Thus, it aids in decreasing acne, pimples and boils, besides brushing away dark spots and scars.
Prevents Hair Fall
Consisting of formative amino acids such as methionine and lysine, a ragi hair mask as well as ragi in the diet enriches hair growth and renews texture of tresses. This controls hair fall and averts premature greying and balding.
Ragi possesses innumerable essential amino acids and carotenoids that confer useful hair growth and anti-microbial characteristics, when applied as an herbal paste to dandruff-prone scalp. It soothes the hair roots or follicles, thereby repairing damaged scalp as well as dry and brittle hair, besides guaranteeing relief from incessant itching. Also Read: Homemade Hair Masks To Beat Dandruff
Wholesome And Tasty Ragi Recipes:
The uniqueness and versatility of ragi flour extend into the typical Indian kitchen, where it can easily be incorporated to make staple desi dishes such as upmas, rotis, dosas, idlis, parathas, halwas and kheer. Try these delectable recipes with ragi, to elevate your overall wellbeing, in addition to preventing any chronic ailments and seasonal illnesses.
¼ cup ragi flour
7 - 10 whole cashews, broken
2 tsp cardamom powder
3 tbsp ghee
¼ cup jaggery
2 cups water
A few pistachios and raisins
In a deep bowl, mix the ragi flour with some water.
To ensure there are no lumps, pulse it in a mixer for 2 – 3 times and set it aside.
In a pan, heat jaggery and water on medium flame, until jaggery completely dissolves.
Now, add the ragi flour paste to the jaggery in the pan.
Keep stirring, to obtain a slightly sticky, puree-like consistency, until the mixture turns thick and deep brown in colour, and then switch off the stove.
Add some ghee to this sweetened ragi mixture and set aside.
In another small vessel, heat the remaining ghee on medium flame, transfer the cashews and cardamom powder and cook for a few minutes.
Switch off the flame, transfer the fried cashews with cardamom essence into the ragi flour and jaggery paste.
Sprinkle some pistachios and raisins, as toppings for the sweetened ragi blend.
Warm, aromatic and delicious ragi halwa is ready to be served, perfect for any festive occasion or just a sumptuous weekend meal.
Ragi is a superfood, beneficial for promoting digestion, keeping diabetes in check and fortifying bones and muscles. Jaggery is laden with iron, essential for normal blood circulation and preventing the deficiency condition of anaemia. Cashews abound in proteins, for regulating enzyme activity, as well as promoting normal growth and development in the body. Also Read: Cashewnuts Good For You
Ragi Masala Roti
2 cups ragi flour
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 small green chillies, vertically cut
2 medium carrots, shredded
¾ cup mint leaves, finely chopped
½ cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp cumin powder
Salt, to taste
Ghee, as required
Water, as needed
In a large mixing bowl, put together ragi flour, onions, green chillies, mint leaves, coriander leaves, shredded carrots and salt.
Mix it thoroughly, adding a little water from time to time.
Knead it completely to obtain a dough-like composition which is smooth and malleable.
Cover this bowl with a lid and let it sit at room temperature for 20 – 30 minutes.
Once the dough is set, add the red chilli powder and cumin powder to introduce a mildly spicy and tangy flavour to the dough.
Divide the ragi dough into equal portions.
Make even, round balls and flatten it, to obtain symmetrical round shapes.
Heat a tava on medium flame, cook the dough on one side with some ghee and flip it over to fully cook the other side as well, until it turns slightly darker in shade.
Remove from the tava, drizzle some ghee generously on both sides of the rotis, to keep them soft.
Hot ragi masala rotis, seasoned with vegetables and spices, is ready to be eaten. It goes well with all varieties of pickles and chutneys.
Ragi is overflowing with the goodness of healthy unsaturated fats and contains zero cholesterol, to boost cardiac functions. Onion comprises the powerful antioxidants known as quercetin, which offers useful anti-inflammatory traits for preventing cancers. Coriander leaves have copious amounts of vitamin A, for enhanced vision and alkaloids, to protect the liver and gall bladder.
Ragi Side Effects:
In general, eating ragi on a regular basis is well-tolerated by most healthy people and even by those who are overweight or have certain lifestyle disorders like diabetes.
However, ragi consumption must be either completely avoided or limited, by people with kidney complications, as ragi has high calcium content. This, in turn, can increase the levels of oxalic acid and lead to more urinary calculi or kidney stones in the body. Also Read: Natural Ways To Get Rid Of Kidney Stones
Ragi is a very advantageous cereal crop, that can be taken by people of all ages. It is indeed a super-food, abounding in all the essential nutrients, including dietary fibers, proteins, iron, calcium, antioxidants and vitamins, besides being gluten-free and hence safe for those with specific cereal and gluten allergies.
Nevertheless, like all other foods, ragi must also be eaten only in moderation, to avoid any adverse effects from cropping up in the body. When consumed in carefully measured proportions, finger millet or ragi could help in averting instances of malnutrition and degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis, arthritis and Alzheimer’s.
Incorporate this nourishing food crop, as sprouted seeds or in the form of ragi flour, to effortlessly prepare standard Indian recipes like rotis, dosas and halwas, to obtain the wonderful benefits it provides for both, physical and mental health.