By: Dr. Shweta, Deptt. of Genetics & Plant Breeding C.S. Azad Univ. of Agril. & Tech. Kanpur & Sr. Associate Editor-ICN
KANPUR: India is considered as homeland for many indigenous and traditional crops associated with culture and traditions of people living a particular region. There are many food crops which are important for food and nutritional security but traditional crops which are embedded in our cultural and rituals adapted to local environment and are also socially acceptable. Traditional food crops which are associated with different native communities of the country basically include crops which thrive well in harsh ecological conditions and provide complete sustainable diets. Small millets and pseudo-cereals are most important group of traditional crops which also constitutes major portion of staple food of tribal and remotely accessible areas.
Millets, which contain minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, would fit the bill. There are many sources of foods that are known as immunity boosters, and being a staple cereal, millets may prove to be a promising source, especially relevant to the times of Covid-19 virus pandemic situation. Millets (lately known as nutricereals) are nutritionally superior to major cereals (wheat and rice) for carbohydrate and energy, and serve as a good source of protein, high dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals, antoxidants and micronutrients. Among small millets, finger, barnyard, proso and foxtail millets are most important and grain amaranth and buckwheat are common pseudo-cereals. Small millets seeds possess 60-70 % dietary carbohydrates, 6-10% protein, 1.5 to 5% fat 2-4 % minerals and 12-20 % dietary fibre. High dietary fibre content prove to have hypoglycaemic effect and very effective in reducing blood sugar. Finger and proso millet observed to have high total carotenoids while foods prepared form barnyard millet showed to posses very low Glycemic Index (GI). These are also group of crops which also provides most nutritious crop stover for feeding to the animals. Finger millet is rich in calcium (364 mg/100 g), more than double that available in milk. The protein content of proso millet was significantly richer in essential amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and methionine) than wheat protein. Thus, the presence of all the required nutrients in millets helps to maintain the body’s immune system. Millets have nutraceutical properties in the form of antioxidants which prevent deterioration of human health. The alkaline nature of millets offers natural protection against many diseases including cancer. Another emerging health problem is metabolic syndrome, a condition characterised by increased insulin resistance and visceral adiposity. Vitamin A, which is found in abundant quantities in millets, is involved in the development of the immune system and plays a regulatory role in cellular immune responses and humoral immune processes. Vitamin B9 plays a role in immunity enhancement.Several traditional household food processing and preparation methods, including soaking, fermentation, germination and malting, can also be used to enhance the bioavailability of micronutrients. Grain amaranth besides possessing high lysine that is low in other grains, posses high anti oxidant properties and is free from gluten. Research carried on these crops showed wide variation between crops and between varieties with in a crop for antioxidant properties, phenoloics and other phytochemicals linked with glucose metabolism. Presences of high bioactive functionality relevant to type 2 diabetes management make these crops a valuable resource for the climatic adversaries. The phytonutrients that are primarily available in fruits, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains such as millets enhance both native and adaptive immune function and prevent immune function and prevent infection among others. Millets play an important role in maintaining our gut health as they contain soluble fibre and are also rich in micronutrients like Iron, zinc, selenium which helps in building up immunity.