Grains with gluten are generally not accepted on the Paleo diet or other diets because of its known harmful effect on the body. The emergence of gluten-free grains as part of the Paleo food list has gained in popularity over the last few years. One of these gluten-free grains is millet. But is millet Paleo?
For centuries, people around the world enjoyed eating food that contained or was made from grains. Some of these foods are filled with gluten, which in recent years was discovered to be the culprit for the emergence of several diseases that affect us today.
Enter gluten-free grains. They believe these grains to have little to no gluten and became a new option for people who are concerned with their health including those following a Paleo lifestyle. A popular choice amongst the gluten-free food list is millet.
Millet grain is actually a seed but is usually categorized under grains, just like rice and quinoa and which is why some people decide it shouldn’t be part of their Paleolithic diet. Although labeled as it still divides gluten-free, experts’ opinions whether they should label it as healthy.
Whilst there are health benefits to be had from this seed, also know the health issues associated with it. To understand this debate further, we need to know more about millet, so we can then determine if it is in fact, a paleo diet food or not.
As already mentioned millet is often called a grain but is in fact a seed. It thrives best in warmer climates. For many centuries it has been a staple ingredient in diets in China, India and Africa. Often is used as a substitute when people make couscous style dishes or a pilaf. Plus like wheat it can be ground down into flour and used for creating baked goods such as bread, noodles and even cookies.
As mentioned earlier, millet is not a grain but a seed, an ancient seed. Millet comes from a group of small-seeded grasses and is grown worldwide. For the last 10,000 years (so well after the Paleolithic era) East Asia has been known to produce the most popular types of millet we consume today. They grow most of these in semiarid tropical areas like India, Mali, and Nigeria. This crop is ideal for these places as it is easy to grow and doesn’t require too much water.
Just like wheat, we use millet to make flour. In the countries where it is grown, they use millet flour for making bread, usually flatbread, but not as often in Western countries. You’ll find if you make paleo bread using millet the texture is crumbly, so most Paleo recipes will suggest combining it with another flour such as that made from coconut or almonds. Millet can also be used for producing beer, noodles or cooked just like rice.
Millet that is grown in Western countries is mostly used for making birdseed and livestock feed and doesn’t find its way into processed foods. Out of the 500 species available, we grow only a few types of this plant as crops and may be something you think of as a paleo diet food. The most common of these are Pearl, Finger, Proso, and Foxtail.
Perhaps this may be one of your questions, if not the first question you ask when you’ve heard that millet is a seed, not a grain. To address this question, the answer is yes, but there is a catch. Though millet is naturally gluten free, some products made with millet may contain gluten-rich ingredients, so you need to be wary when eating Paleo food that has already been made.
Millet is a good option when it comes to following a gluten-free diet. As with anything you buy read the label first to ensure that the ingredients are truly a paleo diet food. People who have celiac disease or sensitivity to gluten need not worry when it comes to eating millet since it is easy to digest, gluten-free and soothing to the stomach.
This seed’s popularity has grown not only because it is easy to grow but also because of its known benefits. Studies conducted suggest that there are several health benefits to be gained from this seed that can help to improve a person’s health.
Here are a few of the health benefits to be gained from including this food in some of your paleo recipes.
Millet contains less glucose compared to other types of grain. It affects the digestion and absorption of starch, which also affects the production of sugar in the blood. Diabetics who want to find a better alternative to wheat usually find millet, especially finger millet, is a great choice.
Several studies suggest that millet contains an antioxidant that helps to stop the production of an enzyme that can cause cataracts.
Because of its high levels of dietary fiber, we regard millet to be heart and weight friendly. We also know the fiber in this food to help inhibit the development of gallstones. The fiber found in this plant will help with cardiovascular health and weight control.
We know millet to contain protein, even when roasted it maintains much of its protein. Most vegans find roasted millet a great option when looking for a source of protein for their diet. This small seed also contains folate, choline, zinc, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium, all of which can help to keep your body in a healthy state.
However, there are certain anti-nutrients contained in millet that prevents our bodies from being able to absorb the nutrients that have been mentioned above. It especially has problems in being able to absorb phosphorous, potassium, calcium and magnesium.
Also, you need to consider that this particular food contains a very high amount of carbohydrates in it. In fact, it contains about as much as wheat does, so this could be a good reason to avoid including it in your diet.
However, the same cannot be said for Quinoa. This is a complete protein and it also contains the 9 essential amino acids that we need, and is very rare to find in most forms of grain. In fact one serving of quinoa offers us around 6 grams of protein. But other the amount of protein that millets and quinoa have, there isn’t any real major differences between them.
Though millet is healthy, there are certain dangers associated with eating it too. In countries where millet is a staple part of the diet, the cases of goiter and thyroid issues are high. In studies carried out, it was found that millet contains goitrogens.
This is a dietary substance that affects the formation of a goiter. These goitrogens affect the absorption of iodine by the body. Besides these goitrogens, this food also contains flavonoids which can affect how a person’s thyroid functions. Unlike other foods that contain goitrogens, when cooked, the number of goitrogens in this food increases. People who already have thyroid and goiter problems should not eat millet. In fact, you should avoid all processed foods that contain millet in them.
Goiter is a condition that causes the enlargement of a person’s thyroid, which is a very important gland that is located in the throat. But it isn’t just goitrogens that can lead to this condition, if a person’s intake of iodine is low it can also lead to someone developing this condition.
In fact according to an article in the Journal of Endocrinology people who rely on millet as a staple ingredient to their diet can develop Metabolism Hypothyroidism. Not only a serious but very debilitating illness. Common symptoms people with this condition are likely to suffer from with this condition including loss of hair, fatigue, depression, problems losing weight and cold feet/hands.
So in response to the question is millet paleo? Some people would say yes, but others would say no.
Although healthy and a great alternative from other grains, people who have thyroid issues must avoid it. Just like most food, eating millet in moderation is a must even though the levels of saturated fat in it are low. Choose organic millet to include in your paleo meals since it will be healthier and contains much more nutritional value compared to the processed kind. Although it is “not a grain.”
There are a great many people who decide to follow a Paleo diet as they’ve suffered from hypothyroid symptoms or from an autoimmune disorder. These are the people who should avoid including any forms of millets into their diet. However, if you’ve not suffered from such issues, then including this food into your Paleo diet in moderation is perfectly acceptable, as technically it isn’t a grain.