March 2017 Grappling with PCOD (Poly cystic ovarian disease)-like symptoms and struggling to lose weight, Pallavi Upadhyaya from Delhi, came across grains like ragi, jowar and bajra, names that she had heard of before but did not know much about. It took her a lot of effort to find these flours and learn how to cook them but it worked like magic. Without eating anything less during meals, and without any loss of energy she lost almost 10 kgs in 2.5 months! Soon after this, she developed gestational diabetes, a form of diabetes that one gets during pregnancy which usually goes away after delivery. In this, it is extremely critical to manage sugar levels to prevent any longterm effect on the child. Pallavi was told that insulin was almost inevitable but initially the doctors would start off with diet modifications to see how it goes. Determined to not take any extra medication, Pallavi focussed on diet and mild exercise to deal with the diabetes. This time she experimented more with wholegrain millets, including more of kangni (foxtail millet), kodo millet, bajra and jowar daliya in her diet. As a result she did not have to take any insulin during the entire pregnancy, and was blessed with a healthy child. Enthused, she researched and found that the nutritional composition of millets is superior to wheat and rice. They are rich in several micro nutrients like calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc, beta carotene, folic acid and B Vitamins and high on fibre which are essential for good digestion, healthy blood pressure and sugar levels. Consequently, Pallavi became a millet loyalist and these wonder grains became a part of her family’s lifestyle. Both she and her husband, Rajeev had some interactions with millet farmers in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. The need to encourage farmers to continue growing millets and the lack of good quality, unpolished and reasonably priced millets in the Delhi-NCR region spurred them to do something about it. In 2015, they formed a social enterprise, ‘Millets for health’. Their organisation works for the revival of millets through provision of good quality unpolished millets in Delhi-NCR. The couple also conducts millet cooking workshops and provides millet-based catering. Millet growing benefits the environment too. Millets grow in a fraction of the water needed to grow rice. It takes an average of 4000 litres of water to grow one kg of rice while millets can grow without any irrigation. They do not need any fertilizers and pesticides and are naturally ‘organic’ crops. In an era where one hears of all kinds of problems that the farmers face, this indeed seems to be the best option. “As health-conscious, environment-conscious and socially-conscious consumers of today, let us switch back to these healthy alternatives that are a part of our rich culture and heritage,” pleads Pallavi.
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