Wonders of Ragi
The tiny deep red pearls called Ragi is an annual cereal plant which is botanically known as Eleusine coracana. It is commonly known as Finger millet in English, Kelvaragu in Tamil, Nachani in Marathi etc. Some Indian varieties of ragi are Kempu ragi, Ragalli shivalli, Pichakaddi etc.
It is widely grown in the arid regions of Asia and Africa. This monocot plant is usually intercropped with legumes like peanuts, cow peas etc. The best character of this monocot plant is that it is not bound by season and can be grown throughout the year. This crop is one among the hardiest crops which can withstand severe drought conditions and can also grow well under scanty rainfall condition. However with good irrigation facilities the yield of ragi matches with crops like rice. Ragi seeds remain free of pests and insects for a long duration extending up to 50 years hence serving as a food reserve in case of tough situations like famine.
Nutritional significance of Ragi plant
- As it is a rich source of dietary calcium (344mg/100g) ragi acts as a good supplement for those people who suffer from milk allergies.
- Women who are in their postmenopausal age are advised to consume ragi as dietary calcium provided by it checks osteoporosis.
- When a child completes 6 months of age ragi is suggested as a best weaning food. Ragi is rich in iron content (3.9mg/100g). In comparison to milk the amount of iron and calcium are higher in ragi.
- It is a rich source of essential amino acid – methonine (194mg/g of protein). This amino acid is lacking from the diet of enormous number of poor people who sustain only on starchy meals consisting of polished rice, cassava, plantain etc.
- Apart from methonine, ragi is also rich in other essential amino acids like Valine (413mg/g of protein), Isoleucine (275mg/g of protein), Threonine (263mg/g of protein), and Tryptophan (191mg/g of protein).
- Ragi is a coarse grain which is rich in fiber (3.6g/100g). It has low Glycemic index. This makes ragi a boon for people suffering from diabetes and obesity. It takes a longer time to get digested and hence keeps a check on the blood sugar levels and gives a feeling of fullness in the stomach.
- As it is fiber rich it acts as a good laxative and prevents constipation.
- Fat content of ragi is very less (1.3 g/100g) in comparison to rice (2.7g), wheat (2g) and maize (4.6g). This makes it a best alternative for those people who want to loose weight.
- Ragi is rich in antioxidants and all its varieties are gluten-free serving as a best alternative for people suffering from wheat allergy.
- The plant remnants obtained from this plant serve as a nutritious fodder for animals.
- When the seeds are soaked in water overnight and tied in a cloth the seeds start sprouting. This process is associated with amazing increase in nutrients. There is a considerable increase in proteins, vitamins and minerals due to sprouting.
- Ragi intake is not advisable only in cases of patients suffering from urinary calculi as it is rich in oxalic acids.
Medicinal uses of ragi plant
- Ragi acts as a wholesome diet for diabetic and obese people.
- As mentioned above it is rich in calcium and protein and hence serves as a cheaper alternative for milk.
- The leaves of ragi plant are known for their diaphoretic, diuretic, and vermifuge properties.
- The juice of the leaves of this plant promotes child birth in women.
- The local people use ragi as a folk medicine for diseases like leprosy and liver disease.
Some mouth watering varieties of ragi dishes
- A very simple dish using ragi is ragi java or porridge. To prepare this ragi flour is boiled and taken along with milk or buttermilk. This serves as a best weaning food for a baby 6 months old.
- Apart from this ragi mudde is a very common dish liked by people from Karnataka.
- Ragi dosas, ragi idlis and ragi rotis are also liked by people.
- To make the dishes longstanding we can prepare even ragi biscuits.
Decline in the usage of ragi
Ragi used to be a staple diet for a wide community in India. The people of Karnataka still consume ragi in the form of ragi mudde regularly in their diet. However with the onset of green revolution the focus of government shifted towards crops like rice and wheat. People started to shift from a ragi based diet to other cereals which decreased the usage of ragi gradually. However research has proved that ragi is much more nutritious than cereals like rice, sorghum, wheat and is available at a cheaper price. Ragi can be used to handle harsh situations like famine and large number of poor people suffering from malnutrition. Ragi can provide ample amount of calcium and protein to those people who cannot afford milk.
With so many delicious dishes made up ragi around and being aware of the nutritional and medicinal significance of ragi should we not take a decision to increase the cultivation and usage of the outstanding grain – Ragi.
Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962. The medicinal and poisonous plants of southern and eastern Africa: Being an account of their medicinal and other uses, chemical composition, pharmacological effects and toxicology in man and animal
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