Long, long ago - some say as far back as 2000 BC - a young millet called Eleusine coracana was cultivated in the highlands of East Africa. Before long, the crop made its way to India, where the locals gave it a new name - ragi. It was also known by other names - nachni and finger millet. It quickly became a standard part of the Indian diet, renowned for its versatility and nutritive value, Alas, it was overshadowed by the dominance of rice over the past half century, but is, like many of its other traditional millet brethren, making a comeback. And for good reason!
With its versatility, source of calcium, protein, fiber and more ... Ragi is every Mom's choice of healthy evening snacks for kids.
This young (at-heart) millet is one of the best ingredients for an evening snack, especially for kids. Here are seven reasons why.
1. Sweet? Savoury? Super-versatile ragi can help either way.
Want it sweet? You got it. Want it savoury? No problemo! Want it as a nice solid mudde dessert? Why, certainly. Want it as a badam milk drink? Check. Forgive us if we sound a tad philosophical, but ragi is anything you want it to be! From mid-day dosas for a taste of home, to millet waffles for a trip abroad! And hey, you may not always have time to make some of these amazing recipes, you can always count on our range of healthy ragi namkeen, ragi bites fills and cereals. Yep. We made three things and eight flavours out of ragi. We told you it was versatile.
2. Bone boon! It’s a great source of calcium
Other cereals pale in comparison to ragi when it comes to this all-important, bone-building element. Ragi boasts 344 mg per 100 grams (around four rotis), which is more than double the amount that chickpeas provide, and almost thrice that of cow’s milk! And growing kids need a lot of daily calcium - ranging from 700 mg (for infants) to 1300 mg for teenagers. Along with healthy meals, a ragi-based evening snack will help meet this target and help avoid later problems like osteoporosis and fracture risk. Mix one of our cereals or fills with milk, and you have a (delicious) calcium powerhouse right there.
3. It’s a good source of protein
100g of ragi flour gives you 7.2 g of protein, roughly 1/5th of a pre-teen’s daily requirement. While this amount is largely the same as that of other grains like atta or barley, it has the advantage of being gluten-free - an important consideration for parents whose kids might have an intolerance. Plus, as Indians typically don’t have as much protein as they should, especially in vegetarian households, having a snack base that provides a decent amount of protein is a plus. Teens and pre-teens, we all need proteins! (Ok, our snacks are better than our tongue twisters, promise)
Like other whole grains, ragi has fiber-dense bran that also retains a lot of nutrients (something that’s lost when polished, as in the case of white rice). But back to that fiber and why it’s important: It aids digestion, and helps one feel fuller for longer. So a ragi-rich evening snack can prevent overeating during dinner. Soluble fiber also reduces blood cholesterol - not something you want associated with kids! All said and done, a fiber-rich diet can help prevent obesity, something that youngsters are sadly vulnerable to these days. But hey, with all that taste and options, they won’t be complaining about snacks made of this superfood!
5. It helps them relaaaaaaaaaaaaaaax!
Ragi has several amino acids. One of them is called tryptophan. Now, this cheeky little amino acid has the property of increasing the body’s level of serotonin, a precursor to the hormone melatonin, that helps regulate sleep. The upshot of this mini biology lesson - ragi can help you relax, as it contains natural relaxants. And while some parents might argue that less boisterous kids post evening by itself is a good thing (we don’t judge!), the bigger advantage is arguably better quality sleep, which is probably the healthiest thing one can get. Bonus: ragi can also help with bad headaches and migraines.
6. Can easily be made into healthy baby food
In India, ragi is widely used to feed babies (remember ragi kanji?). We’ve mentioned some of the benefits earlier - the high calcium, good protein and excellent nutrient value of ragi are all beneficial for toddlers. Ragi’s versatility means it can easily be mixed with milk, or made into a nice tasty porridge.
7. And finally, it’s very easy to use
A ragi recipe can be as simple or complex as you want it to be! To make a porridge, all you need is ragi, salt, water and optionally, milk. Ragi mixed with oats & rava can make a delicious idli or dosa. To cool down, you could just add ragi to buttermilk - something even babies can have. And of course, you could just reach into the larder for a Soulfull Ragi Namkeen snack or Fills snack!And there you have it - the young Eleusine coracana has certainly come a long way from East Africa to becoming a resurgent staple in Indian households - the perfect ingredient for any evening craving your kids (or face it, adults) might have!