Close up of Pearl Millet

17 Interesting Facts About Millet (Whole Grains)

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Millet is an ancient cereal grain that has been grown around the world for thousands of years. This nutritious whole grain comes in several varieties, including pearl, finger, foxtail, proso, and fonio millet. Though not as popular as wheat or rice in most Western countries, millet has many health benefits and intriguing facts behind it.

Here are 17 interesting facts about this hearty, gluten-free grain:

Facts About Millet (Whole Grains)

  1. Millet is one of the oldest cultivated cereals in the world, with evidence of its cultivation in East Asia dating back to 11,000 BC. It’s considered one of humanity’s first grains.
  2. Fonio millet is the smallest variety of millet, with tiny grains that are just 1–2 mm long. It’s a staple crop in parts of West Africa.
  3. Pearl millet is the most widely grown type of millet. It’s a major cereal in arid parts of Africa and Asia.
  4. Millet can thrive in hot, dry areas that experience droughts, flooding, or poor soil. That’s because millet has a short growing season and needs very little water to grow compared to other grains.
  5. Millet has the highest protein content of all major cereals. It’s a fantastic source of plant-based protein, containing 11–15% protein by weight.
  6. In addition to protein, millet is rich in B vitamins like niacin, thiamine, and riboflavin. It also provides minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, and manganese.
Nutrient% Daily Value per 100 grams cooked millet
  1. Various countries have turned millet into beer-like beverages. In Africa, it’s used to make beers like tchoukoutou in Benin, dolo in Burkina Faso, and pito in Ghana. India has produced millet beer for over 5,000 years!
  2. Since it’s naturally free of gluten, millet is an excellent grain choice for those who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Most millet varieties contain no gluten at all.
  3. Certain varieties of millet have goitrogenic substances called thiocyanates that can interfere with thyroid function when consumed raw. Cooking eliminates this effect.
  4. In northern China, millet is made into noodles called xiǎomǐ (小米). These popular noodles are consumed year-round as a staple food.
  5. Millet porridge, known as kōngxīfàn (空稀饭) or xīfàn (稀饭), is a common breakfast food consumed throughout China.
  6. In India, millet flour called bhakri is used to make flatbreads that are eaten throughout the country. Variations of millet flatbread are also found in Nepal (roti or chappati) and Pakistan (bajra roti).
  7. Millet is used to make the beloved fermented crepe called injera in Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine. Pieces of injera are used as edible utensils to scoop up meat and vegetable stews.
  8. In southern India, millet is the main ingredient in a sweet breakfast dish called ragi mudde or ragi ball. Cooked millet flour is molded into balls and dipped into ghee, yogurt, milk, or vegetable stew.
  9. Since millet is fed to cattle and other livestock, it can be found in many non-vegetarian Indian dishes in the form of broths or mixed with meat and vegetables.
  10. Bird seed in many countries contains millet because birds enjoy eating the small grains.
  11. The hard, spherical millet grains resemble tiny beads, so they are occasionally used in arts and crafts. The grains can be fashioned into necklaces, bracelets, curtains, lampshades, and other decorative items.


With its long history and reputation as a sustainablegluten-free grain that thrives in harsh conditions, it’s no wonder millet remains a dietary staple for nearly a third of the global population. This humble grain helps feed millions thanks to its versatility, nutrients, and ability to grow where other crops fail. Millet has moved beyond just being livestock feed and cereal to becoming an ingredient in beloved traditional dishes, beer, and even artwork. Its future looks bright as people discover old grains anew.

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