By Umar Nsubuga
At only four months, malnourished baby Ritah was rescued by two neighbours in Matugga, Wakiso district, after her mother abandoned her at a neighbouring church.
Since the two neighbours did not have much, milk was a luxury they could not afford.
“So instead, we sought out millet porridge as an option for the baby when she turned six months,” Aisha Akello one of the neighbours said.
She says a pint of milk and soya would be mixed in the millet porridge, just to add more protein to the little girl’s diet.
“Her skin started to clear, then it became firm. The brown and scanty hair started to fill up and the irregular stool stabilised,” Akello explained.
For the goodwill home, millet porridge has since done the trick for both adults and children and Akello would recommend it to any family.
“However, when dealing with children, make sure that it is a bit light and easy for their rather tiny stomachs,” she advises.
According to the World’s Healthiest Foods, an online health magazine, the term millet refers to a variety of grains, some of which do not belong to the same genus.
It could come in white, yellow, grey and red colours, depending on which part of the world. However, in Uganda, it comes in red.
Millet could be crashed and prepared as porridge or mingled and prepared as a main course meal. It is a staple food in many cultural groups in Uganda, especially in the northern and western regions.
Sharon Naluwende, a nutritionist at Mulago hospital says millet has great nutritional value.
Muscle degeneration, insomnia
“Millet is a high protein grain with about 12% proteins by weight. One cup of cooked millet contains 6g of proteins, consisting of all the essential amino acids including leucine,” she says.
Leucine, according to Naluwende, slows down muscle degradation and helps to build lean muscle mass.
“Millet is one of the best sources of tryptophan, an amino acid that can raise your serotonin levels and help with stress reduction,” she explains.
She, therefore, advises those with sleep-related conditions to take a cup of millet porridge as therapy food to help them get a good night’s sleep. Millet is also high in iron, which helps to transport oxygen throughout the body.
Haspha Nassolo, a senior nursing officer At Joint Clinic Research Centre says it is an excellent source of B vitamins, which can help one break down carbohydrates and fat more efficiently.
Nassolo says millet is particularly concentrated with vitamin B6, folate and niacin. Vitamin B6 and folate can help reduce the homocysteine levels in the blood, preventing cholesterol.
Elevated blood levels of homocysteine often indicate that one is not getting enough folate or B12 from food or supplements.
“Millet can also raise the number of high-density lipoproteins (combination of proteins and lipids) in the blood, which further protect the blood vessels from atherosclerosis (a disease in which plaque builds up inside the arteries) and haemorrhage,” she says.
Naluwende says millet oozes with magnesium, an essential mineral.
Magnesium can help to reduce the effects of migraines and heart attacks.
As if that is not enough, she says that the grain is also filled with phosphorus, which helps with fat metabolism and body tissue repair as well as creating energy.
“Scientists say millet has phosphorus, an essential component for energy,” she adds.
“Millet does not need a lot of time to cook and besides, all its nutrients remain intact,” he adds.
Because of its whole grain, Naluwende says, millet protects against childhood asthma.