Ragi flour or nachni flour is a reddish brown fine powder with visible tiny red specks. The flour has a bland flavour and nutty aroma. Nachni flour is rich in carbohydrate from starch and dietary fibre. Being fibre-rich, nachni is digested slowly and this keeps one full for longer thereby helping to control food intake and preventing spikes in blood sugar levels. Fibre also helps lower triglycerides, VLDL and LDL cholesterol levels. It is also a good source of protein. The protein of nachni contains essential amino acids like tryptophan, threonine, valine, isoleucine and methionoine. Mehtionine is a sulphur containing amino acid which is lacking in most cereals. Nachni has a very high content of calcium and potassium and is a good source of B-complex vitamins. The high calcium content helps strengthen the bones which helps reduce the risk of fractures and the development of osteoporosis. Potassium has a role along with sodium in maintaining the fluid balance in the body. Like jowar and bajra, it is also gluten free. Nachni has a high content of antioxidant polyphenols which have several health benefits. Consumption of nachni is believed to help relax the body which is beneficial to people suffering from anxiety and insomnia. It is also thought to aid in wound healing. Ragi flour is versatile and can be used to prepare a number of dishes. It can be used to make porridges, rotis, pancakes, dosas, etc.
Minor millet flours
The flours of minor millets such as kodo millet (harik/varagu), proso millet (chena/panivaragu), barnyard millet (sanwa/jhangora), and foxtail millet (rala) are part of the diets of people in many parts of the country, especially on days of fasting. These millets are gluten free and are rich in starch, protein, fibre, B vitamins and minerals such as magnesium phosphorus, iron and copper. They also contain flavonoid antioxidants which have many health benefits. The flours of these millets are versatile and can be used to prepare chapatis, puris, sheera, upma, kheers, porridges, idli, dosas, etc.
Amaranth or rajgira flour
Traditionally eaten as a fasting food (faaral food) in many parts of India, amaranth flour is a gluten free product that is rich in protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and dietary fibre. Studies have shown that amaranth is a source of dietary phytosterols, which have cholesterol-lowering properties. The flour is versatile and can be used by itself or in combination with rice or wheat flour to prepare porridges, pancakes, rotis, etc, and can also be used as a thickening agent in soups and kadhis instead of cornflour or besan.
Another gluten free flour, quinoa is the only plant food that provides complete protein as it contains all the essential amino acids in the right amounts. It is a very good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and potassium, and is good source of several B vitamins (especially thiamine, niacin, vitamin B-6 & folic acid) and vitamin E and is high in fibre and phytonutrients – saponins and flavonoids, which function as antioxidants protecting the body from the damaging effects of free radicals. Quinoa flour can be used to prepare chapatis, rotis, pancakes, etc.
Sabudana or sago flour
Prepared by finely grinding sabudana, this flour is also gluten free and is very rich in carbohydrates but has a low content of protein, vitamins and minerals. Sago flour has good thickening properties and can be used to thicken soups, sauces, stews. It can also be used to prepare porridges, puddings, pancakes and savoury items like chakklis or murukku.
This is a tasteless white flour obtained from the cassava roots and has a nutritional profile similar to sago flour and is used in the same way as sago flour.
Water chestnut flour or
singhade ka atta
This flour is prepared from boiled, peeled and dried water chestnuts. This flour has a bright white colour and fine texture. It is also used in Asian cuisine as a thickening agent or to make batters for deep frying. Water chestnut flour gives a light crust and stays white as a coating even when deep fried. The flour is gluten free and has a high content of starch and hence is high in carbohydrates and calories and is also a good source of potassium and fibre. Studies have found that water chestnuts contain flavonoid antioxidants like catechins, specifically epicatechins. Singhade ka atta can be used to prepare chapatis, puris, sheera and halwa. It can also be used to thicken kadhis instead of besan.
To be continued. . .
(Writer is a consultant nutritionist with 21 years of experience, practicing at Panaji and can be contacted on email@example.com)