If you are a momma looking for healthy food options for your little bundle of joy, look no further than Ragi! The Finger Millet or Foxtail Miller is an amazing grain with lots of health benefits that can play an important role in your baby’s wholesome growth. Very widely flourishing in the Asian and African lands, the Ragi crop is one of the few kinds of cereal that does not need much pesticide to grow and does not undergo nutrient stripping polishing, making it so much healthier than its counterparts. Read on to discover the numerous health benefits you can reap from Ragi and a secret way to harvest even more goodness from it!
When should you introduce Ragi to your baby?
A baby’s digestive system stays in the growth mode for the first 6 months, very unprepared to deal with any food other than breastmilk, formula or water. Ragi can be introduced anytime starting at 6 months. It is in fact very widely preferred as a baby’s first food.
Health benefits of Ragi
- Bones and teeth: No other cereal can win with Ragi in the calcium department. 100 grams of finger millet has over 344 mg of calcium, which is a much-needed mineral for healthy bones in infants. Babies are born with many soft cartilages in the skull, arms and legs, which harden into real bones in the first two years. Plus, the introduction of little teeth happens over this period too – so feeding little babies plenty of Ragi is essential for healthy bones and teeth.
- Iron: Almost all babies develop anemia in the first few months of birth, a condition termed as physiologic anemia. The growth of a little baby is so fast that it takes a while for the red blood cell production to catch up with their needs. Adding an iron-rich food like Ragi to your baby’s diet will help him/her in this phase of rapid growth and reduce irritability and fussiness, which are signs of low iron.
- Lactose intolerance: Ragi is a gluten-free cereal that can be safely fed to lactose-intolerant babies, making it a healthy substitute.
- Immunity: Ragi is rich in essential amino acids needed for maintaining a healthy immune function.
- Endurance: The vital nutrients, carbs and proteins in the Ragi grain helps build stamina.
- Weight Gain: Ragi is rich in proteins, the muscle-building essential nutrient. Regular servings of proteins are crucial for your little one to maintain a healthy weight. Ragi is a very apt food for babies struggling to gain weight.
- Heart health: 100 grams of Ragi flour has over 137 milligrams of magnesium, an important mineral that is intertwined with a healthy heart, healthy heartbeat and healthy nerves. Ragi also reduces the levels of bad cholesterol in the body.
- Bowel movements: A cup of Ragi flour has around 16.1 grams of fiber. The rich insoluble fiber present in Ragi does not dissolve in the digestion process, adding bulk to stools to ensure food is passed out smoothly and regularly through the intestines. Eating fiber rich food like Ragi everyday promotes regular bowel movements and helps in intestine health.
- Constipation: Babies who drink lots of milk or formula often suffer from constipation. The fiber rich Ragi cereal promotes daily bowel movements and relieves constipation problem in babies.
- Anti-oxidant: Ragi is very rich in anti-oxidants, helping your baby stay free from inflammation. It also is very helpful in healthy skin growth.
- Easy digestion: The no fat, high fiber property of Ragi makes it very light for your baby to digest. It is one of the hassle free first baby foods.
- Sleep: The rich anti-oxidants of the Ragi cereal reduce stress in our systems while its supply of minerals keeps away muscle cramps, creating an ideal environment for a good night’s sleep. Ragi is also said beneficial in treating migraines in adults.
- Feeling full: A good serving of Ragi can keep your little one feeling full for longer, reducing fatigue, fussiness and crying.
- Methionine: Ragi has been crowned super food because it has important amino acids like methionine, isoleucine, phenylalanine and leucine which are not seen in other starchy grains. Methionine promotes detoxification; Isoleucine is important for immune function; Leucine is critical for protein synthesis, wound healing and blood sugar regulation; phenylalanine regulates the production of other neuro transmitters like dopamine. These essential amino acids are not produced in a baby’s body and must be obtained through diet, in which Ragi helps wonderfully.
The secret to gaining more nutrients from the same amount of ragi
We now know that Ragi is a wonderful baby food that has 10x more calcium than any of its cereal counterparts. Would you like to know a simple way to increase the iron and calcium in Ragi even more? Try sprouting! Soak your Ragi grains overnight, drain the water and either hang them in a soft cloth or put them in the fridge in an airtight box. Voila! You’ll have little germinating plants! This little process of turning the seeds into live baby plants has huge health boosts.
- The process of sprouting and germination increases calcium levels by 20%! In addition, it makes absorbing this calcium so much easier for your baby’s little digestive system.
- Sprouting Ragi increases its iron content by more than 10 times! Nature works its magic when sprouting, releasing more goodness for your little one.
- Most food also has some anti-nutrients that can interfere with nutrient absorption. Ragi also has stuff like tannins, polyphenols and trypsin inhibitors in small amounts. Soaking and germination eradicate these anti-nutrients, making magnesium, iron, copper, calcium and zinc readily available for absorption.
- The process of germination breaks down many of the complex large chain proteins to simpler amino acids, which digest quickly and more easily. This makes Ragi even more gentle to digest for your baby’s little tummy.
- Most vegans suffer from a deficiency of vitamin B12, an element not so common among vegetarian-friendly options. The trace levels of this rare vitamin in Ragi grow to bigger amounts in the process of sprouting.
- The amino acid tryptophan has soothing and relaxing effects on one’s mood. Sprouted Ragi is rich in this amino acid and helps your baby enjoy a good night’s sleep.
- Sprouting Ragi increases its protein content two folds, helping your baby meet his /her daily protein requirements from a smaller feed! Enough proteins are super important for your baby to recover from fatigue and to have good stamina to keep you running.
- The germination process reduces the starch content of the cereal to even lower levels, helping the proportion of fiber and protein rise in comparison. This makes sprouted Ragi have a low glycemic index compared to the non-sprouted version.
We hope you now know the health benefits of Ragi and the secret to make it even more nutritious! Keep watching this space for more useful articles!