Health Benefits of Bajra (Pearl Millet)

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on September 15, 2023
4 min read

Bajra is the Indian word for pearl millet. It is one of the oldest cultivated grains. It is widely consumed in rural India and is available all over the world. It's a rich source of a variety of nutrients and has a lot of health benefits.

Pearl millet is high in fiber and essential amino acids. In addition to being nutritious, bajra is resistant to drought, heat, and some forms of contamination that affect other grains. It has been used for years as a cover crop and animal feed, but its low cost and high nutrient content make it a great source of food for people as well. It is especially helpful in areas with food insecurity.

Bajra is a good source of several key nutrients. One cup of the cooked grain provides:

Additionally, one cup of bajra provides: 

  • Calories: 207.06
  • Protein: 6.11 grams
  • Carbs: 41.19 grams
  • Fat: 1.74 grams
  • Fiber: 2.26 grams
  • Folate: 8% of the DV
  • Iron: 6% of the DV
  • Thiamine (Vitamin B1): 15% of the DV
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): 11% of the DV
  • Niacin (Vitamin B6): 14% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 11% of the DV
  • Zinc: 14% of the DV

All whole grains, including bajra, have substantial health benefits, including:

Reduces your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A study of 55,465 people between the ages of 50 and 65 found that men who ate the most whole grains had a 34% decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Women who ate the most whole grains had a 22% decreased risk.

The fiber in whole grains such as bajra is harder for your body to break down. Because of this, it doesn't cause a spike in blood sugar that refined grains can cause. Stabilizing your blood sugar helps your body use insulin better.

Reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease. A diet high in whole grains such as bajra can help lower your total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar levels. The Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study found that women who ate two to three servings of whole grains daily were 30% less likely to have a heart attack or die from heart disease than women who ate less than one serving of whole grains weekly.

Reduces your risk of dying from inflammatory diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis, gout, asthma, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease) are examples of inflammatory diseases. The Iowa Women’s Health Study found that women who ate two or more servings daily of whole grains had a 30% less chance of dying from an inflammation-related condition.

Reduces your risk of breast cancer. In a study of 35,972 women in the United Kingdom, premenopausal women who ate more than 30 grams of fiber daily had a 52% less chance of developing breast cancer compared to those who ate less than 20 grams daily.

Reduces the risk of childhood asthma. A study of Dutch children aged 8 to 13 showed that children who ate a diet high in whole grains were 54% less likely to have asthma. The probability of the children having asthma with bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR), which is an increased sensitivity to factors that cause narrowing of the airways, was reduced by 72% in children who ate a lot of whole grains.

‌Boosts your energy level. Magnesium is important for the cells in your body. It plays a role in converting food into energy, regulating your nervous system, and creating new proteins. One of the first symptoms of magnesium deficiency is fatigue. Foods high in magnesium such as bajra can help you get enough magnesium in your diet and increase your energy level.

One way to cook bajra includes:

  • Rinse the bajra before cooking
  • Remove any dirt or debris mixed in with the seeds
  • Boil 2-1/2 cups of water or broth for every 1 cup of bajra
  • Add it to the boiling water or broth and let it return to a boil
  • Cover the pot and turn down the heat
  • Simmer for about 25 minutes

Millet that is cooked this way will be fluffy like rice. To make a creamier bajra, stir it frequently while cooking and add water as needed to reach the consistency you want. You can add a nuttier flavor to bajra by roasting the seeds before you cook it. Do this by putting them in a dry skillet over medium heat. Stir the grains frequently until they turn a golden color then cook as described above.