Millets are a group of grains belonging to the grass family Poaceae. People with diabetes can eat millets as part of a healthful, balanced diet.

Millets are an excellent source of fiber and contain a number of important nutrients.

This article outlines the nutritional content of millets and the different types of millets available. It also covers some research into the potential health benefits of millets for diabetes.

a bowel of porridge made with millets that is safe for a person with diabetesShare on Pinterest
Consuming millets may help control blood glucose in diabetes.

There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.

In people with type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce any insulin. In people with type 2 diabetes, the body either produces very little insulin or is less sensitive to its effects.

Diet plays an important role in the management of both types of diabetes.

People with diabetes can eat millets as part of a healthful, balanced diet. A registered dietitian or nutritionist can help a person develop a nutritious meal plan that incorporates millets.

Millets are small-grained cereals belonging to the grass family Poaceae.

There are several different types of millets. Some of the most commercially available types include:

  • pearl millet
  • finger millet
  • foxtail millet
  • little millet
  • sorghum, or great millet

The findings of one 2018 study suggest that foxtail millet may help control blood glucose.

The study involved 64 participants with impaired glucose tolerance. Each participant ate 50 grams (g) of foxtail millet per day baked into bread. The participants ate the bread alongside their usual diet for a period of 12 weeks.

After 6 weeks, the participants’ fasting blood glucose levels decreased by 5.7%, on average. In addition, there was a 9.9% decrease in the participants’ mean 2-hour (h) glucose levels. This figure denotes a person’s blood glucose levels 2 hours after consuming glucose.

Fasting blood glucose levels and mean 2-h glucose levels remained low to the end of the 12-week study period.

The researchers suggest that the glucose-lowering effects of foxtail millet may be due to its ability to:

  • increase concentrations of the satiety hormone leptin
  • decrease insulin resistance
  • reduce inflammation

The researchers conclude that the consumption of foxtail millet may improve glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes. They also suggest that other whole grains could have similar effects.

One cup of cooked millet contains the following key nutrients:

  • 6.11 g of protein
  • 1.74 g of fat
  • 41.2 g of carbohydrate
  • 2.26 g of fiber

Millets are also a good source of the following nutrients:

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly certain foods release glucose into the bloodstream. The GI scale begins at 0 and goes up to 100, with 100 representing pure glucose. Foods with lower GI scores cause a slower rise in blood glucose levels.

The glycemic load (GL) is a more accurate measure that takes into account how much glucose is available per serving of food.

Nutrition experts have differing views about the usefulness of these measures. Some experts believe that people should pay attention to both GI and GL scores. However, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommend monitoring the total carbohydrate content of foods.

A 10-year prospective study assessed diet and diabetes risk in 37,846 adults. The findings indicated that diets high in GI, GL, and starch and low in fiber were associated with an increased risk of diabetes.

Millets are an excellent source of dietary fiber, which can help slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.

One 2015 study found that ready-to-cook little millet flakes had a medium GI of 52.11 and a low GL of 9.24. Due to the nutritional content of the flakes, the study authors suggest that they may be beneficial in the management of metabolic conditions.

The following dietary tips can help a person manage their diabetes.

Choose carbohydrates wisely

The ADA advise people to keep track of the amount and type of carbohydrates they eat. When choosing a carbohydrate, a person should:

  • Eat mainly non-starchy vegetables, which are high in fiber and low in carbohydrate. Examples include:
    • lettuce
    • broccoli
    • tomatoes
    • cucumber
    • green beans
  • Eat whole, minimally processed carbohydrate foods. Examples include:
    • fruits, such as apples, strawberries, and blueberries
    • whole grains, such as oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa
    • starchy vegetables, such as corn, sweet potatoes, and plantain
    • beans and lentils
  • Eat fewer processed foods and fewer foods that contain added sugar. Examples to avoid include:
    • white bread
    • sugary drinks
    • ready meals

Include ‘superfoods’

The ADA also list some foods that are high in beneficial nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber. These are good for overall health and may also help prevent disease.

People sometimes refer to these foods as superfoods. They include:

  • dark green leafy vegetables
  • tomatoes
  • sweet potatoes
  • beans
  • nuts and seeds
  • whole grains
  • citrus fruits
  • berries
  • fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel
  • milk and yogurt with low sugar and fat content

Eat whole grains

A 2007 study investigated the possible association between the consumption of whole grains and a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The researchers pooled data from 286,125 participants. The results showed that people who ate 2 servings of whole grains per day had a 21% decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

However, it is worth noting that this was a correlational study and that other factors could have contributed to this effect.

The United States Department of Agriculture claim that the amount of grains an adult needs per day can vary between 3 ounce (oz)- and 8 oz-equivalents depending on age, sex, and level of physical activity.

They state that at least 50% of this amount should consist of whole grains. A single oz of whole grains is equivalent to one of the following:

  • 1 slice of whole grain bread
  • 1 cup of ready-to-eat whole grain cereal
  • half a cup of cooked brown rice or whole grain pasta

Millets are indigestible in their raw state, so people will need to prepare and cook them before eating.

A person can use millets to make a range of different foods, including:

  • porridge
  • flatbreads
  • stuffing

People can follow the links below for some healthful recipes that incorporate millets:

People with diabetes may benefit from adding millets to their diet. Millets are rich in fiber, contain important nutrients, and may help prevent blood glucose spikes.

People can also take additional steps to help manage their diabetes, such as eating whole foods and being conscious of their carbohydrate intake.

A person can speak to a qualified dietitian or nutritionist if they need help planning their diet.