Get Food Educated Series-1 : Know Your Grains – aka Cereals & Millets

Know Your Grains- Aka Cereals & Millets

A grain is a small, hard, dry seed, with or without an attached hull or fruit layer.  The term grain commonly referred to as ‘cereal” or ‘cereal grain’.  Cereals are the edible seeds of specific grasses belonging to the Poaceae family.  The first-ever cultivated food crops are cereal grains and they are in use for human or animal consumption, for thousands of years.

The word cereal refers to the commonly consumed grains that include: rice, wheat, corn, oats, barley, sorghum, rye, and millet. Among the plant-based foods, cereals are the most important source of the world’s total food. Cereals contain 60-70 % carbohydrate by weight, and they form an important source of carbohydrates in our diet.

Rice, corn, and wheat are the most common staple foods on Earth.

True Cereal Grains:
True cereals are grains that belong to the botanical family ‘Poaceae’. There are a number of different types of grains within this type.

Major Cereals:

Barley, Maize, Oats, Rice, Rye, wheat.

Millets are of two Types:

Major Millets: Sorghum (Jowar), Bajra, Finger Millets(Ragi/Mandua)

Minor Millets: Foxtail  millets (Kangani/kakun), Proso millet (Cheena), Kodo Millet (Kodo), Barnyard millet (Sanwa/Jhangora), Little millet (Kutki)


Karnataka has developed white ragi KMR340 in 2014


Pseudo-Cereal Grains:

The pseudo-cereal group of grains that are similar to true cereals. Quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, and chia seeds are pseudocereals.

Ancient Grains:

 The fancy words “Ancient grains” have no scientific relevance. “Ancient grains” is a marketing gimmick and has nothing to do with the time of origin of these grains.

Ancient grains include:

  • Varieties of wheat: Spelt, Khorasan wheat(Kamut), Bulgar, Farro, Einkorn, and Emmer
  • Grains  & millets like Barley, Teff (small millet), Oats, and Sorghum
  • Pseudocereals

Modern wheat is a hybrid descendant of three wheat species:   Spelt, Einkorn, and Emmer.

In India, we have around 50 different varieties of rice, and 17 different varieties of wheat.

How to Use the lesser-known Grains:

  • All cereals and millets can be milled to flour, and these flours can be tried in traditional recipes, like roti.
  • In combination with dals, one can make dosa, appam, idly, murukku, Pongal, etc using cereals and millets.
  • Whole grains can replace traditional rice dishes.