By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer
Sri Lankan traditional staple food items are mainly of rice flour, wheat flour and occasionally kurakkan flour. The latter is being used mainly to make pittu, roti and string hoppers. People doubt about the goodness of kurakkan; as a result they use wheat and rice flour more than kurakkan. Locals use them daily for preparing foods for breakfast and dinner
In most countries millet seed or kurakkan is being used as the main ingredient of bird seed mixtures. Sri Lankans, especially rural population, use kurakkan as a main ingredient in most food preparations. Presently, biscuit companies in Sri Lanka use kurakkan for their products. It is grown in Anuradapura, Monoragala, Hambantota, Kegalle, Ratnapura, Nuwara Eliya, Ampara, Badulla, and Jaffna Districts. Most farmers favour cultivating irrigating transplanted kurakkan to traditional rain-fed farming which frequent droughts may damage. Tiny in size and round in shape, millet can be white, gray, yellow or red.
The most widely available form of kurakkan found in supermarkets is the pearled, hulled variety, although traditional couscous made from cracked millet can also be found. Our ancestors have been using finger millet or Kurakkan for ages, and one could trace the origin to China. For centuries millet has been a main crop in China, India, Greece, Egypt and Africa, used in everything from bread to couscous, and as cereal grain.
The Bible also mentions millet as a treasured crop. The Indian millet variety is known as Bajra. In Sri Lanka its red variety has been known as Kurakkan or Kurahan. In the dry zone it has been a staple food. The reddish brown shawl that the former President wears is symbolic of kurahan, one of the chief peasants' food items of Hambantota District. It was the former president's father's brother D.M. Rajapaksa, the member for Hambantota in the State Council (1936-1944) who first wore a reddish brown shawl. (ref: SumanaSaparamadu, Sunday Observer July 20, 2008)
Nutritional Values of finger millet (Kurakkan)
When researchers looked at the quantity of fiber that 35,972 participants in the UK Women's Cohort Study ate, the researchers found a diet rich in fiber made of whole grains, such as finger millet, and fruit which can prevent risk of breast cancer for pre-menopausal women. (Cade JE, Burley VJ, et al., International Journal of Epidemiology- 2007 Jan 24).
Kurakkan is gluten free, Kurakkan though considered as a grain, is actually a seed. Millet is one of the four gluten-free grain-like seeds on the Body Ecology programme. These seeds provide serotonin which calms and soothes your mood.
Glycaemic Index of Kurakkan
These findings may answer the question that most diabetics want to know. Is food made with kurakkan better for diabetics than food made with rice and wheat flour? According to these researches, diabetics should eat less kurakkan, though it is considered as more nutritious than foods cooked with rice and wheat flour.
One can always check on his or her glucose level two hours after enjoying a kurakkan meal. That would give the answer, too.
In preparing to cook kurakkan, soak it in water for 24 hours to remove the phytic acid that binds up minerals and enzyme inhibitors that make it difficult to digest.
You cook kurakkan just like you cook rice, but with more water (3 cups to 1 cup of millet). You determine how much water must use depending on how soft you prefer having your grain. Experience the benefits of kurakkan nutrition that made it the prized grain of so many ancient cultures!
Please note that people having diabetes should avoid all high GI foods, including kurakkan.
Some reference to The World's Healthiest Foods, www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?
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