Ragi is Right for Bakeries

Ragi or finger millet is native to the Ethiopian and Ugandan highlands. It arrived in India around 2000 BC.  Ragi is a drought tolerant crop, though a moderate rainfall is conducive to its cultivation. The heat tolerance level of finger millet is also impressive. In India, ragi is generally grown in the Himalayan region.

Ragi’s usage in India’s kitchens has been quite a long one.  Many Kannadiga households begin their day with a wholesome ragi dosa and ragi malt. However, even a decade ago, the consumption of ragi was mainly confined to the south of India. But today ragi is increasingly attracting the diversified Indian palate, in breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Ragi is enriched with several health benefits. It is a good source of fibre and facilitates in lowering cholesterol level. As ragi has good quantity of dietary fibre, a diet with the right amount of ragi (say ragi bread) can keep the stomach full for long intervals and prevent untimely hunger pangs. A special amino acid, Tryptophan, which is present in ragi, facilitates in prevention of frequent rearing up of appetite. This in turn contributes towards weight loss or keeping the weight in check. Thus if you want to slim down, chances are you would have success in such an endeavour if you have a ragi enriched diet.  

Ragi is gluten-free and thus is suitable for people who have gluten intolerance.  It is also suitable for people with lactose intolerance. Ragi is also richly endowed with calcium. According to the National Institute of Nutrition in India, 100 gm of ragi contains 344 mg calcium. Thus if you want healthy bones, it would be an intelligent option to include ragi in the daily diet. Ragi can also address brittle bones, and osteoporosis. 

Furthermore, ragi has low glycemic index, and thus consumption of food infused with the right amount of ragi prevents blood sugar from going out of control.  The inclusion of ragi in formulations helps in lowering the glycemic index in a product, which is one of the desired characteristics for diabetic food. Ragi is also rich in iron, and thus is good for people with anemia and those with low haemoglobin levels.

Ragi also facilitates in maintaining a youthful skin. Ragi comprises amino acids like Methionine and Lysine which make the skin tissues less susceptible to wrinkles, thus delaying the ageing process. Ragi is a natural source of Vitamin D too. Therefore the bakery cafes in India can market their ragi cookies or ragi walnut breads by promoting this facet as the craze for a beautiful appearance has also gone up appreciably in urban India during the last one decade or so. Not only that, regular intake of ragi can help address anxiety and depression.

With health consciousness in urban India gaining momentum, ragi has the potential to gain popularity in India’s food service and food retail industry. Today, the wholesome flavour of ragi is being used to give cookies, breads, pasta and noodles a healthy quotient. Ragi can be used to prepare a good many healthy and tasty bakery products. For example, bakeries can serve ragi cakes and ragi cookies with evening tea, and ragi and whole wheat breads or ragi breads spruced with walnuts for breakfast.  One can also have ragi chappatis in lunch and ragi porridge for breakfast. 

Thankfully, the immense benefits of ragi are now being used by India’s food retail industry in an increasing way. Ragi cookies are gaining popularity.  For example, Britannia’s multi-grain bread, according to the company’s website, contains ragi among many other healthy ingredients. Nutrichoice Essentials is the brand of diabetic-friendly biscuits from Britannia. They are available in oats and ragi variants in on the go convenient packs.  Then there are Unibic’s Multigrain Breakfast Cookies, which also have ragi among its constituents.

Our food service industry should also enhance the usage of ragi in their offerings. More stand-alone bakeries as well as bakery café chains in India can come up with ragi infused cakes, breads, biscuits and cookies. They have good chance of getting appreciated and consequently getting popular as the people in India are getting more aware about their health and physical appearance than they were before.

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