Dr Bhavna Sharma, India head of Nutrition Science Division at ITC Limited, says the mission leverages the company’s enterprise strengths in agriculture, food and hospitality.
As India celebrates the International Year of Millets-2023, The Sunday Guardian spoke to Dr Bhavna Sharma, India Head of Nutrition Science Division at ITC Limited, with regards to the benefits millets hold and the initiatives being taken by ITC to promote the “Superfood” among the Indian population. Excerpts:
Q: How do you think the International Year of Millets has encouraged Indians to include millets in their diets?
A: Millets have been an essential food staple in the history of humankind as they were the first crop to be cultivated, and they are now seen as the food of the future. Millets were a staple in India until other popular crops such as rice, barley etc gained importance given the various socio-economic conditions. Millets are planet-friendly and resilient and have immense potential to address climate change and food insecurity worldwide. It is indeed a matter of pride that, guided by the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s vision, India spearheaded the UN resolution for declaring the year 2023 as International Year of Millets. Encouraged by the government’s focus, ITC has launched a dedicated initiative titled “ITC Mission Millets” that leverages the company’s enterprise strengths in agriculture, food and hospitality. The initiative is powered by a strategic 3 pillar model that encompasses development of a “good-for-you” product portfolio, implementation of sustainable farming systems as well as enhancing consumer awareness through an Educate, Empower and Encourage approach.
Q: What are the health benefits of millets and how are they high in nutrition, could you explain?
A: Millets are truly “Super Grains”. Millets are now being recognized as Superfoods, for their excellent nutritional profile. They are packed with highly beneficial nutrients and other elements that promote good health for all age groups. First, they serve as an excellent source of protein, which plays a vital role in growth & development especially in children (via tissue building), muscle maintenance and repair and helps maintaining a healthy immune system. Second, millets are rich in fibre, which supports digestive health and aids in regulating blood sugar levels. Third, millets are naturally gluten-free, making them a suitable choice for individuals with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, as gluten can trigger allergic reactions in some people. By incorporating millets in daily diet, individuals can reap these benefits and promote their overall well-being.
Q: What are the ways that one can incorporate millets in their daily diets?
A: If you are new to millets and want to incorporate them into your diet, it is best to start gradually. Millets can be part of your regular, breakfast bowl, you can add multi-millet flour to your daily mix of roti, dosa. Idli etc.
Blending millet flours with wheat flour for making chapatis and other Indian Breads and even pancakes, are an easy and a common way to include them in our diets.
The Jowar and Bajra variety of millet are commonly used to make Rotis in Northern and Western parts of India. Incorporation of multigrain flours can be another way for incorporating millets in our daily life. One can add them in salads, kichidis soups, smoothies. Further, there are several products such as millet biscuits, pastas, vermicelli, noodles, which are convenient option for consumption.
Q: How is ITC supporting its nutrition strategy of “Help India Eat Better” through its “Mission Millet” campaign?
A: ITC considers millets an essential component of its Nutrition Strategy—“Help India Eat Better”.
Earlier this year, ITC launched a dedicated initiative “ITC Mission Millet” powered by a strategic 3-pillar model that encompasses development of a “good-for-you” product portfolio, implementation of sustainable farming systems as well as enhancing consumer awareness on the benefit of millets.
ITC has developed a millet-based portfolio under its world-class Indian brands for every occasion, age and formats.
Accordingly, products have been developed and progressively launched across traditional and modern formats as well as for every meal occasion from main meals to snacking, and for all age groups with special offerings. ITC Hotels’ has crafted and included special millet based cuisines in their buffets and are also developing unique offerings in this space.