Contribution of Minor Cereals to Sustainable Diets and Agro-Food Biodiversity

A special issue of Foods (ISSN 2304-8158). This special issue belongs to the section "Grain".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2023) | Viewed by 38948

Special Issue Editors

CREA - Research Centre for Engineering and Agro-Food Processing, Via Manziana, 30 00189 Rome, Italy
Interests: wheat; minor cereals; cereal quality; gluten; gluten intolerances; gluten-free; pasta; cereals processing; bioactive compounds; functional foods; plant biotechnology; breeding for quality
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
CREA - Research Centre for Engineering and Agro-Food Processing, Via Manziana, 30 00189 Rome, Italy
Interests: wheat; cereal quality; pasta; cereals processing; cereal technology; bioactive compounds; functional foods; malt; beer; cereal pathology; vegetable milks

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Increased awareness of the nutritional properties of foods and recent trends towards low-input and sustainable agriculture have led to a renewed interest in underutilized crops. In addition, the dependence on a small number of crop species limits the capability to cope with challenges posed by the adverse effects of climate change affecting food security. One solution could be the wider use of the so-called orphan or minor cereals to diversify agricultural systems and food sources. Beyond being highly nutritious, underutilized cereals are inherently resilient, making them a suitable surrogate to major ones such as wheat, rice and corn. In addition, many cereals considered neglected at a global level are staples at a national or regional level.

This Special Issue deals with the continuum aspects, ‘from farm to fork’, in terms of ways that minor cereals could boost food security, foster rural development, support sustainable land care and contribute to healthier diets. In this Special Issue, we aim to publish innovative research and review papers about the rediscovery of minor cereals, their technological, biochemical and nutritional characteristics, and test their attitude for the formulation of innovative wholegrain, low or gluten-free products which will meet the need of health-conscious consumers so as to encourage the use of niche cereals. New raw materials, new functional ingredients, upcycling of waste materials and in vivo experiments to test the effect of assumption of these cereals will be further addressed in this Special Issue. Predictions of product quality, adopting chemometrics, multi-variate and statistical data analysis approaches are also welcome.

In conclusion, this Special Issue aims to provide fundamental understanding and the current strategies for revitalization of underutilized cereals, which represent a reservoir of biodiversity that is useful to ensure sustainable production in the context of climate change.

Dr. Laura Gazza
Dr. Francesca Nocente
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • einkorn
  • emmer
  • spelt
  • oats
  • sorghum
  • millets
  • teff
  • tritordeum
  • triticale
  • ancient cereal species
  • wholemeal
  • gluten free
  • wheat sensitivity
  • omics of minor cereals
  • agro-food biodiversity
  • sustainable diets

Published Papers (13 papers)

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Editorial

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3 pages, 186 KiB  
Editorial
The Contribution of Minor Cereals to Sustainable Diets and Agro-Food Biodiversity
Foods 2023, 12(18), 3500; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods12183500 - 20 Sep 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 583
Abstract
Since the second half of the 20th century, the intensification of agriculture by increasing external inputs (fertilizers, pesticides), cropland expansion, and the cultivation of only a few selected cereal species or varieties have caused the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services on farmland [...] Read more.
Since the second half of the 20th century, the intensification of agriculture by increasing external inputs (fertilizers, pesticides), cropland expansion, and the cultivation of only a few selected cereal species or varieties have caused the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services on farmland [...] Full article

Research

Jump to: Editorial, Review

14 pages, 2159 KiB  
Article
Biophysical, Nutraceutical, and Technofunctional Features of Specialty Cereals: Pigmented Popcorn and Sorghum
Foods 2023, 12(12), 2301; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods12122301 - 07 Jun 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1283
Abstract
Different pigmented corn and sorghum types were evaluated to characterize their biophysical, nutraceutical, and technofunctional properties for the first time. Commercially pigmented (blue, purple, red, black, and yellow) popcorn (Zea mays var. everta) and sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L.) of yellow [...] Read more.
Different pigmented corn and sorghum types were evaluated to characterize their biophysical, nutraceutical, and technofunctional properties for the first time. Commercially pigmented (blue, purple, red, black, and yellow) popcorn (Zea mays var. everta) and sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L.) of yellow and red colors were analyzed. Biophysical and proximal analyses were performed using official methods. The nutraceutical profile included the total phenolic and anthocyanin content. In addition, rheological, structural, and morphological studies were conducted. The results demonstrated significant differences between the popcorn samples and grain types, especially in terms of their biophysical and proximate features. The nutraceutical profile revealed that these specialty grains contained higher concentrations of antioxidant compounds (up to 3-fold when compared with the other grains). The rheological analysis demonstrated that sorghum grains developed higher peak viscosities than popcorn. According to the structural assessments, the type A pattern displayed peaks at the interplanar spaces corresponding to the crystalline and amorphous regions in all the samples. The data obtained in this study provides a base to further investigate the products obtained using these biomaterials. Full article
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13 pages, 987 KiB  
Article
Identification and Quantification of Selected Benzoxazinoids and Phenolics in Germinated Spelt (Triticum spelta)
Foods 2023, 12(9), 1769; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods12091769 - 24 Apr 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 948
Abstract
In this study, we investigated the effects of germination on the secondary metabolite composition in spelt grains. Germination significantly increased the content of various metabolites in free and bound forms. Benzoxazinoids were the most important compounds in the free fraction of the 96 [...] Read more.
In this study, we investigated the effects of germination on the secondary metabolite composition in spelt grains. Germination significantly increased the content of various metabolites in free and bound forms. Benzoxazinoids were the most important compounds in the free fraction of the 96 h germinated grains (MBOA content as the predominant compound was 277.61 ± 15.29 µg/g DW). The majority of phenolic acids were present in the bound fraction, with trans-ferulic acid as the main component, reaching 753.27 ± 95.87 µg/g DW. The often neglected cis-isomers of phenolic acids accounted for about 20% of the total phenolic acids. High levels of apigenin di-C-glycosides were found in spelt grains, and the schaftoside content was most affected by germination, increasing threefold. The accumulation of secondary metabolites significantly increased the antioxidant activity of germinated spelt. According to the results of this study, the content of most bioactive compounds was highest in spelt grains after 96 h of germination. These data suggest that germinated spelt could potentially be valuable for the production of functional foods. Full article
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19 pages, 2677 KiB  
Article
Bread Products from Blends of African Climate Resilient Crops: Baking Quality, Sensory Profile and Consumers’ Perception
Foods 2023, 12(4), 689; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods12040689 - 05 Feb 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1912
Abstract
With food insecurity rising dramatically in Sub-Saharan Africa, promoting the use of sorghum, cowpea and cassava flours in staple food such as bread may reduce wheat imports and stimulate the local economy through new value chains. However, studies addressing the technological functionality of [...] Read more.
With food insecurity rising dramatically in Sub-Saharan Africa, promoting the use of sorghum, cowpea and cassava flours in staple food such as bread may reduce wheat imports and stimulate the local economy through new value chains. However, studies addressing the technological functionality of blends of these crops and the sensory properties of the obtained breads are scarce. In this study, cowpea varieties (i.e., Glenda and Bechuana), dry-heating of cowpea flour and cowpea to sorghum ratio were studied for their effects on the physical and sensory properties of breads made from flour blends. Increasing cowpea Glenda flour addition from 9 to 27% (in place of sorghum) significantly improved bread specific volume and crumb texture in terms of instrumental hardness and cohesiveness. These improvements were explained by higher water binding, starch gelatinization temperatures and starch granule integrity during pasting of cowpea compared to sorghum and cassava. Differences in physicochemical properties among cowpea flours did not significantly affect bread properties and texture sensory attributes. However, cowpea variety and dry-heating significantly affected flavour attributes (i.e., beany, yeasty and ryebread). Consumer tests indicated that composite breads could be significantly distinguished for most of the sensory attributes compared to commercial wholemeal wheat bread. Nevertheless, the majority of consumers scored the composite breads from neutral to positive with regard to liking. Using these composite doughs, chapati were produced in Uganda by street vendors and tin breads by local bakeries, demonstrating the practical relevance of the study and the potential impact for the local situation. Overall, this study shows that sorghum, cowpea and cassava flour blends can be used for commercial bread-type applications instead of wheat in Sub-Saharan Africa. Full article
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10 pages, 595 KiB  
Article
Cooking Quality and Chemical and Technological Characteristics of Wholegrain Einkorn Pasta Obtained from Micronized Flour
Foods 2022, 11(18), 2905; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods11182905 - 19 Sep 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1476
Abstract
The increased demand for healthier foods, the recognition of dry pasta as an ideal carrier of functional ingredients, and the current interest for ancient wheats such as einkorn motivated the present research. Two varieties of Triticum monococcum, namely cv Norberto and the [...] Read more.
The increased demand for healthier foods, the recognition of dry pasta as an ideal carrier of functional ingredients, and the current interest for ancient wheats such as einkorn motivated the present research. Two varieties of Triticum monococcum, namely cv Norberto and the free-threshing cv Hammurabi, were milled by ultra-fine milling process (micronization) to produce wholegrain spaghetti. Einkorn pasta was assessed in terms of technological and biochemical properties and cooking and sensorial quality and compared to durum wheat semolina pasta. Wholewheat einkorn pasta showed a threefold increase in total dietary fibre content as well as in total antioxidant capacity in comparison to the control. The level of resistant starch in cv Norberto resulted significantly higher respect to semolina and einkorn cv Hammurabi pasta. Despite the very weak einkorn gluten network, the sensory and instrumental assessment of pasta quality highlighted that einkorn spaghetti presented good sensorial properties related to their technological quality, in particular, for the overall judgment and firmness. Cultivar Hammurabi emerged as the preeminent compromise on the basis of technological performances together with chemical and sensorial aspects. Full article
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13 pages, 1112 KiB  
Article
Chemical Composition and Antioxidant Profile of Sorghum (Sorghumbicolor (L.) Moench) and Pearl Millet (Pennisetumglaucum (L.) R.Br.) Grains Cultivated in the Far-North Region of Cameroon
Foods 2022, 11(14), 2026; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods11142026 - 08 Jul 2022
Cited by 16 | Viewed by 2704
Abstract
Sorghum and pearl millet are grain crops that can grow in semi-arid climates, with nutritional and bioactive properties superior to those of major cereals such as rice, wheat, and maize. However, these properties vary a lot, depending on the genetic factors, growing conditions, [...] Read more.
Sorghum and pearl millet are grain crops that can grow in semi-arid climates, with nutritional and bioactive properties superior to those of major cereals such as rice, wheat, and maize. However, these properties vary a lot, depending on the genetic factors, growing conditions, and place of cultivation. Four sorghum and two pearl millet grains cultivars grown in the Far-North region of Cameroon were screened for their chemical composition and antioxidant profile. The proximate and mineral analyses were performed using AOAC standard methods. The antioxidant profile was assayed spectrophotometrically and details on the phenolic compounds were investigated using HPLC. The pearl millet cultivars, especially mouri, showed higher contents of proteins, lipids, ash, calcium, copper, iron, and zinc. The red sorghum specifically exhibited the greatest amounts of total polyphenols (82.22 mg GAE/g DE), total flavonoids (23.82 mg CE/g DE), and total 3-deoxyanthocyanidin (9.06 mg/g DE). The most abundant phenolic compound was gallic acid, while the most frequent were chlorogenic and ferulic acids. The maximum antioxidant activity against DPPH was observed in yellow-pale sorghum (87.71%), followed by red sorghum (81.15%). Among the studied varieties of cereals, mouri pearl millet and red sorghum were the best sources of nutrients and bioactive compounds, respectively. Their consumption should be encouraged to tackle nutrient deficiencies and non-communicable diseases within local populations. Full article
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11 pages, 1190 KiB  
Article
Investigations on Functional and Thermo-Mechanical Properties of Gluten Free Cereal and Pseudocereal Flours
Foods 2022, 11(13), 1857; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods11131857 - 23 Jun 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1602
Abstract
Seven commercial gluten-free (rice, oat, sorghum, foxtail millet, amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat) flours were investigated in this study from the point of view of thermo-mechanical properties and solvent retention capacity (SRC). Each flour was used to prepare doughs with specific water absorption (WA) [...] Read more.
Seven commercial gluten-free (rice, oat, sorghum, foxtail millet, amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat) flours were investigated in this study from the point of view of thermo-mechanical properties and solvent retention capacity (SRC). Each flour was used to prepare doughs with specific water absorption (WA) to get a consistency of 1.1 Nm (WA1) and doughs with WA2 levels higher than 85% to ensure a sufficient amount of water in the system for allowing the hydration of all components of the flours. Different correlations were established between proteins, ash, pentosans, damaged starch, and amylose contents on the one hand, and the capacity of the flour samples to retain different solvents such as sucrose, sodium carbonate and CaCl2 on the other hand. Although no significant correlation was found between the protein content of the flours and lactic acid-SRC, the mechanical weakening of the protein was significantly correlated with lactic acid-SRC for both tested WA levels. The doughs with WA1 had higher starch gelatinization and hot gel stability values compared to the corresponding dough systems with a higher water amount. Moreover, lower starch retrogradation and setback torques were obtained in the case of the dough prepared with higher amounts of water. Full article
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10 pages, 619 KiB  
Article
Ancient Caucasian Wheats: A Contribution for Sustainable Diets and Food Diversity
Foods 2022, 11(9), 1209; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods11091209 - 21 Apr 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1533
Abstract
Through the centuries, the domestication and modern breeding of wheat led to a significant loss of genetic variation in the cultivated gene pool with a consequent decrease in food diversity. Current trends towards low-input and sustainable agriculture call for the revitalization and exploitation [...] Read more.
Through the centuries, the domestication and modern breeding of wheat led to a significant loss of genetic variation in the cultivated gene pool with a consequent decrease in food diversity. Current trends towards low-input and sustainable agriculture call for the revitalization and exploitation of ancient wheats, which represent a reservoir of biodiversity useful to ensure sustainable wheat production in the context of climate change and low-input farming systems. Ancient Caucasian wheat species, such as the hulled wheats Triticum timopheevii (tetraploid AuAuGG) and Triticum zhukovskyi (hexaploid AuAuAmAmGG), are still grown to a limited extent in the Caucasus for the production of traditional foods. These Caucasian wheats were grown in Italy and were analyzed for physical, nutritional and technological characteristics and compared to durum wheat. Both Caucasian species revealed a high protein content (on average 18.5%) associated with a low gluten index, mainly in T. zhukovskyi, and test weight values comparable to commercial wheats. The total antioxidant capacity was revealed to be the double of that in durum wheat, suggesting the use of ancient Caucasian wheats for the production of healthy foods. Finally, the technological and rheological results indicated that Caucasian wheats could be potential raw material for the formulation of flat breads, biscuits and pasta. Full article
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13 pages, 754 KiB  
Article
Utilisation of Amaranth and Finger Millet as Ingredients in Wheat Dough and Bread for Increased Agro-Food Biodiversity
Foods 2022, 11(7), 911; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods11070911 - 22 Mar 2022
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3255
Abstract
Amaranth and finger millet are important food security crops in Africa but show poor bread making ability, even in composite wheat breads. Malting and steaming are promising approaches to improve composite bread quality, which have not been fully explored yet. Therefore, in this [...] Read more.
Amaranth and finger millet are important food security crops in Africa but show poor bread making ability, even in composite wheat breads. Malting and steaming are promising approaches to improve composite bread quality, which have not been fully explored yet. Therefore, in this study, wheat was blended with native, steamed or malted finger millet or amaranth in the ratio of 70:30. Wheat/native amaranth (WHE-NAM) and wheat/malted amaranth (WHE-MAM) had longer dough development times and higher dough stabilities, water absorption capacities and farinograph quality numbers than wheat/steamed amaranth (WHE-SAM), wheat/native finger millet (WHE-NFM), wheat/steamed finger millet (WHE-SFM) or wheat/malted finger millet (WHE-MFM). The WHE-NAM and WHE-MAM breads had lower crumb firmness and chewiness, higher resilience and cohesiveness and lighter colours than WHE-NFM, WHE-SFM and WHE-MFM. Starch and protein digestibility of composite breads were not different (p > 0.05) from each other and ranged between 95–98% and 83–91%, respectively. Composite breads had higher ash (1.9–2.5 g/100 g), dietary fibre (5.7–7.1 g/100 g), phenolic acid (60–122 mg/100 g) and phytate contents (551–669 mg/100 g) than wheat bread (ash 1.6 g/100 g; dietary fibre 4.5 g/100 g; phenolic acids 59 mg/100 g; phytate 170 mg/100 g). The WHE-NAM and WHE-MAM breads possessed the best crumb texture and nutritional profile among the composite breads. Full article
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18 pages, 5907 KiB  
Article
Evolutionary Wheat Populations in High-Quality Breadmaking as a Tool to Preserve Agri-Food Biodiversity
Foods 2022, 11(4), 495; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods11040495 - 09 Feb 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2094
Abstract
Plant biodiversity preservation is one of the most important priorities of today’s agriculture. Wheat (Triticum spp. L.) is widely cultivated worldwide, mostly under a conventional and monovarietal farming method, leading to progressive biodiversity erosion. On the contrary, the evolutionary population (EP) cultivation [...] Read more.
Plant biodiversity preservation is one of the most important priorities of today’s agriculture. Wheat (Triticum spp. L.) is widely cultivated worldwide, mostly under a conventional and monovarietal farming method, leading to progressive biodiversity erosion. On the contrary, the evolutionary population (EP) cultivation technique is characterized by mixing and sowing together as many wheat genotypes as possible to allow the crop to genetically adapt over the years in relation to specific pedoclimatic conditions. The objective of this study was to assess the nutritional, chemical and sensory qualities of three different breads obtained using different organic EP flours, produced following a traditional sourdough process and compared to a commercial wheat cultivar bread. Technological parameters, B-complex vitamins, microelements, dietary fibre and phenolic acids were determined in raw materials and final products. Flours obtained by EPs showed similar characteristics to the commercial wheat cultivar flour. However, significant differences on grain technological quality were found. The breads were comparable with respect to chemical and nutritional qualities. Overall, the sensory panellists rated the tasted breads positively assigning the highest score to those produced with EPs flours (6.75–7.02) as compared to commercial wheat cultivar-produced bread (cv. Bologna, 6.36). Full article
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11 pages, 267 KiB  
Article
Chemical Composition, Fatty Acid and Mineral Content of Food-Grade White, Red and Black Sorghum Varieties Grown in the Mediterranean Environment
Foods 2022, 11(3), 436; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods11030436 - 02 Feb 2022
Cited by 15 | Viewed by 2554
Abstract
Grain sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) is a gluten-free cereal grown around the world and is a food staple in semi-arid and subtropical regions. Sorghum is a diverse crop with a range of pericarp colour including white, various shades of red, and black, [...] Read more.
Grain sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) is a gluten-free cereal grown around the world and is a food staple in semi-arid and subtropical regions. Sorghum is a diverse crop with a range of pericarp colour including white, various shades of red, and black, all of which show health-promoting properties as they are rich sources of antioxidants such as polyphenols, carotenoids, as well as micro- and macro-nutrients. This work examined the grain composition of three sorghum varieties possessing a range of pericarp colours (white, red, and black) grown in the Mediterranean region. To determine the nutritional quality independent of the contributions of phenolics, mineral and fatty acid content and composition were measured. Minor differences in both protein and carbohydrate were observed among varieties, and a higher fibre content was found in both the red and black varieties. A higher amount of total saturated fats was found in the white variety, while the black variety had a lower amount of total unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats than either the white or red varieties. Oleic, linoleic, and palmitic were the primary fatty acids in all three analysed sorghum varieties. Significant differences in mineral content were found among the samples with a greater amount of Mg, K, Al, Mn, Fe, Ni, Zn, Pb and U in both red and black than the white sorghum variety. The results show that sorghum whole grain flour made from grain with varying pericarp colours contains unique nutritional properties. Full article

Review

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18 pages, 2258 KiB  
Review
The Role of Ancient Grains in Alleviating Hunger and Malnutrition
Foods 2023, 12(11), 2213; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods12112213 - 31 May 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2124
Abstract
Meeting the United Nation’s sustainable development goals for zero hunger becomes increasingly challenging with respect to climate change and political and economic challenges. An effective strategy to alleviate hunger and its severe implications is to produce affordable, nutrient-dense, and sustainable food products. Ancient [...] Read more.
Meeting the United Nation’s sustainable development goals for zero hunger becomes increasingly challenging with respect to climate change and political and economic challenges. An effective strategy to alleviate hunger and its severe implications is to produce affordable, nutrient-dense, and sustainable food products. Ancient grains were long-forgotten due to the dominance of modern grains, but recently, they have been rediscovered as highly nutritious, healthy and resilient grains for solving the nutrition demand and food supply chain problems. This review article aims to critically examine the progress in this emerging field and discusses the potential roles of ancient grains in the fight against hunger. We provide a comparative analysis of different ancient grains with their modern varieties in terms of their physicochemical properties, nutritional profiles, health benefits and sustainability. A future perspective is then introduced to highlight the existing challenges of using ancient grains to help eradicate world hunger. This review is expected to guide decision-makers across different disciplines, such as food, nutrition and agronomy, and policymakers in taking sustainable actions against malnutrition and hunger. Full article
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18 pages, 1181 KiB  
Review
Modern Processing of Indian Millets: A Perspective on Changes in Nutritional Properties
Foods 2022, 11(4), 499; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods11040499 - 09 Feb 2022
Cited by 37 | Viewed by 14930
Abstract
Globally, billions of people are experiencing food insecurity and malnutrition. The United Nations has set a global target to end hunger by 2030, but we are far from reaching it. Over the decade, climate change, population growth and economic slowdown have impacted food [...] Read more.
Globally, billions of people are experiencing food insecurity and malnutrition. The United Nations has set a global target to end hunger by 2030, but we are far from reaching it. Over the decade, climate change, population growth and economic slowdown have impacted food security. Many countries are facing the challenge of both undernutrition and over nutrition. Thus, there is a need to transform the food system to achieve food and nutrition security. One of the ways to reach closer to our goal is to provide an affordable healthy and nutritious diet to all. Millets, the nutri-cereals, have the potential to play a crucial role in the fight against food insecurity and malnutrition. Nutri-cereals are an abundant source of essential macro- and micronutrients, carbohydrates, protein, dietary fiber, lipids, and phytochemicals. The nutrient content and digestibility of millets are significantly influenced by the processing techniques. This review article highlights the nutritional characteristics and processing of Indian millets, viz. foxtail, kodo, proso, little, and pearl millets. It also envisages the effect of traditional and modern processing techniques on millet’s nutritional properties. An extensive literature review was conducted using the research and review articles related to processing techniques of millets such as fermentation, germination, dehulling, extrusion, cooking, puffing, popping, malting, milling, etc. Germination and fermentation showed a positive improvement in the overall nutritional characteristics of millets, whereas excessive dehulling, polishing, and milling resulted in reduction of the dietary fiber and micronutrients. Understanding the changes happening in the nutrient value of millets due to processing can help the food industry, researchers, and consumers select a suitable processing technique to optimize the nutrient value, increase the bioavailability of nutrients, and help combat food and nutrition security. Full article
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