Two billion people around the world are suffering from protein and micronutrient deficiencies. The results of a new study by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) may be able to significantly reduce those deficiencies, through a combination of millets and legumes that creates a highly digestible, complete protein that is packed with nutrients.
Legumes are one of the most popular sources of protein, but they are missing one essential amino acid – methionine. Millet, a nutrient – packed crop, however, has that missing amino acid. Combined, the two create a powerful nutri-basket. With high levels of complete protein, high protein digestibility, and high levels of micronutrients, small and large food companies alike may use this combination to develop products that can significantly reduce malnutrition, the study reports.
The study was conducted as part of the Smart Food initiative and led by Dr S Anitha, nutritionist ICRISAT. Researchers tested multiple combinations of different millet and legume varieties, finding maximum benefits at the three to one, millet to legume ratio. Development of plant-based protein is relevant worldwide: in India, home to a large number of vegetarians, in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing countries, where plant-based protein is often all that is affordable, and in the Global North, where plant-based protein is gaining popularity among vegetarians and vegans.
ICRISAT hopes this discovery will garner support across the value chain to make millet a staple.