Millet laddu, millet burgers, millet muesli — one can cook up a storm with just one type of whole grain, the millets. No wonder Telugu actors such as Nagarjuna, Nabha Natesh and other celebrities have been swearing by whole grain millet products. “It’s a healthy replacement for rice and especially wheat,” tweeted Nagarjuna, saying he has been eating millets for the last four years. Banking on this trend, Dr Bharath Reddy, who is a senior consultant cardiologist and a Telugu actor himself, decided to give a push to the increasing millet consumption and started Millet Marvels, a restaurant in Hyderabad.
From dosa, idli and vada to puri and uthappam, all food items here are made of different types of millets, and sold at reasonable prices. Started in August 2020 at Hyderabad’s Film Nagar, Millet Marvels also sells whole grains. The grains are sourced from farmers in Telangana’s Vikarabad, the Rayalaseema region in Andhra Pradesh, and some parts of Karnataka.
For Dr Bharath Reddy, however, it was not just business. As a doctor, he wanted to create awareness about making the right food choice. “If you continue eating polished white rice and wheat, you’ll end up taking medications from the age of 35 to 40,” he tells The News Minute.
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“We put the word millets in the restaurant’s name as we want people to know that they are eating millets when they step into our outlets and because we want to increase the awareness around it. Giving something worthwhile back to society is the main aim behind starting this,” says Dr Bharath, who has been on a millet diet for the last five years.
According to the actor-doctor, who has featured in more than 50 films in Telugu, Tamil and Kannada, several celebrities too have been endorsing Millet Marvels “without any commercial attachment”, as a social cause to increase the consumption of millets.
Despite running into financial losses, Dr Bharath says he managed to keep the restaurant afloat with the help of entrepreneurs, Raju and Bhasker Reddy. Today, Millet Marvels has branches spread across the city at Film Nagar, Kismatpur, Kapil Towers and Manikonda. He plans to turn his venture into a pan-India project.
Why whole grain millets
Dr Bharath, who is also a practising cardiologist for the last 22 years, notes that he has been seeing frequent cases of diabetes among the younger population, especially those between the ages of 22 and 24 years. The sugar levels are as high as 450 to 600, “which is a pathetic scenario,” he says. The main culprit, Dr Bharath says, is predominantly what people eat, including polished white rice and wheat, and the quantity they consume.
“They are also called negative grains as they cause more harm to the body, inducing diabetes, hypertension and obesity. There is not much benefit you get from polished grains, not even one per cent of fibre,” he points out.
Quoting the Diabetic Association of India, Dr Bharath says that in another three years, that is, by 2023-2024, 70% of people would be diabetic or pre-diabetic by the age of 40. If the trend continues, in another five years most of them end up being diabetic.
“Everything is interconnected, if we don’t change our eating habits now, we have lost. If we don’t give the next generation what they are supposed to eat, then we are gone. India as a healthy generation may not exist,” warns Dr Bharath, stressing on the need to shift to whole grain millets.
While there are many people who think that eating rotis and phulka made of wheat flour helps, Dr Bharath says it’s a myth. He also warns against buying unpolished millet grains available in the market. “Any grain contains fibre, micro-macro nutrients, trace elements (nutrients) and phytonutrients in its outer bran layer. When a grain is polished, we are losing its nutritional value and there is not much left,” says Dr Bharath, who is also parallelly working on five film projects in south Indian languages, including two web series.
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