Potential use of pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.) in Brazil: Food security, processing, health benefits and nutritional products

Food Res Int. 2018 Jul:109:175-186. doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2018.04.023. Epub 2018 Apr 18.


Climate change can cause an increase in arid soils, warmer weather, and reduce water availability, which in turn can directly affect food security. This increases food prices and reduces the availability of food. Therefore, knowledge concerning the nutritional and technological potential of non-traditional crops and their resistance to heat and drought is very interesting. Pearl millet is known to produce small nutritious cereal grains, which can endure both heat and dry conditions, and is one of the basic cereals of several African and Asian countries. Although this species has been cultivated in Brazil for at least 50 years it is only used as a cover crop and animal feed, but not for human consumption. Nonetheless, pearl millet grains have a high potential as food for humans because they are gluten-free, higher in dietary fiber content than rice, similar in lipid content to maize and higher content of essential amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and lysine) than other traditional cereals, such as wheat and rye. In addition, the crop is low cost and less susceptible to contamination by aflatoxins compared to corn, for example. Most grains, including pearl millet, can be milled, decorticated, germinated, fermented, cooked and extruded to obtain products such as flours, biscuits, snacks, pasta and non-dairy probiotic beverages. Pearl millet also has functional properties; it has a low glycemic index and therefore it can be used as an alternative food for weight control and to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes. Thus, this review intends to show the potential of pearl millet as an alternative food security crop, particularly in countries, like Brazil, where it is not commonly consumed. Also this review presents different processes and products that have been already reported in the literature in order to introduce the great potential of this important small grain to producers and consumers.

Keywords: Cereals; Flour; Functional foods; Gluten-free; Whole grains.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brazil
  • Diet
  • Edible Grain*
  • Flour
  • Food Handling
  • Food Supply*
  • Functional Food
  • Humans
  • Nutritive Value*
  • Pennisetum*