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Couscous vs. Millet — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Erna Harutyunyan by Erna Harutyunyan | Last updated on December 21, 2023
Medically reviewed by Elen Khachatrian Article author photo Elen Khachatrian
Couscous
vs
Millet

Summary

Couscous stands out with a 48% higher coverage of daily selenium needs than millet.  But millet is excellent for other essential minerals like copperphosphorusmagnesiummanganese, and zinc. The selenium content in couscous makes it a favorable choice for those focusing on this specific nutrient.Millet has more vitamins (like K, B2, B6, A, B9, B3, and B1) than couscous. Couscous has more vitamin E and B5. For carbs, they are similar, but couscous has a bit more net carbs.

Nutrition

Nutritional information is provided below for 100-gram portions of cooked millet and couscous.

With millet weighing 174g and couscous weighing 157gone cup of cooked grains is the typical serving size for these meals.

Macronutrients and Calories

With almost 72% water and slightly more than 23% carbs, the macronutrient structure of the two grains is quite comparable.

Macronutrient Comparison

Macronutrient breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains more Fats +525%
Contains more Other +57.7%
Equal in Protein - 3.51
Equal in Carbs - 23.67
Equal in Water - 71.41
4% 23% 73%
Protein: 3.79 g
Fats: 0.16 g
Carbs: 23.22 g
Water: 72.57 g
Other: 0.26 g
4% 24% 71%
Protein: 3.51 g
Fats: 1 g
Carbs: 23.67 g
Water: 71.41 g
Other: 0.41 g
Contains more Fats +525%
Contains more Other +57.7%
Equal in Protein - 3.51
Equal in Carbs - 23.67
Equal in Water - 71.41

Calories

100g serving of millet provides only seven more calories than couscous. Millet and couscous contain 119 kcal and 112 kcal, respectively.

Millet and couscous are medium-calorie foods.

Protein

Only a little more protein is included in couscous. The protein content of 100g servings of millet and couscous is 3.5g and 3.8g, respectively. The worst protein source is not grains.

While all essential amino acids are present in some amounts in these two grains, lysine and methionine are comparatively low. Grains and legumes can be combined for a complete protein.

Fats

Although the fat content of both cereals is relatively low, millet has six times more of it. When millet is served at 100g, its fat content is around 1g, but couscous has a minimal fat content. These grains all have comparable fat content.

Fat Type Comparison

Fat type breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains less Saturated Fat -83.1%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +736.4%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +693.8%
25% 19% 56%
Saturated Fat: 0.029 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.022 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.064 g
20% 21% 59%
Saturated Fat: 0.172 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.184 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.508 g
Contains less Saturated Fat -83.1%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +736.4%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +693.8%

Carbohydrates

The same 100g serving of couscous has 23.2g of carbohydrates, 1.4g of which is dietary fiber, and 21.82g are net carbs. Millet contains 23.6g1.3g of dietary fiber, and 22.82 net carbs.

Carbohydrate type comparison

Carbohydrate type breakdown side-by-side comparison

Vitamins

Millet wins in the vitamin category, containing about three times more vitamin K and vitamin B2, two times more vitamin B6, and more vitamins A, B9 (folate), B3 (niacin), and B1 (thiamin). 

That said, couscous is six times higher in vitamin E and two times higher in vitamin B5.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
:
7
Millet
Contains more Vitamin E +550%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +117%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +68.3%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +203.7%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +35.3%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +111.8%
Contains more Folate +26.7%
Contains more Vitamin K +200%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 0% 3% 0% 0% 16% 7% 19% 23% 12% 12% 0% 1%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 1% 1% 0% 0% 27% 19% 25% 11% 25% 15% 0% 1%
Contains more Vitamin E +550%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +117%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +68.3%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +203.7%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +35.3%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +111.8%
Contains more Folate +26.7%
Contains more Vitamin K +200%

Minerals

Millet is also significantly richer in most minerals. It is five times higher in magnesium and phosphorus, four times higher in copper and zinc, three times higher in manganese, and two times higher in iron. Millet is excellent as a source of potassium.

At the same time, couscous contains 30 times more selenium and two times more sodium and calcium. 

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Contains more Calcium +166.7%
Contains more Selenium +2955.6%
Contains more Iron +65.8%
Contains more Magnesium +450%
Contains more Phosphorus +354.5%
Contains less Sodium -60%
Contains more Zinc +250%
Contains more Copper +292.7%
Contains more Manganese +223.8%
Equal in Potassium - 62
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 3% 15% 6% 10% 6% 1% 8% 14% 11% 150%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 1% 24% 32% 43% 6% 1% 25% 54% 36% 5%
Contains more Calcium +166.7%
Contains more Selenium +2955.6%
Contains more Iron +65.8%
Contains more Magnesium +450%
Contains more Phosphorus +354.5%
Contains less Sodium -60%
Contains more Zinc +250%
Contains more Copper +292.7%
Contains more Manganese +223.8%
Equal in Potassium - 62

Oxalates

The oxalate content of millet is 13mg per 100 grams, and the oxalate content of couscous is 65mg per 100 grams. Millet is considered low in oxalates, while couscous is high in oxalates.

Glycemic Index

Couscous is considered a moderate-glycemic index food, and millet is considered a high-glycemic index food. The GI of couscous is 65, whereas the GI of millet is 71.

Insulin Index

Research shows that couscous and millet have high insulin index values of 84 and 104, respectively. Foods with high insulin index values raise blood insulin levels rapidly and significantly.

Acidity

The pH value of cooked millet is 8.30–7.60. According to one study, the pH value of semolina, the main ingredient in couscous, is between 6.20 and 6.40 (1).

It is also possible to measure acidity using PRAL values, which indicate how much base or acid the food produces in the body. The PRAL value of couscous is 1.1, whereas the PRAL value of millet is 2.9. Both foods are considered acidic or acid-producing.

Weight Loss and Diets

Millet and couscous are higher in calories and carbohydrates. Yet, their richness in fiber can aid in promoting a healthy gastrointestinal tract and prolonged satiety, making them a favorable choice for weight-loss diets and vegan lifestyles. Millet milk serves as a vegan alternative with digestive benefits. However, millet is excluded from keto diets due to its high carbohydrate content and classification as a high glycemic index food, potentially causing spikes in blood insulin levels. Couscous is allowed in the DASH diet and can be consumed during Mediterranean and anti-inflammatory diets. 

Health Benefits

Cardiovascular Health

Refined grains, including couscous, are not associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, or heart failure (2). However, insufficient evidence supports any positive effects on cardiovascular health. On the other hand, millet offers potential cardiovascular benefits. Studies indicate that millet may decrease plasma glucose levels more effectively and contribute to lowering total cholesterol levels (3, 4). The phenolic extracts in millet may reduce LDL cholesterol while potentially raising levels of adiponectin and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, generally considered protective against cardiac diseases (5). 

Diabetes

With its high insulin index, Couscous can rapidly increase blood insulin levels, potentially posing challenges for individuals concerned about glycemic control (6, 7). On the other hand, millet stands out as a favorable option for those with diabetes or at risk of type 2 diabetes. Because of its high fiber content and non-starchy polysaccharides, millet helps regulate blood sugar levels (4, 8).  Studies have shown that incorporating millet into the diet may reduce blood sugar levels after meals and reduce insulin resistance in those who have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes (9, 10). Additionally, research in diabetic rats suggests that a diet containing millet may contribute to lower fasting blood sugar levels and reductions in triglyceride and cholesterol levels (11).  

  Digestive Health

Couscous and millet both contribute to digestive health through their dietary fiber content. Couscous, including whole-wheat couscous, is a good source of dietary fiber. The fiber acts as a bulking agent, relieving functional constipation by promoting regularity and reducing intestinal transit time (12).  Additionally, the fiber content in couscous may offer protection against various gut diseases, including duodenal ulcersgastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), hemorrhoidscolon cancerdiverticulitis, and irritable bowel disease (13, 14, 15).  Similarly, millet is known for benefiting gut microflora due to its high fiber content. The fiber in millet contributes to optimal health by supporting a healthy balance of gut bacteria (16). 

Gluten intolerance 

Wheat, the source of couscous, includes gluten, a protein that can cause adverse responses in those who have gluten-related conditions, including celiac disease or gluten sensitivity (17). For those who have celiac disease, consuming gluten can trigger an immunological reaction that harms the small intestine's lining, resulting in symptoms including anemiaweight lossdiarrheaconstipation, fatigue, and bloating. In contrast to wheat or other grains that contain gluten, millet is gluten-free, so it is suitable for celiac or gluten-intolerant individuals.

Cancer

Couscous, rich in selenium, is associated with a possible decrease in the chance of developing certain cancers, such as lungbreastesophagusstomach, and prostate cancers, according to a meta-analysis(18,19). However, conflicting findings from other studies suggest that selenium might increase the risk of skin cancer, prostate cancer, and squamous-cell carcinoma (20). On the other hand, millet contains phytonutrients and antioxidants, which have been shown to have anti-carcinogenic properties. These compounds in millet may play a role in protecting against cancer by neutralizing free radicals and supporting overall cellular health (21)

Classification

Couscous, a staple food in the Middle East and North Africa, is crafted from granules of semolina flour, a coarse wheat product, and falls under refined or processed grains. It is steamed into tiny pellets, imparting a distinctive texture. In contrast, millet, a gluten-free grain belonging to the Poaceae family, boasts common millet, foxtail, and pearl millet. Millet is a dietary staple in many African and Asian cultures, offering a rich source of essential minerals. 

Appearance, Taste, and Use 

Couscous, popular in North African cuisine, boasts a light and fluffy texture with a mild taste, resembling tiny beads that are pale yellow and slightly nutty in flavor. While millet grains are smaller and rounder and come in various colors, such as white, red, and black, they offer a more substantial and slightly crunchy texture and have a mild and nutty flavor. Couscous cooks quickly, typically in 5–10 minutes, either through steaming or boiling after partial pre-cooking or soaking, whereas millet takes longer to simmer, around 15-20 minutes, making it suitable for diverse culinary applications like side dishessalads, or as a base for stews or porridge. There are many ways to enjoy couscous. Besides being used in salads and soups, it can also be cooked with herbs and spices.

Article author photo Erna Harutyunyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: December 21, 2023
Medically reviewed by Elen Khachatrian

Infographic

Couscous vs Millet infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the rightmost column. It displays the amounts side by side, giving a clearer understanding of the difference.
Couscous Millet
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in minerals ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in Glycemic Index ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Couscous Millet Opinion
Net carbs 21.82g 22.37g Millet
Protein 3.79g 3.51g Couscous
Fats 0.16g 1g Millet
Carbs 23.22g 23.67g Millet
Calories 112kcal 119kcal Millet
Sugar 0.1g 0.13g Couscous
Fiber 1.4g 1.3g Couscous
Calcium 8mg 3mg Couscous
Iron 0.38mg 0.63mg Millet
Magnesium 8mg 44mg Millet
Phosphorus 22mg 100mg Millet
Potassium 58mg 62mg Millet
Sodium 5mg 2mg Millet
Zinc 0.26mg 0.91mg Millet
Copper 0.041mg 0.161mg Millet
Manganese 0.084mg 0.272mg Millet
Selenium 27.5µg 0.9µg Couscous
Vitamin A 0IU 3IU Millet
Vitamin E 0.13mg 0.02mg Couscous
Vitamin B1 0.063mg 0.106mg Millet
Vitamin B2 0.027mg 0.082mg Millet
Vitamin B3 0.983mg 1.33mg Millet
Vitamin B5 0.371mg 0.171mg Couscous
Vitamin B6 0.051mg 0.108mg Millet
Folate 15µg 19µg Millet
Vitamin K 0.1µg 0.3µg Millet
Tryptophan 0.049mg 0.038mg Couscous
Threonine 0.1mg 0.113mg Millet
Isoleucine 0.147mg 0.148mg Millet
Leucine 0.259mg 0.446mg Millet
Lysine 0.073mg 0.067mg Couscous
Methionine 0.059mg 0.07mg Millet
Phenylalanine 0.184mg 0.185mg Millet
Valine 0.162mg 0.184mg Millet
Histidine 0.077mg 0.075mg Couscous
Saturated Fat 0.029g 0.172g Couscous
Monounsaturated Fat 0.022g 0.184g Millet
Polyunsaturated fat 0.064g 0.508g Millet

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Couscous Millet
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low Glycemic Index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score

The summary scores indicate the extent to which this food can fulfill your daily vitamin and mineral requirements if you consume 3 servings, consisting of 100 grams of each (an approximation of 3 serving sizes).
Vitamins Daily Need Coverage Score
7%
Couscous
10%
Millet
Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
22%
Couscous
22%
Millet

Comparison summary

Which food contains less Sodium?
Millet
Millet contains less Sodium (difference - 3mg)
Which food is cheaper?
Millet
Millet is cheaper (difference - $0.7)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Millet
Millet is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Millet
Millet is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food is lower in Sugar?
Couscous
Couscous is lower in Sugar (difference - 0.03g)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Couscous
Couscous is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.143g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Couscous
Couscous is lower in glycemic index (difference - 6)
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)

References

All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Couscous - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169700/nutrients
  2. Millet - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168871/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.