What Are the Benefits of Eating Barley?

Reviewed on 12/17/2020
Barley is one of the world's earliest cultivated grains
Barley is one of the world’s earliest cultivated grains

Barley is one of the world’s earliest cultivated grains and forms a crucial part of traditional diets across the globe. Apart from use as food products and animal fodder, it is also used for making beers.

Many medical associations such as the American Heart Association and American Dietetic Association recommend including whole-grain cereals such as barley in daily diet.

Barley provides a good source of nutrients that include:

The most striking feature of barley among all other cereals is its high fiber content, which is around 17%. It specially contains high amounts of soluble beta-glucan ?ber. This is a special type of fiber that helps in lowering blood sugar levels and can also prevent the development of heart diseases.

Eating barley has also shown to be effective at controlling blood pressure and reducing blood cholesterol levels. In 2008, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a health claim that linked barley food items to a lowered risk of coronary artery diseases.

Barley helps in increasing the feeling of satiety and delays hunger pangs. Hence, you may feel like eating less in your next meal or snack less throughout the day. Thus, barley can be an effective strategy for keeping your weight under control and help you in weight loss.

Barley is the most recommended cereal in Ayurveda for daily consumption. As per the ancient Ayurvedic texts, the beloved cereal is beneficial for keeping weight under control. Many food preparations used in the treatment of various diseases in Ayurveda contain barley as one of their ingredients.

What are the types of barley available in the market?

Barley is available in various forms in the market. Knowing about them will help you decide which one suits your nutritional needs and ease of cooking. The forms, covered barley, hulled barley, and hulless barley, fall under the category of whole-grain barley.

  • Covered barley: The barley growing in the field is known as covered barley. The unprocessed barley contains all the parts intact including the outer, inedible hard part or covering (hull). 
  • Hulled barley: Hulled barley is referred to as dehulled barley. It is also a type of covered barley but which has been minimally processed to remove only the tough, inedible outer hull. This leaves some of the bran. 
  • Hulless barley: The hulless barley contains the kernel and germ without the hull. The outer hull is so loosely attached to the kernel that it falls off during harvesting.
  • Pearl barley: Pearl barley is the polished or refined form of the whole-grain barley. The refining or processing removes a part of or whole of the outer bran. But still, pearl barley is better than refined forms of other cereals because some fiber is also present in its kernel.
  • Barley flakes: Barley flakes can be made from whole-grain barley or pearl barley. Make sure you read the labels. Barley grains are steamed, rolled, and dried to make barley flakes. 
  • Barley grits: They are made from toasted and cracked pieces of barley grain (hulled or pearl).
  • Barley flour: Similar to barley flakes, barley flour can be made from whole-grain barley or pearl barley. Read the labels carefully. Barley flour is used for baking and as a thickener in stews, soups, and gravies.
  • Quick pearl barley: As per its name, this type of barley, made from pearl barley, gets cooked in just 10 minutes. The cooking time is reduced because this form of barley is made from partially cooked barley grains. This is followed by the rolling and drying process.

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How do you eat barley?

Barley can be consumed in various ways. Being a cereal, it can be baked and eaten. With its rich flavor and mild sweetness, you can pair it with mushrooms, root vegetables, and warm spices.

You can eat barley in various ways such as the following:

  • Barley porridge (made from barley flakes)
  • Barley and vegetable soup
  • Adding cooked barley to salads
  • Barley water (the water that remains after cooking the barley grains in enough water, also available as a pre-made product)

To cook whole-grain barley, cook one cup of dried grain with three cups of liquid (1:3 ratio). Boil the mixture following by simmering for 45-60 minutes. This gives you 3.5 cups of cooked barley. 

One serving of cooked barley (one-fourth cup, uncooked) contains:

  • Calories: 160
  • Fiber: 8 g
  • Protein: 6 g

Is eating barley good for everyone?

Although barley is a wonderful cereal, it may not be the right food for everyone.

Because barley contains gluten, it may not be good for people who are sensitive or allergic to gluten.

Barley is high in calories; hence, one should avoid adding sweeteners (such as sugar) to it.

Barley also contains high amounts of purine, so if you have gout, you may need to cut barley from your diet.

Because it is effective in lowering blood glucose levels, ask your doctor if you suffer from diabetes and are on blood sugar–lowering medications. Else, you may face low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Eating an excess of barley at one time may cause bloating due to its high fiber content. Hence, if you face digestion problems, know how much quantity is right for you, and eat in moderation.

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References
Barley. Available at: https://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/grain-month-calendar/barley-%E2%80%93-february-grain-month

Shirke UJ, Yadav J, ShirKE JM, Udmale MM. Literary review of Yava (Barley). J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2018;3(3):165-168.

Zeng Y, Pu X, Yang J, Du J, Yang X, Li X, et al. Preventive and therapeutic role of functional ingredients of barley grass for chronic diseases in human beings. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2018;2018:3232080.

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