Barley or Hordeum vulgare L., (from the grass family), is a wonderfully versatile cereal grain. When cooked, barley has a chewy texture and nutty flavor, similar to brown rice. Its appearance resembles wheat berries, although it is slightly lighter in color. Sprouted barley is naturally high in maltose, a sugar that serves as the basis for malt syrup sweetener. When fermented, barley is used as an ingredient in beer and other alcoholic beverages.
The Old English word for ‘barley’ was bære, which traces back to Proto-Indo-European and is cognate to the Latin word farina “flour”. Dehulled barley, or hulless barley, is unprocessed and takes longer to cook than pearl or pearled barley, which is more common.
Barley originated in Ethiopia and Southeast Asia, where it has been cultivated for more than 10,000 years. Barley grain is a staple in Tibetan cuisine and was eaten widely by peasants in Medieval Europe. Since wheat was very expensive and not widely available in the Middle Ages, many Europeans at that time made bread from a combination of barley and rye. In the 16th century, the Spanish introduced barley to South America, while the English and Dutch settlers of the 17th century brought it with them to the United States.
Barley beer was probably one of the first alcoholic drinks developed by Neolithic humans.
Top 22 Health Benefits of Barley- The Wonder Grain:
- Prevents Gallstones: Being rich in insoluble fiber, barley helps in reducing bile acids secretion, thus increasing insulin sensitivity and reducing the levels of triglycerides. Hence, barley can help women to avoid gallstones effectively.
- Improves Immunity: Vitamin C supports your immune system by reducing the chances of cold and flu. Iron facilitates proper kidney functioning and enhances the blood volume, preventing anemia and fatigue. Manganese benefits the nervous system and immune system. Furthermore copper helps form hemoglobin and red blood cells.
- Supports Pregnancy: Barley prevents yeast and Urinary Tract Infections, which can be harmful to the fetus. It helps ease morning sickness, nausea, and regulates blood sugar levels preventing Gestational diabetes. It not only prevents edema (swollen ankle and feet), but also constipation and haemorrhoids, common in pregnant women.
- Prevents Bone Disorders: Barley grass contains calcium, phosphorus and copper which are good for the overall health of bones. Manganese, in association with B-complex vitamins, is needed for normal bone production. Effective against Osteoporosis and Arthritis.
- Prevents Anemia: Barley contains copper which helps in the formation of hemoglobin, needed for the production of red blood cells, abating anemia.
- Fights Atherosclerosis: Barley contains Niacin (a B vitamin complex) which prevents Atherosclerosis, a condition causing thickening of arterial walls, due to coagulation of fatty materials, such as cholesterol. This greatly lowers the chances of stroke and heart disease.
- Lowers Bad Cholesterol: The soluble fiber, in barley, dissolves and binds with fatty acids, slows down absorption of sugar, and lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad cholesterol) levels. Insoluble fiber yields propionic acid, which keeps the blood cholesterol levels low. Barley is a rich source of niacin, which is effective in reducing blood clots and cardiovascular disease.
- Assists Weight Loss: Fiber absorbs water, but the insoluble fiber really expands in your stomach, sticking around longer and suppressing appetite. Barley is low on fat and cholesterol, and full of vital nutrients, making it ideal for daily consumption. It enables the digestive juices to work overtime, sheds calories by preventing the build-up of fat and increases the rate of metabolism.
- Diuretic: Barley keeps the urinary tract healthy by preventing Urinary Tract Infection and is useful in bringing down simple fevers and controlling diarrhea.
- Toxin Cleanser: Gastritis patients are prescribed barley water as a tonic to expel harmful toxins from the body. Warm barley water with limejuice is recommended for relief from cough, tonsils and throat inflammations like pharyngitis.
- Lowers Cancer Risk: Enterolactone, one of the plant lignans (a phytonutrient) found in Barley, helps to prevent breast cancer as well as coronary diseases. The dietary fiber is fermented by friendly intestinal bacteria and flora creating butyric acid, the fuel for intestinal cells, thus protecting against colon cancer.
- Wards Off Diabetes: The beta-glucan fiber, found in this whole grain, has the ability to slow down the body’s absorption of carbohydrates from foods, leading to a reduction in glucose and insulin levels, effective in treatment of Type 2 diabetes.
- Aids Digestion: Its rich fiber content prevents constipation by maintaining healthy bowel functions and decreases the expulsion time of feces. Barley water disposes various harmful toxins and is the best tonic for all gastric inflammations. It greatly reduces the chances of colon cancer and hemorrhoids as well.
- Antidote: Recent research has shown the efficacy of Barley as an antidote, preventing the spread of poison in the body, through it quick detox properties.
- For Radiant Skin: Barley contains selenium which preserves skin elasticity and protects it against free radical damage. The antioxidants in barley help in decelerating the signs of ageing. Barley water flushes out toxins from the body, thus giving you a clean wrinkle-free skin texture.
- Hair Care: Copper aids melanin formation, a pigment which provides color to your hair. Micronutrients thiamin and niacin, and Procyanidin B-3 act as hair growth stimulants. Iron and copper enhance production of red blood cells, warding off anaemia, a main cause of hair loss.
- Treats Kidney Stones: Barley is a trusted remedy for kidney stones and bladder issues. Barley juice quenches thirst, treats kidney problems and also improves appetite.
- Prevents Asthma: 5 kDa is a barley endosperm protein and a major allergen in baker’s asthma disease. This is an airborne occupational ailment, mostly prevalent in confectioneries and bakeries. Barley proves to be very effective preventative measure for such kinds of major wheat-flour allergens.
- Instant Energy Booster: Barley not only brings down the heat content of your body but also is very easy to digest. Hence Barley water is generally advised for convalescents from diarrhea, high fever and dehydration.
- Nutrients Store: This grain is rich in starch and sugar, low in fats and protein, an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fibre, selenium, phosphorous, copper and manganese. Barley helps the body to metabolize fats, cholesterol and carbohydrates.
- Healing Properties: Zinc, in barley, contributes to speeding up healing after an injury, and as an antioxidant, slows down skin and accelerated muscle aging.
- Barley is a member of a non-scientifically established grain group traditionally called the “gluten grains”. Individuals with wheat-related conditions like celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathies should consult with their healthcare practitioner before experimenting with any of the “gluten grains,” including barley.
- Consuming too much barley before your body is prepared to process large quantities of fiber may produce the unpleasant side effect of abdominal bloating, gas and cramping, though. Increase fiber intake slowly to prevent this.