Barley water is a favorite for some people who swear by it as a refreshing drink that’s also incredibly good for health. So why is it that this perfectly plain looking and not very appetizing sounding drink made from a grain is so popular? As it turns out, things are not always what they seem and barely water could help digestive health and even be good for your heart!
Health Benefits Of Barley Water
1. Urinary Tract Infections
According to the Urology Care Foundation, 3 in 25 men and 10 in 25 women experience UTI symptoms at some point in their lives.1Besides antibiotics that your doctor may prescribe to treat a urinary tract infection, home remedies like drinking barley water can help. Barley water is a diuretic and can help increase urination.2 In fact, as The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases experts point out, your healthcare provider will usually suggest you drink more fluids when you have a UTI or are prone to getting them. This helps flush out the bacteria and also increases your urge to urinate, allowing the bacteria to leave the body instead of being held in the bladder for too long. And barley water with a twist of lime provides a tasty alternative to drinking just plain water.3
2. Digestive Health
Barley water contains insoluble fiber from barley that can help good bacteria in the gut thrive and lower the population of disease-causing pathogenic bacteria in the intestinal tract, a property that classifies it as a prebiotic. A healthy colon and intestine can lower risk of problems like gastritis, diarrhea, and if early research is anything to go by, then colorectal cancers as well. Some researchers suggest that prebiotics can have a sustained modulatory effect on the microbiota of your gut, and this may have larger implications for colorectal cancer prevention using such foods.4
Ayurveda uses barley water as a drink for those with weak digestion, a state also known as low “agni.” Barley or yava is also said to have laxative effects and can help the body remove any excess kapha from the body.5 Those with excess kapha may experience a general feeling of lethargy or sluggishness, feel drowsy, lazy, or even melancholic.
3. Weight Loss
Barley water can be a great drink if you’re trying to lose weight. It allows you to fill up and hydrate, both of which are important when it comes to staying on track with weight loss. Research has shown a connection between inadequate hydration and obesity.6 In fact, those who are overweight and trying to lose weight through diet lose more weight and fat when they drink adequate water.7
With a squeeze of lime or lemon, barley water can make a flavorsome alternative to plain water. Most people suggest having it before meals for best effects. That’s because the fiber in it helps you digest that food better and keeps you satiated longer, possibly allowing you to eat less because you’re less hungry.8 Plus, its low calorie and low fat too – a half cup of cooked barley has just under a 100 calories and just 0.35 gm of fat, and barley water contains even fewer.9
4. Heart Health
Barley is rich in vitamins, including B vitamins that help your body break down amino acid homocysteine that is connected to stroke and heart disease. Consuming B vitamins may even help cut atherosclerosis risk, though further study in this area is warranted before supplementation is recommended. In the meanwhile, ensuring you meet your daily recommended levels through consuming B vitamin rich foods like barley water is a good idea.10Besides this, barley contains soluble fiber β-glucan, that can lower your LDL cholesterol levels without impacting levels of the good HDL cholesterol in your system. Some researchers have suggested that for every gram of water soluble fiber you consume your blood LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol drop by 0.029 mmol/L and 0.028 mmol/L.11
5. Skin Care
Barley water helps flush out toxins and hydrates your body, both of which are great for your skin. What’s more, the selenium in the grain helps keep your skin looking youthful. The essential mineral is needed for skin to retain its elasticity and its antioxidant properties are useful to fight signs of aging like wrinkles that happen due to free radical damage.12
A high calorie lower fiber diet rich in refined carbs increases your risk of developing gallstones.13 Barley fiber has been found to help reduce the frequency of occurrence of gallstones in animal studies.14 Barley water too contains this insoluble fiber that can work toward cutting the risk of gallstones.
7. Kidney Stones
Consuming a balanced diet with plenty of fiber, cutting back on animal protein intake, reducing consumption of oxalate-rich foods like celery, beets, rhubarb, almonds, peanuts, soy products, and chocolate, can help reduce the risk of kidney stones. Just as important is staying hydrated to prevent the urine from becoming too concentrated and forming stones.15 Barley water is one of the fluids that is used as part of preventive care for kidney stones, to produce urine of the right concentration.16
8. Type 2 Diabetes
Barley has therapeutic benefits for those with type 2 diabetes, as some animal studies have found. Test animals with diabetes who were given barley saw their blood glucose concentration go down, indicating a potential benefit of barley consumption.17 There are also anecdotal accounts of people who have used barley water to a similar end. Research also suggests that the beta glucans in the grain are an important soluble fiber that can help slow down glucose absorption by the body after you eat a meal. This is important for those with diabetes as it slows the increase of insulin and glucose levels after meals. Dietary intake of beta glucans has been found to cut risk factors like hypertension, lipid levels, and blood glucose levels.18
How To Make Your Own Barley Water
To make barley water at home, all you need to do is rinse 2 tablespoons of barley and soak for a few hours to allow for quicker cooking.
1. To cook, put 4 cups of water on the boil along with the barley.
2. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until they’re verging on slightly more than cooked.
3. Next, strain the mixture to bottle, squeezing the juices into the bottle, discarding the grain itself.
You could add lemon rind to the water when boiling, for a hint of citrus, or garnish with a fruit of your choosing when you drink.
|↑1||What is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) in Adults? Urology Care Foundation.|
|↑2, ↑5||Bhat, Nagraj G. “Critical analysis of dietetics in Ayurveda.” Journal of Ayurveda and Integrated Medical Sciences (ISSN 2456-3110) 1, no. 1 (2016): 83-86.|
|↑3||Urinary Tract Infections. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑4||Lim, Chiara C., Lynnette R. Ferguson, and Gerald W. Tannock. “Dietary fibres as “prebiotics”: implications for colorectal cancer.” Molecular nutrition & food research 49, no. 6 (2005): 609-619.|
|↑6||Chang, Tammy, Nithin Ravi, Melissa A. Plegue, Kendrin R. Sonneville, and Matthew M. Davis. “Inadequate hydration, BMI, and obesity among US Adults: NHANES 2009–2012.” The Annals of Family Medicine 14, no. 4 (2016): 320-324.|
|↑7||Stookey, Jodi D., Florence Constant, Barry M. Popkin, and Christopher D. Gardner. “Drinking water is associated with weight loss in overweight dieting women independent of diet and activity.” Obesity 16, no. 11 (2008): 2481-2488.|
|↑8||Chambers, Lucy, Keri McCrickerd, and Martin R. Yeomans. “Optimising foods for satiety.” Trends in Food Science & Technology 41, no. 2 (2015): 149-160.|
|↑9||Barley, pearled, cooked. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.|
|↑10||Atherosclerosis. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑11||Theuwissen, Elke, and Ronald P. Mensink. “Water-soluble dietary fibers and cardiovascular disease.” Physiology & Behavior 94, no. 2 (2008): 285-292.|
|↑12||Selenium. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑13||Gallstones. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑14||Zhang, JIE‐XIAN, F. R. A. N. K. Bergman, G. Ö. R. A. N. Hallmans, G. E. R. D. Johansson, E. V. A. Lundin, R. O. G. E. R. Stenling, O. L. O. F. Theander, and E. R. I. C. Westerlund. “The influence of barley fibre on bile composition, gallstone formation, serum cholesterol and intestinal morphology in hamsters.” Apmis 98, no. 1‐6 (1990): 568-574.|
|↑15||Preventing kidney stones. NHS.|
|↑16||Saxena, Anita, and R. K. Sharma. “Nutritional aspect of nephrolithiasis.” Indian Journal of Urology 26, no. 4 (2010): 523.|
|↑17||Naismith, D. J., G. S. Mahdi, and N. N. Shakir. “Therapeutic value of barley in the management of diabetes.” Annals of nutrition and metabolism 35, no. 2 (1991): 61-64.|
|↑18||Chen, Jiezhong, and Kenneth Raymond. “Beta-glucans in the treatment of diabetes and associated cardiovascular risks.” (2008): 1265.|