6 Superb Health Benefits Of Barley You Didn’t Know

health benefits of barley

Barley has been valued as a high energy, hearty tasting food for ages. In fact, Roman gladiators were once known as ‘‘hordearii’’ or ‘‘barley men’’ because they ate barley to give them stamina and strength. This ancient grain is full of fiber, low in fat and cholesterol free. It also has vitamins and minerals like niacin, thiamine, zinc, selenium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and copper as well as antioxidants and beneficial phytochemicals (natural compounds found in plants).1 2 Let’s now take a look at all the things that this wonderful grain can do for your health. Barley:

1. Helps Control Blood Sugar

High sugar levels can lead to serious health problems like stroke, heart disease, loss of vision, and kidney failure. And if you’re struggling to control your sugar levels try incorporating barley into your diet. One study compared the effect of having white whole wheat bread to the effect of having cooked barley kernels for dinner. It was found that when people ate a breakfast with a high glycemic index (that is, foods which can raise your blood sugar significantly) after having barley for dinner their bodies responded much better to the sugar in the food. The glucose uptake by their tissues was 30% higher and glucose-associated inflammation was moderated. It is thought that nondigestible carbohydrates present in barley are responsible for improving insulin sensitivity. 3


2. Lowers Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a fairly common condition and it can raise your risk for a stroke or heart attack. But barley might be able to help you out. One study found that when participants used barley to deliver 20% of their energy intake for five weeks their blood pressure was reduced. The fiber content of barley is considered to be responsible for this effect. The study also found that other high fiber foods like whole wheat and brown rice can also lower blood pressure.4

3. Reduces Cholesterol

High cholesterol levels can clog up your arteries leading to heart disease. But various studies have found that the beta-glucan in barley can lower total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol (which is bad for you), and triglycerides (a kind of fat found in your blood) while not significantly affecting HDL-cholesterol (which is good for you). 5 So a yummy barley meal can give you clean arteries!


4. Tackles Abdominal Fat

All of us would love a flat belly. But did you know that abdominal fat doesn’t just make you look flabby? It consists of dangerous fat that coats your internal organs and is a predictor of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome (a group of disorders including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance).6 But barley may be able to whittle down your tummy fat. A Japanese study that looked at men with high cholesterol found that when they partly replaced rice with pearl barley for 12 weeks their abdominal fat, BMI (body mass index), and waist circumference were significantly reduced. The high beta-glucan content is considered to be responsible for this beneficial effect. The study also found that consuming pearl barley resulted in lower levels of total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. 7

5. Improves Satiety And Helps With Weight Loss

We all know that you need to take in fewer calories to lose weight. However, managing hunger is a major roadblock on the way to making do with fewer calories. But what if you could feel fuller while consuming the same amount of calories? A study compared whole grain high-fiber barley, refined rice-based foods, and whole grain wheat on the basis of energy intake and satiety. It was found that having whole grain high-fiber barley foods significantly decreased hunger whereas whole wheat and refined rice foods didn’t. So this ancient grain might be just the weapon you need in your fight to lose weight.8


6. Boosts Your Skin

Barley contains important nutrients that can feed your skin – it’s a great source of protein and has vitamin B as well as minerals like iron and zinc. It also contains selenium which can protect against damage from the harmful rays of the sun and help to preserve the elasticity of your skin. 9 One study even found that a fermented barley and soybean product improved skin hydration and had a moisturizing effect. So tuck into some barley to improve the health of your skin.10

Nosh On Barley

Barley will make a great addition to your diet. This versatile grain can, in fact, be used in many forms. Pearl barley (in the kernel form) and whole grain barley (which may be hulled or hulless) can be cooked like rice or couscous. They can also add a nutty flavor and chewy texture to salads, soups, casseroles, and stews. Barley flour can be mixed with wheat flour and used in baking. Barley malt is used in syrups and extracts to add flavor and color to baked goods and you can always depend on barley flakes for a piping hot cereal breakfast.11


Having a drink of barley water is a simple way of incorporating barley into your diet. And here’s a bare bones recipe for barley water:

  • Soak 1/4 cup of roasted barley in 6 cups of water for at least half an hour. Then get it on the stove and bring it to a boil. Now lower the heat and simmer with the lid on for an hour. And your barley water’s ready!
  • Strain and sweeten it with a little honey for a simple yet delicious drink. You can add a little lemon juice to this to make a refreshing lemon barley drink. You can even toss in spices like cinnamon, clove, or ginger while the barley is cooking to add flavor. 12