What is barley used for? Discover the benefits for your health.

Health benefits of barley and what is barley used for!

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What are the health benefits of barley?

Barley is a type of grain that has a chewy texture and a nutty taste. It contains abundant nutrients and can thus offer various health benefits, such as enhanced digestion, weight loss as well as a stronger heart. For these reasons, it is important to know what barley is used for.

barley field

We explore some of the health benefits of barley here below: 

#1: Barley contains abundant nutrients

Barley has an abundance of minerals, vitamins, minerals and other useful plant compounds.

You can find it under many different forms, such as flour and hulled barley. Apart from pearl barley, which has been polished to get rid of the hull as well as some or all of the outer bran layer, most types of barley come in whole grains.

Barley when consumed as a whole grain can provide a lot of fiber, molybdenum, manganese, selenium, copper, vitamin B1, chromium, phosphorus, magnesium and niacin [1].

A group of antioxidants called lignans that is associated with a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease can be found in barley too. Moreover, barley also has other antioxidants like vitamin E, lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene that guard against and repair cell damage due to oxidative stress [2]. 

#2: Barley may reduce the risk of diabetes

When you consume barley that contains a lot of magnesium, you lower your risk of type 2 diabetes by reducing your blood sugar levels and enhancing insulin secretion.

Magnesium is a mineral that contributes immensely to insulin production and your body’s use of sugar [1].

The soluble fiber that barley contains also slows down your body’s sugar absorption by binding with water and other molecules as it moves through your digestive tract. Studies have revealed that a barley breakfast results in a lower maximum rise in blood sugar and insulin levels as compared to a breakfast comprising oats or other whole grains. Participants with impaired fasting glucose on another research consumed either oatmeal or barley flakes daily. Consequently, fasting blood sugar and insulin levels decreased by 9–13% more for those eating barley after three months. 

#3: Barley may help prevent colon cancer

A diet comprising a lot of whole grains is associated with a reduced risk of several types of cancers, such as colon cancers, thanks to barley’s high fiber content. The insoluble fiber in barley particularly reduces the time food takes to clear your gut. This can aid in preventing colon cancers. Besides, soluble fiber may bind to harmful carcinogens in your gut, and expel them from your body. Phenolic and phytic acids as well as saponins may slow the development of cancer.

#4: Barley contains high fiber and can reduce hunger 

Soluble fiber, such as beta-glucan, which reduces hunger and enhances feelings of fullness, is abundant in barley. Beta-glucan can form a gel-like substance in your gut, to slow down your digestion and absorption of nutrients. 

#5: Barley may reduce your risk of heart disease

Barley may reduce your risks of heart disease, especially when consumed as a whole grain. Whole grains are typically linked to better heart health and lower incidences of heart diseases. Besides, barley’s soluble fiber may bring blood pressure levels down. Some randomized control studies noted that an average intake of 8. 7 grams of soluble fiber per day may be associated with a 0.3–1.6 mmHg reduction in blood pressure. As high blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol contribute to heart disease, decreasing their levels could shield your heart.

Potential Disadvantages

Just like all whole grains, barley contains antinutrients, which obstruct your body’s digestion and nutrient absorption. To decrease barley’s antinutrient content, soak the grain to reduce the antinutrient content and make barley’s nutrients more absorbable [1]. 

Moreover, barley is a whole grain that contains gluten. If you have a wheat intolerance, you may not want to consume barley. 

Short-chain carbohydrates called fructans are present in barley. Fructans may lead to gas and bloating in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other digestive disorders. If you have diabetes, you had better not consume barley too much as barley has a strong effect on blood sugar levels.

Some ideas of what it is used for

  • To address heart disease: Barley products contain high amounts of soluble fiber that benefit a low-cholesterol diet to prevent heart disease. You must eat at least 3.6 grams of soluble fiber daily to reduce your vulnerability to heart disease, according to studies.
  • To address high cholesterol: Research states that taking barley can reduce the amount of “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol based on the amount of barley taken [3]. 

Consume hulled barley instead of other whole grains like rice or quinoa. 

Rinse the grains under cold running water, removing any hulls. Then, cook the barley using a 1:3 ratio of barley to water. Although pearled barley cooks in about an hour, hulled barley takes about 1.5 hours to become tender.

Here are some ways to add barley to your diet:

  • Try barley flakes instead of oats for breakfast
  • Add barley to soups and stews.
  • Mix barley flour with wheat flour in baked goods.
  • Use cooked barley, vegetables and dressing for your salad
  • Drink barley water 

References 

[1] A. Petre, “9 impressive health benefits of Barley,” Healthline, 18-Sep-2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/barley-benefits#TOC_TITLE_HDR_3. [Accessed: 05-Sep-2022]. 

[2] M. Groves, “Is barley good for you? nutrition, benefits and how to Cook it,” Healthline, 29-Aug-2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/barley#nutrition. [Accessed: 05-Sep-2022]. 

[3] “Barley: Overview, uses, side effects, precautions, interactions, dosing and reviews,” WebMD. [Online]. Available: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-799/barley. [Accessed: 05-Sep-2022].

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