Barley is one of the oldest consumed grains in the world. It has a very high fibre content and trace minerals but is low in fat and calories. One cup of cooked barley has less calories than a cup of brown rice, millet or wild rice, but a lot more fibre than any of them. Barley juice is said to have ten times more calcium than milk.
The best way to have barley is to sprout hulled uncooked barley grains. When you sprout whole grains, the body is able to better absorb the nutrients in the grain. When grains are sprouted, it improves their digestiblility; vitamins and minerals are easily absorbed and antioxidant levels are increased.
Health Benefits of Barley
Barley grain possesses immense health benefits. Very importantly, it supports the immune system due to the high quantity of vitamin C, which is almost twice of that of oranges. The iron in barley improves the blood volume and prevents anaemia and fatigue. The copper in barley helps to increase red blood cells and hemoglobin. Barley is also a good source of selenium. A deficiency of selenium can lead to various types of cancers. Selenium also helps to preserve the elasticity of the skin. It aids in proper kidney functioning and the development of body cells.
Botanical name – Hordeum vulgare
Hindi Name- Jau
Sanskrit Name – Yav
Common Name – Barley
Tamil Name- Barley arisi
Barley Health Benefits for Cholesterol
A diet rich in fibre leads to a lower incidence of heart disease, by helping lower high cholesterol levels. The fibre in Barley forms a type of acid called propionic acid which inhibits enzymes involved in the production of cholesterol by the liver. Beta glucan, a substance needed to bind bile in the digestive tract to cholesterol, and excrete it along with stool, is also found in barley. Research shows that consuming barley reduces total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. The soluble fiber from barley daily reduces total cholesterol by 14% to 20%, depending on the amount of barley taken. LDL is lowered by 17% to 24%. Barley also lowers triglycerides by 6% to 16% and increases HDL which is the good cholesterol by 9% to 18%. Eating barley may also reduce blood pressure in people with high cholesterol.
Barley Health Benefits for Improved Digestion
Barley helps fight constipation due to its high fibre content. It also cures diarrhoea by forming bulk within the digestive tract, thereby regulating bowel movement. A 2003 study on ‘Effects of barley intake on glucose tolerance, lipid metabolism, and bowel function in women’, found that after 4 weeks, barley intake had beneficial effects on lipid metabolism and bowel function. Barley also helps to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the digestive tract.
Barley Health Benefits for Blood sugar
R Elliot, in her book ‘What to Eat and How to Eat it: 99 super ingredients for a healthy life’, says “Barley and other whole grains are rich sources of magnesium, a mineral that acts as a co-factor for more than 300 enzymes, including enzymes involved in the body’s use of glucose and insulin secretion”. Barley can benefit blood sugar level management, making it a smart grain choice for those with diabetes or any form of metabolic syndrome because it helps to slow the rate at which sugar is released into the blood stream. Inside the cell walls of barley is a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan. Beta-glucan is a viscous fiber, meaning our body cannot digest it and it moves through our digestive tract without being absorbed, and binds with water and other molecules within the digestive tract, thus slowing down the absorption of glucose (sugar) from the food we eat.
Barley Health Benefits for the Heart
Barley’s high source of insoluble fibre is mostly responsible for its heart health benefits. The nutrition in barley includes vitamin B3 (niacin), thiamine, selenium, copper and magnesium, which are very useful to lower cholesterol, hypertension and other such risk factors that affect the heart. Barley inhibits the amount of bad cholesterol that can be absorbed by the intestines. It helps the blood vessels to be clear, thus improving blood flow. Being a good source of niacin (a B vitamin), it protects against cardiovascular risk.
Niacin helps to reduce total cholesterol and Lp(a) levels. (Lp(a)is is found in blood plasma and is very similar to LDL cholesterol. It is considered dangerous as it contains one more molecule of adhesive protein called apolioprotein (a), which enables the Lp(a) attach itself to the blood vessel walls). Niacin also helps to reduce platelet aggregation, which sometimes results in the formation of blood clots. A cup of barley supplies you with almost 14% of the daily value of niacin needed.
Barley Health Benefits for Blood Pressure
Potassium, calcium, and magnesium which are present in barley are known to decrease blood pressure naturally. In order to lower blood pressure it is essential to increase potassium consumption in addition to reducing sodium intake. Moreover it is a known fact that by increasing the intake of wholegrain foods, which are high in both soluble and non-soluble fibre, one can reduce blood pressure.
Barley Health Benefits for Bone Health
Barley has nutrients such as iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, manganese and zinc which contribute to building and maintaining bone structure and strength. Proper bone mineralization needs a good balance of phosphate and calcium as intake of too much phosphorus with too little can result in bone loss. Iron and zinc are important for production and maturation of collagen.
Barley Health Benefits for Cancer
Barley contains selenium, a mineral that is not found in most foods. Selenium is a powerful mineral which is needed in very small amounts. It plays a very important role in the cells’ defenses against cancer. Selenium knocks out free radicals and helps in recycling antioxidants through the body. These antioxidants, lower the risk of cancer by preventing free radicals from damaging cells. Selenium is also known to prevent inflammation, decrease tumor growth, and improve immune response to infection. Studies have shown that consuming selenium above the recommended dietary allowance, may protect against certain cancers. In China, where epidemic rates of esophageal and gastric cancers occurred, the risk was cut in half after large dose of selenium were given. In a meta review by the Nordic Cochrane institute, the conclusions were that, “Epidemiological studies have suggested an inverse association between selenium status and the risk of colorectal, prostate, lung, bladder, skin, esophageal, and gastric cancer.”
In the book ‘Healthy Foods: Facts versus Fiction’ by Myrna Chandler Goldstein, Mark Allan Goldstein, they say that barley contains certain types of phytonutrients known as plant lignans, which are converted in the colon into enterolactone and enterodial. Enterolactane is said to prevent breast and other hormonal cancers. They further quote a study published by German researchers who in 2006, where they measured the concentrations of enterolactane and genistein in plasma samples from 220 menopausal women. They found that women with “highest levels of enterolactane had the lowest incidence of premenopausal breast cancer”.
Other Benefits of Barley
Fibre functions as a bulking agent in the digestive system, thus plays an important role in weight loss. Consumption of food high in fibre helps to feel satisfied for longer and makes you feel fuller, thus lowering your overall calorie intake. Barley helps keep the blood sugar stable, which might help to control apetite thus helping in weight loss.
Research suggests that eating food which contains germinated barley daily for 4-24 weeks may to reduce the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease called ulcerative colitis.
Barley is said to help women avoid developing gallstones. Being rich in insoluble fibre, it helps to reduce bile acid secretion, thus increasing insulin sensitivity, while lowering the levels of triglycerides. Reportedly, women who consume a fibrous diet, have a 17% lower risk of developing gallstones than those who did not consume a fibrous diet.
What is Barley Water?
Barley water is water in which barley has been cooked. It is fairly easy to make and is filled with nutrition and health benefits. When barley water is consumed unstrained it is high in calorie and low in fat. When barley water is strained, it has far less calories, but also less fiber, which is the source of many of its benefits. Barley has soluble fibre. This type of fibre dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It helps lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels.
How to Make Barley Water
Taking barley with diabetes medications might cause blood sugar to fall sharply. Monitor your blood sugar closely, so as to change the dosage accordingly.
According to webmd, since barley contains a large amount of fibre, which can decrease how much medicine the body absorbs, taking barley along with medicine you take by mouth can decrease the effectiveness of your medication. To prevent this interaction take barley at least 1 hour after medications you take by mouth.
Those dealing with celiac disease or other forms of glucose intolerance should avoid barley products.