9 impressive health benefits of barley

Barley is one of the most consumed grains in the American diet (1).

This versatile grain has a somewhat chewy consistency and a slightly nutty flavor that can complement many dishes.

It is also rich in many nutrients and has some impressive health benefits, ranging from better digestion and weight loss to lower cholesterol levels and a healthier heart.

Here are 9 health benefits based on the evidence of barley.

1. Rich in many beneficial nutrients

Benefits of barley

Barley is rich in vitamins, minerals and other beneficial compounds for plants.

It is available in many forms, from peeled barley to barley semolina, flakes and flour.

Almost all forms of barley use whole grain, except pearled barley, which has been polished to remove part or all of the outer bran layer along with the hull.

When consumed as an integral grain, barley is a particularly rich source of fiber, molybdenum, manganese and selenium. It also contains good amounts of copper, vitamin B1, chromium, phosphorus, magnesium and niacin (2).

In addition, barley contains lignans, a group of antioxidants related to a lower risk of cancer and heart disease (3).

However, like all whole grains, barley has anti-nutrients, which affect the digestion and absorption of nutrients from your body.

Try soaking or sprouting the grain to reduce the anti-nutrient content. These methods of preparation make the nutrients of the barley more absorbable (4, 5).

Soaking and sprouting can also increase the levels of vitamins, minerals, proteins and antioxidants (6, 7).

Also, you can use germinated barley flour for baking.

Summary The whole barley contains a range of vitamins, minerals and other beneficial compounds for plants. Soaking or sprouting your barley can improve the absorption of these nutrients.

2. Reduce hunger and can help you lose weight

Barley can reduce hunger and promote the feeling of fullness, which can lead to weight loss over time.

Barley decreases hunger largely through its high fiber content. A soluble fiber known as beta-glucan is particularly useful.

This is because soluble fibers, such as beta-glucan, tend to form a gel-like substance in the intestine, slowing down digestion and absorption of nutrients. In turn, this reduces their appetite and promotes fullness (8, 9, 10).

A review of 44 studies found that soluble fibers, such as beta-glucan, are the most effective type of fiber to reduce appetite and food intake (11).

In addition, soluble fiber can attack abdominal fat associated with a metabolic disease (12).

Summary Barley contains soluble fiber, which reduces hunger and increases the feeling of fullness. It can even promote weight loss.

3. Insoluble and soluble fiber content improves digestion

Barley can improve your intestinal health.

Again, its high fiber content is responsible, and in this case, particularly its insoluble fiber.

Most of the fiber found in barley is insoluble, which, unlike soluble fiber, does not dissolve in water. Instead, it adds volume to the stool and accelerates bowel movement, reducing the likelihood of constipation (13).

In a four-week study in adult women, eating more barley improved bowel function and increased the volume of stool (14).

On the other hand, the soluble fiber content of barley provides food for friendly intestinal bacteria, which, in turn, produce short chain fatty acids (SCFA).

Research shows that SCFA helps to nourish intestinal cells, reducing inflammation and improving the symptoms of intestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (15, 16, 17).

Summary The high fiber content of barley helps food move through your intestine and promotes a good balance of intestinal bacteria, which play an important role in digestion.

4. It can prevent gallstones and reduce your risk of gallbladder surgery

The high fiber content of barley can also help prevent gallstones.

Gallstones are solid particles that can form spontaneously in your gallbladder, a small organ located under the liver. The gallbladder produces bile acids that your body uses to digest fat.

In most cases, gallstones do not cause any symptoms. However, from time to time, large gallstones can get stuck in a gall bladder duct, causing severe pain. Such cases often require surgery to remove the gallbladder.

The type of insoluble fiber found in barley can help prevent the formation of gallstones and reduce the likelihood of gallbladder surgery.

In a 16-year observational study, women with the highest amounts of fiber intake were 13% less likely to develop gallstones that require removal of the gallbladder.

This benefit seems to be related to the dose, since each increase of 5 grams in the insoluble fiber intake reduced the risk of gallstones by around 10% (18).

In another study, obese individuals underwent one of two diets to lose weight quickly: one rich in fiber and the other in protein. Rapid weight loss can increase the risk of developing gallstones.

After five weeks, participants in the high-fiber diet were three times more likely to have healthy bile vesicles than those in the high-protein diet (19).

Summary The type of insoluble fiber found in barley can prevent the formation of gallstones, which helps your gallbladder to function normally and reduces the risk of surgery.

5. Beta-glucans could help reduce cholesterol

Barley can also lower your cholesterol levels.

It has been shown that beta-glucans found in barley reduce "bad" LDL cholesterol by binding to bile acids.

Your body eliminates these bile acids, which the liver produces from cholesterol, through feces.

Then, your liver must use more cholesterol to produce new bile acids, which in turn reduces the amount of cholesterol circulating in your blood (20).

In a small study, men with high cholesterol underwent a diet rich in whole wheat, brown rice or barley.

After five weeks, those who received barley reduced their cholesterol levels by 7% more than the participants in the other two diets.

In addition, the barley group also increased their "good" HDL cholesterol and reduced their triglyceride levels to the maximum (21).

A recent review that evaluated 14 randomized control trials, the gold standard in scientific research, found similar results (22).

Laboratory studies, in animals and in humans, also show that SCFAs produced when healthy intestinal bacteria feed on soluble fiber can also help prevent the production of cholesterol, further reducing cholesterol levels (23, 24).

Summary The type of insoluble fiber found in barley seems to reduce cholesterol levels by preventing its formation and increasing its excretion through faeces.

6. Can reduce the risk of heart disease

Whole grains are constantly linked to better heart health. Therefore, it is not surprising that adding barley to your diet regularly decreases the risk of heart disease.

This is because barley can reduce certain risk factors, in addition to reducing "bad" LDL cholesterol levels, the soluble fiber of barley can reduce blood pressure levels (25).

In fact, a recent review of randomized control studies found that an average intake of 8.7 grams of soluble fiber per day may be linked to a modest reduction in blood pressure of between 0.3 and 1.6 mmHg (26). .

High blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol are two known risk factors for heart disease. Therefore, reducing them can protect your heart.

Summary Regularly adding barley to your diet can reduce the risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and "bad" LDL cholesterol.

7. Magnesium and soluble fiber can protect against diabetes

Barley can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels and improving insulin secretion.

This is partly due to the rich magnesium content of barley, a mineral that plays an important role in the production of insulin and in the use of sugar by your body (27).

Barley is also rich in soluble fiber, which binds with water and other molecules as it moves through your digestive tract, which decreases the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream (28, 29).

Research shows that a barley breakfast provides a lower maximum increase in blood sugar and insulin levels than a breakfast consisting of other whole grains, such as oats (30).

In another study, participants with altered fasting glucose received oats or barley flakes daily. After three months, fasting blood sugar and insulin levels decreased by 9% to 13% more in those who ate barley (31).

Summary Whole barley can help improve insulin production and reduce blood sugar levels, which can reduce the likelihood of type 2 diabetes.

8. It can help prevent colon cancer

A diet rich in whole grains is usually linked to a lower likelihood of many chronic diseases, including certain cancers, especially those of the colon (32, 33).

Once again, the high fiber content of barley plays a central role.

Its insoluble fiber specifically helps reduce the time it takes for food to cleanse your bowel, which appears to be especially protective against colon cancers. In addition, soluble fiber can bind to harmful carcinogens in your gut, eliminating them from your body (34, 35).

Other compounds found in barley, including antioxidants, phytic acid, phenolic acids and saponins, can further protect against cancer or slow its development (36).

That said, more human studies are needed before solid conclusions can be drawn.

Summary Fiber and other beneficial compounds found in barley can fight certain types of cancer, particularly those of the colon. However, more research is needed.

9. Versatile and easy to add to your diet

Barley is cheap and incredibly easy to add to your diet.

Due to its high fiber content, barley can be an excellent alternative to more refined grains.

For example, you can use it as a side dish instead of couscous or white pasta. Barley is also a great alternative to white rice dishes like pilaf or risotto.

Barley can also be added to soups, fillings, stews, salads and breads, or it can be eaten as part of a hot cereal breakfast.

You can also simply buy whole grain bread that contains barley.

For a unique touch, add barley to desserts: barley pudding and barley ice cream are just two options.

Summary Barley is cheap, edible, warm or cold, and easily added to a variety of salty and sweet dishes.

The bottom line

Barley is a very healthy grain. It is rich in vitamins, minerals and other beneficial compounds for plants.

It is also high in fiber, which is responsible for most of its health benefits, ranging from better digestion to reducing hunger and weight loss.

In addition, making barley a regular ingredient in your diet can offer protection against chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and even certain types of cancer.

To get the most benefits, avoid processed and pearled barley and adhere to whole grain varieties such as barley or barley semolina, flakes and flour.

Reference: https: //www.healthline.com/nutrition/barley-benefits


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