Barley is the world’s fourth most important cereal crop, after wheat, maize (corn), and rice, and it has some excellent nutritional qualities. Barley is rich in fiber, is cholesterol free, is low in fats, is rich in vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and phytoochemicals.
The variety to look for are hulled barley (in which the kernels are minimally processed to remove only the tough inedible outer hull) and hulless barley (a type of barley in which the tough inedible hull is loosely adhered to the kernel and requires minimal to no processing). Hulled barley may be purchased in several forms including kernels (berries), cut (grits) and ground (meal and flour). Both hulled and hulless barley products are in more limited supply, but may be found in some health food stores and in the natural sections of some supermarkets!
Pearl barley refers to covered barley that has been processed to a greater degree than hulled barley. Because pearl barley undergoes more processing, some insoluble fiber, trace minerals and micronutrients may be lost. Pearl barley is not considered whole grain. However it’s important to note that pearl barley (even heavily pearled barley) retains significant amounts of fiber, particularly heart -healthy soluble fiber.
Here are 5 exceptional nutritional qualities of barley :
Barley is a great source of dietary fiber and actually contains both soluble and insoluble fiber.Soluble fiber is effective in lowering blood cholesterol and can reduce the risk of heart disease.
Soluble fiber is also beneficial in slowing the absorption of sugar and reducing the risk for developing type 2 or non-insulin-dependent diabetes.
The insoluble fiber found in barley may be beneficial in helping the body maintain regular bowel function. Insoluble fiber may also help lower the risk for certain cancers such as colon cancer.
Cholesterol and fat
Like all plant foods, barley is naturally cholesterol-free and low in fat.
A 1/2- cup serving of cooked pearl barley, a typical grain serving, contains less than ½ gram of fat and only 100 calories*
Vitamins and minerals
Barley contains several vitamins and minerals including niacin, thiamine,selenium, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and copper.
Barley contains antioxidants, which are also important for maintaining good health. Specifically, antioxidants work to slow down the rate of oxidative damage by gathering up free radicals that form when body cells use oxygen.
Barley contains phytochemicals, which are natural plant-based chemicals. Studies indicate that phytochemicals may help decrease the risk for certain diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Health benefits of barley
- It does not produce a spike in blood sugars so is a good form of grain for individuals with diabetes
- the consumption of barley-containing foods and the associated soluble fiber significantly improves several cardiovascular disease risk factors
- The highest barley soluble fiber intake resulted in the greatest reduction in total and LDL cholesterol concentrations.
- Fiber, including soluble fiber, is found throughout the entire barley kernel. Even processed barley with the bran removed contains significant amounts of fiber, including soluble fiber. Whether whole grain or heavily processed, barley is an excellent choice for heart-healthy dining
You can enjoy barley for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s easy to include barley in a healthful and delicious diet. Some examples for this are:
- Choose barley flakes for a hardy cooked breakfast cereal.
- Add pearl or whole grain barley kernels to your favorite soups, stews, casseroles and salads.
- Use pearled or whole grain barley kernels as a fiber-rich addition to favorite stir -frys or Chinese take -out entrees
- Barley rissotto
- Barley geek salad
- Barley in culets
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