The Bountiful Health Benefits of Barley

The Bountiful Health Benefits of Barley

This humble grass has surprisingly more to offer when it comes to health-promoting nutrients.

One of the first grains cultivated by humans about 10,000 years ago, barley is a whole grain ingredient used in breads, soups, and stews. Today, the vast majority of the world’s barley production is used as feed for livestock. However, the more we learn about the health-supporting qualities of this wonder-grain, the more we humans may claim for ourselves.

A variety of studies have suggested that increased barley consumption can lead to reductions in weight, bad cholesterol, blood sugar and the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease. It may even slow or prevent the development of gallstones.

How does it do all this? Nutrients, naturally. Barley contains significant amounts of carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, ascorbic acid, alpha-tocopherol and phylloquinone, also known as vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, E, and K, respectively. Throw in folate, vitamin B6, and electrolytes like magnesium and potassium, as well as zinc, iron, calcium and other essential minerals and you have a whole grain with a whole lot of nutritional value.

Barley is usually processed in one of two ways, hulled or pearled. Hulled barley retains maximum nutrients because only the tough outer shell (or hull) is removed during processing. Pearled barley has the bran around the kernel removed as well, which takes away fiber and other beneficial compounds. 

Barley grass is good for cell nutrition and detoxification as well as its many ingredients that promote health in a variety of ways. In recent years, more than 30 functional ingredients have been identified for their potential to help our bodies combat at least 20 chronic diseases. Below are just a few of the reasons barley is so much more than feed for animals.

Some of the observed health and nutritional benefits of barley:

Excellent source of fiber

Barley offers more than 17 grams of fiber per 100g serving, about three times as much as oats. What is even more interesting is that the primary type of water-soluble fiber found in barley, called beta glucan, is believed to support a range of health benefits, including lowering cholesterol and regulating blood sugar. 

Helps digestion

In addition to soluble fiber, barley has even more insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water. This one-two punch of fiber enables barley to be twice as good to your gut. 

Insoluble fiber holds its structure better as it works its way through the stomach and intestines. This allows it to add density to solid waste while helping to scrub the colon along the way. One result of this can be better regularity and reduced constipation.

Soluble fiber like beta glucan, on the other hand, is more accessible as a food source for good bacteria in the gut. Acting in a probiotic manner, barley contributes to balanced blood sugar and decreased inflammation-related disorders like ulcerative colitis. One six-month study showed that a barley supplement helped improve symptoms of the inflammatory bowel disease in participants. 

Supports weight loss 

Barley is a good, low-calorie source of plant-based protein which, along with fiber, makes for a fulfilling meal that wards off feelings of hunger. Hulled, uncooked barley contains 12g of protein in every 100g, more than similar grains such as brown rice. This makes it an excellent choice for vegans and vegetarians who want to make sure they’re getting enough protein to build and repair their body’s cells.

Promotes heart health

Barley’s rich collection of vitamins and minerals supports a healthy cardiovascular system. Folate, iron, magnesium, vitamin B6, and other nutrients found in barley are essential in creating and oxygenating red blood cells. 

Thanks again to those beta glucans, studies have linked whole grains like barley to reduced LDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure, two major contributing factors to heart disease. 

Helps in the fight against cancer and diabetes

Beta glucan fiber found in barley has also shown to be involved in activating and regulating the immune system, making it a powerful ally in the fight against disease. 

Its ability to activate immune cell response can inhibit tumor growth and the spread of cancer throughout the body. The selenium in barley also helps to fight chronic inflammation and protect DNA from damage, which can lead to cancer.

Barley’s fiber content plays a key role in the function of blood, from activating pathogen-hunting lymphocytes to regulating blood sugar levels. Its high magnesium content also fuels insulin production and helps reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

Protects cells against damage and fuels regeneration

Barley contains a number of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds like vitamin E, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Hulled barley is also rich in phytochemicals, including polyphenols, flavonoids, lignans, and folate. Together, these nutrients defend against free radicals that threaten to harm healthy cells through oxidation.

Add to all that a significant amount of phosphorus, which aids in cell regeneration and bone formation, as well as playing a role in maintaining cell membranes and supporting the nervous system.

Barley offers so many benefits, but in its whole-grain form, it is not gluten-free. Fortunately, supplements like BarleyMax Grass Juice Powders are derived from barley grass before the gluten-containing head of grain develops. These powders are made of raw, live barley greens raised at cooler high altitudes in a long growing season that lets the young grass absorb the most minerals possible and develop abundant phytonutrients.

From juice powders and barley flour to cereals and salad toppings, eating barley is an excellent way to incorporate a low-calorie, low-sodium source of beneficial nutrients into your diet.

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