Barley

What is barley

Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) a member of the grass family, is a major cereal grain grown in temperate climates globally. In fact, barley is the world’s fourth most important cereal crop after wheat, rice, and corn. Barley was one of the first cultivated grains, particularly in Eurasia as early as 10,000 years ago. Barley has been used as animal fodder, as a source of fermentable material for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods. It is used in soups and stews, and in barley bread of various cultures. Barley grains are commonly made into malt in a traditional and ancient method of preparation.

Barley is primarily (70 percent) used as feed for animals 1). Barley with maize, oat and wheat is one of the most common feed grain of the world. If used as feed, its grain should be ground or cracked to improve efficiency in a given ration. It is overwhelmingly considered as carbohydrates and protein sources in livestock feed. Protein content, which is strongly affected by environmental conditions where barley is grown, changes from 10 % to 15%. The second largest use of barley grain is for malt. Globally, 30 % of the world barley production is used for malting purpose. In addition to barley, wheat and rye are also malted but barley grain has been preferred to other grains. The reasons why barley is commonly used for malt are its husk protecting the coleoptiles during germination process and filtering, firm texture of barley grains and tradition. 90 % of malted barley is utilized for malting beer and the remainder for food substitutes.

Malt is germinated cereal grains that have been dried in a process known as “malting”. The grains are made to germinate by soaking in water, and are then halted from germinating further by drying with hot air. Malting grains develops the enzymes required for modifying the grain’s starches into various types of sugar, including the monosaccharide glucose, the disaccharide maltose, the trisaccharide maltotriose, and higher sugars called maltodextrines. It also develops other enzymes, such as proteases, which break down the proteins in the grain into forms that can be used by yeast. The malt is mainly used for brewing or whisky making, but can also be used to make malt vinegar or malt extract. Barley malt can be substituted into a lot of food stuffs such as biscuits, bread, cakes, desserts, etc.

Traditionally, barley is very important food crop plant in the semi-arid regions of Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia), Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Syria), highlands of Nepal, Ethiopia and Tibet, Andean countries of South America (Peru and Chile) and in some Asian counties (China, North Korea and Himalaya). Morocco is leading country in terms of food consumption in the world with 88.3 kg per capita 2).

Barley is highest in fiber of all the whole grains, with common varieties clocking in at about 17% fiber, and some, such as the variety called Prowashonupana barley, having up to 30% fiber. For comparison, brown rice contains 3.5% fiber, corn about 7%, oats 10% and wheat about 12%. While the fiber in most grains is concentrated largely in the outer bran layer, barley’s fiber is found throughout the whole grain, which may account for its extraordinarily high levels.

But the goodness of whole grains comes from more than fiber. Whole grain barley is high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals essential to health, too. However, much of the barley eaten in the U.S. is pearled or pearl barley, which is missing some or all of its bran layer.

As it grows in the field, most barley has an inedible hull adhering tightly to the grain kernel. The easiest, quickest way to remove this inedible hull is to scrape (pearl) it off without worrying too much about how much bran comes off at the same time. To make sure you’re enjoying true whole grain barley, look for hulled barley (barley where the inedible hull was removed carefully, keeping any bran loss to insignificant levels) or hulless barley (a different variety that grows without a tightly-attached hull).

Figure 1. Barley grain

BarleyTypes of Barley

Barley, growing in a field

This is what barley looks like as it grows in the field. Most barley is what’s called “covered barley,” which means it has a tough, inedible outer hull around the barley kernel. This covering must be removed before the barley can be eaten. A less common variety, referred to as “naked” barley, has a covering, or hull, that is so loose that it usually falls off during harvesting.

Figure 2. Barley growing in a field

barley growing in the field

Hulled Barley (sometimes called Dehulled Barley)

Hulled barley is covered barley that has been minimally processed to remove only the tough inedible outer hull. It’s challenging to remove the hull carefully so that some of the bran is not lost – but that’s what must be done for covered barley to be considered whole grain.

Hulled barley (or covered barley) is eaten after removing the inedible, fibrous, outer hull. Once removed, it is called dehulled barley (or pot barley or scotch barley). Considered a whole grain, dehulled barley still has its bran and germ, making it a nutritious and popular health food.

Hulless Barley

This type of barley has an outer hull that’s so loosely attached to the kernel that it generally falls off during harvesting. This cuts down on processing and ensures that all of the bran and germ are retained.

Barley Grits

When barley kernels are cut into several pieces, they become grits. Read the label carefully: grits from hulled or hulless barley are whole grain, but grits created by cutting up pearl barley are not considered whole grain.

Pearl Barley (not a whole grain)

Pearl barley has been polished, or “pearled” to remove some or all of the outer bran layer along with the hull. If it’s lightly pearled, pearl barley will be tan colored; if it’s heavily pearled, barley will be quite white. Most of the barley found in the typical supermarket is pearl barley. Although it is technically a refined grain, it’s much healthier than other refined grains because (a) some of the bran may still be present and (b) the fiber in barley is distributed throughout the kernel, and not just in the outer bran layer. Pearl barley cooks more quickly than whole grain barley. Dehulled or pearl barley may be processed into a variety of barley products, including flour, flakes similar to oatmeal, and grits.

Figure 3. Pearl barley

Pearl Barley

Barley Flakes

If barley flakes remind you of oatmeal (rolled oats), it’s because they’re created the same way, by steaming kernels, rolling them, and drying them. As with barley grits, flakes can be made from whole grain barley or from pearl barley, with only the former considered to be whole grains. Barley flakes cook faster, because they’ve been lightly steamed and because of their greater surface area.

Quick Pearl Barley (not a whole grain)

Quick barley is a type of barley flake that cooks in about 10 minutes, because it has been partially cooked and dried during the flake-rolling process. Although barley flakes can be whole grain and technically it would feasible to create quick whole grain barley (similar to quick oats, which are whole grain), the quick barley commercially available today is made from pearl barley and so is not whole grain.

Figure 4. Quick barley

Quick barley

Barley Flour

Barley flour is used in baked goods and as a thickener for soups, stews and gravies. While it contains gluten, the protein that helps baked goods rise, the type of gluten in barley flour does not promote adequate rising on its own, so barley flour is usually used with wheat flour. Look for whole grain barley flour, ground from hulled or hulless barley, not from pearl barley.

Barley meal, a wholemeal barley flour lighter than wheat meal but darker in color, is used in porridge and gruel in Scotland. Barley meal gruel is known as sawiq in the Arab world. With a long history of cultivation in the Middle East, barley is used in a wide range of traditional Arabic, Assyrian, Israelite, Kurdish, and Persian foodstuffs including kashkak, kashk and murri. Barley soup is traditionally eaten during Ramadan in Saudi Arabia. Cholent or hamin (in Hebrew) is a traditional Jewish stew often eaten on Sabbath. In Eastern and Central Europe, barley is also used in soups and stews such as ričet. In Africa, where it is a traditional food plant, it has the potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare.

Barley nutrition facts

In a 100 gram serving, raw barley provides 354 calories and is a rich source (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of essential nutrients, including protein, dietary fiber, the B vitamins, niacin (31% DV) and vitamin B6 (20% DV), and several dietary minerals (see Table 1). Highest nutrient contents are for manganese (63% DV) and phosphorus (32% DV). Raw barley is 78% carbohydrates, 1% fat, 10% protein and 10% water.

Table 1. Barley hulled nutrition facts

NutrientUnitValue per 100 g
Approximates
Waterg9.44
Energykcal354
EnergykJ1481
Proteing12.48
Total lipid (fat)g2.3
Ashg2.29
Carbohydrate, by differenceg73.48
Fiber, total dietaryg17.3
Sugars, totalg0.8
Minerals
Calcium, Camg33
Iron, Femg3.6
Magnesium, Mgmg133
Phosphorus, Pmg264
Potassium, Kmg452
Sodium, Namg12
Zinc, Znmg2.77
Copper, Cumg0.498
Manganese, Mnmg1.943
Selenium, Seµg37.7
Vitamins
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acidmg0
Thiaminmg0.646
Riboflavinmg0.285
Niacinmg4.604
Pantothenic acidmg0.282
Vitamin B-6mg0.318
Folate, totalµg19
Folic acidµg0
Folate, foodµg19
Folate, DFEµg19
Vitamin B-12µg0
Vitamin B-12, addedµg0
Vitamin A, RAEµg1
Retinolµg0
Carotene, betaµg13
Carotene, alphaµg0
Cryptoxanthin, betaµg0
Vitamin A, IUIU22
Lycopeneµg0
Lutein + zeaxanthinµg160
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)mg0.57
Vitamin E, addedmg0
Vitamin D (D2 + D3)µg0
Vitamin DIU0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)µg2.2
Lipids
Fatty acids, total saturatedg0.482
04:00:00g0
06:00:00g0
08:00:00g0
10:00:00g0
12:00:00g0.006
14:00:00g0.011
16:00:00g0.411
18:00:00g0.017
Fatty acids, total monounsaturatedg0.295
16:1 undifferentiatedg0.006
18:1 undifferentiatedg0.241
20:01:00g0
22:1 undifferentiatedg0
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturatedg1.108
18:2 undifferentiatedg0.999
18:3 undifferentiatedg0.11
18:04:00g0
20:4 undifferentiatedg0
20:5 n-3 (EPA)g0
22:5 n-3 (DPA)g0
22:6 n-3 (DHA)g0
Cholesterolmg0
Amino Acids
Tryptophang0.208
Threonineg0.424
Isoleucineg0.456
Leucineg0.848
Lysineg0.465
Methionineg0.24
Cystineg0.276
Phenylalanineg0.7
Tyrosineg0.358
Valineg0.612
Arginineg0.625
Histidineg0.281
Alanineg0.486
Aspartic acidg0.779
Glutamic acidg3.261
Glycineg0.452
Prolineg1.484
Serineg0.527
Other
Alcohol, ethylg0
Caffeinemg0
Theobrominemg0
Flavan-3-ols
(+)-Catechinmg2.4
Proanthocyanidin
Proanthocyanidin dimersmg33.6
Proanthocyanidin trimersmg30.6
Proanthocyanidin 4-6mersmg27.2
Proanthocyanidin 7-10mersmg0
Proanthocyanidin polymers (>10mers)mg0
[Source 3)]

Table 2. Barley, pearled, raw nutrition facts

NutrientUnitValue per 100 g
Approximates
Waterg10.09
Energykcal352
EnergykJ1473
Proteing9.91
Total lipid (fat)g1.16
Ashg1.11
Carbohydrate, by differenceg77.72
Fiber, total dietaryg15.6
Sugars, totalg0.8
Minerals
Calcium, Camg29
Iron, Femg2.5
Magnesium, Mgmg79
Phosphorus, Pmg221
Potassium, Kmg280
Sodium, Namg9
Zinc, Znmg2.13
Copper, Cumg0.42
Manganese, Mnmg1.322
Selenium, Seµg37.7
Vitamins
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acidmg0
Thiaminmg0.191
Riboflavinmg0.114
Niacinmg4.604
Pantothenic acidmg0.282
Vitamin B-6mg0.26
Folate, totalµg23
Folic acidµg0
Folate, foodµg23
Folate, DFEµg23
Choline, totalmg37.8
Vitamin B-12µg0
Vitamin B-12, addedµg0
Vitamin A, RAEµg1
Retinolµg0
Carotene, betaµg13
Carotene, alphaµg0
Cryptoxanthin, betaµg0
Vitamin A, IUIU22
Lycopeneµg0
Lutein + zeaxanthinµg160
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)mg0.02
Vitamin E, addedmg0
Vitamin D (D2 + D3)µg0
Vitamin DIU0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)µg2.2
Lipids
Fatty acids, total saturatedg0.244
04:00:00g0
06:00:00g0
08:00:00g0
10:00:00g0
12:00:00g0.003
14:00:00g0.006
16:00:00g0.208
18:00:00g0.008
Fatty acids, total monounsaturatedg0.149
16:1 undifferentiatedg0.003
18:1 undifferentiatedg0.122
20:01:00g0
22:1 undifferentiatedg0
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturatedg0.56
18:2 undifferentiatedg0.505
18:3 undifferentiatedg0.055
18:04:00g0
20:4 undifferentiatedg0
20:5 n-3 (EPA)g0
22:5 n-3 (DPA)g0
22:6 n-3 (DHA)g0
Cholesterolmg0
Amino Acids
Tryptophang0.165
Threonineg0.337
Isoleucineg0.362
Leucineg0.673
Lysineg0.369
Methionineg0.19
Cystineg0.219
Phenylalanineg0.556
Tyrosineg0.284
Valineg0.486
Arginineg0.496
Histidineg0.223
Alanineg0.386
Aspartic acidg0.619
Glutamic acidg2.588
Glycineg0.359
Prolineg1.178
Serineg0.418
Other
Alcohol, ethylg0
Caffeinemg0
Theobrominemg0
Isoflavones
Daidzeinmg0
Genisteinmg0.01
Total isoflavonesmg0.01
[Source 4)]

Table 3. Barley flour or meal nutrition facts

NutrientUnitValue per 100 g
Approximates
Waterg12.11
Energykcal345
EnergykJ1443
Proteing10.5
Total lipid (fat)g1.6
Ashg1.28
Carbohydrate, by differenceg74.52
Fiber, total dietaryg10.1
Sugars, totalg0.8
Minerals
Calcium, Camg32
Iron, Femg2.68
Magnesium, Mgmg96
Phosphorus, Pmg296
Potassium, Kmg309
Sodium, Namg4
Zinc, Znmg2
Copper, Cumg0.343
Manganese, Mnmg1.034
Selenium, Seµg37.7
Vitamins
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acidmg0
Thiaminmg0.37
Riboflavinmg0.114
Niacinmg6.269
Pantothenic acidmg0.145
Vitamin B-6mg0.396
Folate, totalµg8
Folic acidµg0
Folate, foodµg8
Folate, DFEµg8
Choline, totalmg37.8
Betainemg65.5
Vitamin B-12µg0
Vitamin B-12, addedµg0
Vitamin A, RAEµg0
Retinolµg0
Carotene, betaµg0
Carotene, alphaµg0
Cryptoxanthin, betaµg0
Vitamin A, IUIU0
Lycopeneµg0
Lutein + zeaxanthinµg160
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)mg0.57
Vitamin E, addedmg0
Vitamin D (D2 + D3)µg0
Vitamin DIU0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)µg2.2
Lipids
Fatty acids, total saturatedg0.335
04:00:00g0
06:00:00g0
08:00:00g0
10:00:00g0
12:00:00g0.004
14:00:00g0.008
16:00:00g0.286
18:00:00g0.012
Fatty acids, total monounsaturatedg0.205
16:1 undifferentiatedg0.004
18:1 undifferentiatedg0.168
20:01:00g0
22:1 undifferentiatedg0
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturatedg0.771
18:2 undifferentiatedg0.695
18:3 undifferentiatedg0.077
18:04:00g0
20:4 undifferentiatedg0
20:5 n-3 (EPA)g0
22:5 n-3 (DPA)g0
22:6 n-3 (DHA)g0
Cholesterolmg0
Amino Acids
Tryptophang0.175
Threonineg0.356
Isoleucineg0.383
Leucineg0.713
Lysineg0.391
Methionineg0.202
Cystineg0.232
Phenylalanineg0.589
Tyrosineg0.301
Valineg0.515
Arginineg0.526
Histidineg0.236
Alanineg0.409
Aspartic acidg0.655
Glutamic acidg2.741
Glycineg0.38
Prolineg1.247
Serineg0.443
Other
Alcohol, ethylg0
Caffeinemg0
Theobrominemg0
Proanthocyanidin
Proanthocyanidin dimersmg15.8
Proanthocyanidin trimersmg22
Proanthocyanidin 4-6mersmg5.3
Proanthocyanidin 7-10mersmg0
Proanthocyanidin polymers (>10mers)mg0
[Source 5)]

Barley soup recipes

Vegetable and Barley Soup

Ingredients

Serves: 8

  • 2 liters vegetable stock
  • 1 cup (185g) uncooked barley
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 tin (400g) diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 tin (400g) chickpeas, drained
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Preparation:15min › Cook:1hour30min › Ready in:1hour45min

Directions

  1. Pour the vegetable stock into a large pot. Add the barley, carrots, celery, tomatoes, zucchini, chick peas, onion and bay leaves. Season with garlic powder, sugar, salt, pepper, parsley, curry powder, paprika and Worcestershire sauce.
  2. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 90 minutes. The soup will be very thick. You may adjust by adding more stock or less barley if desired. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Vegetable and Barley Soup #2

Ingredients

Serves: 4

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium brown onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, halved lengthways, chopped
  • 4 middle bacon rashers, trimmed, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, leaves reserved, stalks chopped
  • 400g can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 large zucchini, halved lengthways, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Massel chicken style stock powder
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed

Directions:

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, bacon and celery stalk. Cook for 10 minutes or until onion has softened. Add tomato, zucchini, stock powder and 6 cups cold water. Bring to the boil. Add barley. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, partially covered, for 40 minutes or until barley is tender. Chop reserved celery leaves. Stir into soup. Serve.

Barley health benefits

In scientific studies, barley has been shown to reduce the risk of many diseases and to provide important health benefits. Barley offers many of the same healthy vitamins and minerals as other whole grains, but many think its special health benefits stem from the high levels of soluble beta-glucan fiber found in this grain. According to Health Canada 6) and the US Food and Drug Administration 7), consuming at least 3 grams per day of barley beta-glucan or 0.75 grams per serving of soluble fiber can lower levels of blood cholesterol, a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.

A recent review in the journal Minerva Med 8), beta-glucans reduce cholesterol, help control blood sugar, and improve immune system function. New research even indicates that beta-glucans may be radioprotective: they may help your bodies stand up better to chemotherapy, radiation therapy and nuclear emergencies.

Barley Controls Blood Sugar Better

Dutch researchers 9) used a crossover study with 10 healthy men to compare the effects of cooked barley kernels and refined wheat bread on blood sugar control. The men ate one or the other of these grains at dinner, then were given a high glycemic index breakfast (50g of glucose) the next morning for breakfast. When they had eaten the barley dinner, the men had 30% better insulin sensitivity the next morning after breakfast.

Barley Lowers Glucose Levels

White rice, the staple food in Japan, is a high glycemic index food. Researchers at the University of Tokushima found that glucose levels were lower after meals when subjects switched from rice to barley 10).

Barley Beta-Glucan Lowers Glycemic Index

Scientists at the Functional Food Centre at Oxfod Brookes University in England 11) fed 8 healthy human subjects chapatis (unleavened Indian flatbreads) made with either 0g, 2g, 4g, 6g or 8g of barley beta-glucan fiber. They found that all amounts of barley beta-glucan lowered the glycemic index of the breads, with 4g or more making a significant difference.

Insulin Response better with Barley Beta-Glucan

In a crossover study 12) involving 17 obese women at increased risk for insulin resistance, USDA scientists studied the effects of 5 different breakfast cereal test meals on subjects’ insulin response. They found that consumption of 10g of barley beta-glucan significantly reduced insulin response.

Barley Beats Oats in Glucose Response Study

USDA researchers fed barley flakes, barley flour, rolled oats, oat flour, and glucose to 10 overweight middle-aged women, then studied their bodies’ responses 13). They found that peak glucose and insulin levels after barley were significantly lower than those after glucose or oats. Particle size did not appear to be a factor, as both flour and flakes had similar effects.

Barley Reduces Blood Pressure

For five weeks, adults with mildly high cholesterol were fed diets supplemented with one of three whole grain choices: whole wheat/brown rice, barley, or whole wheat/brown rice/barley 14). All three whole grain combinations reduced blood pressure, leading USDA researchers to conclude that “in a healthful diet, increasing whole grain foods, whether high in soluble or insoluble fiber, can reduce blood pressure and may help to control weight” 15).

Barley Lowers Serum Lipids

University of Connecticut researchers 16) reviewed 8 studies evaluating the lipid-reducing effects of barley. They found that eating barley significantly lowered total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and triglycerides, but did not appear to significantly alter HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

Cholesterol and Visceral Fat Decrease with Barley

A randomized double-blind study 17) in Japan followed 44 men with high cholesterol for twelve weeks, as the men ate either a standard white-rice diet or one with a mixture of rice and high-beta-glucan pearl barley. Barley intake significantly reduced serum cholesterol and visceral fat, both accepted markers of cardiovascular risk.

Barley significantly Improves Lipids

25 adults with mildly high cholesterol were fed whole grain foods containing 0g, 3g or 6g of barley beta-glucan per day for five weeks, with blood samples taken twice weekly 18). Total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol significantly decreased with the addition of barley to the diet.

Barley Pasta Lowers Cholesterol

University of California researchers 19) fed two test meals to 11 healthy men, both containing beta-glucan. One meal was a high-fiber (15.7g) barley pasta and the other was lower-fiber (5.0g) wheat pasta. The barley pasta blunted insulin response, and four hours after the meal, barley-eaters had significantly lower cholesterol concentration than wheat-eaters.

Barley’s Slow Digestion may help Weight Control

Barley varieties such as Prowashonupana that are especially high in beta-glucan fiber may digest more slowly than standard barley varieties. Researchers at USDA and the Texas Children’s Hospital 20) compared the two and concluded that Prowashonupana may indeed be especially appropriate for obese and diabetic patients.

Greater Satiety, Fewer Calories Eaten with Barley

In a pilot study not yet published, six healthy subjects ate a 420-calorie breakfast bar after an overnight fast, then at lunch were offered an all-you-can-eat buffet. When subjects ate a Prowashonupana barley bar at breakfast they subsequently ate 100 calories less at lunch than when they ate a traditional granola bar for breakfast.

References   [ + ]