Barley was one of the first grains cultivated by humans. Whole barley contains all eight essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. Raw barley is also a good source of niacin and vitamin B6, as well as the minerals phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and zinc. One cup of barley provides 14.2 percent of the recommended daily value for niacin. Barley also provides some lutein, which may help preserve vision.
Barley is very rich in fiber—nearly 16 percent dietary fiber by weight. Fiber helps prevent constipation, and it helps the colon stay healthy by helping intestinal flora produce butyric acid. Dietary fiber also reduces blood cholesterol levels, and whole grain barley contains enough soluble fiber that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recognized it as a food that can reduce the risk of heart disease.
Taken together, barley’s fiber and its B vitamins, which help preserve the health of blood vessels, make barley an especially heart-healthy grain.
Barley provides magnesium, a mineral that acts as a co-factor for more than 300 enzymes, including enzymes involved in glucose metabolism and the production of insulin. Studies have shown that barley may be even more effective in stabilizing glucose and insulin responses than oats. It appears to regulate blood sugar for up to 10 hours.
Health Benefits of barley were observed as long as 2,400 years ago by Indian physicians who recommended substituting barley for white rice, along with losing weight and increasing activity, to treat the disease we now identify as type 2 diabetes.
Barley is even mentioned by Islam’s founding prophet, Muhammad, as effective against seven diseases—including grief.
Most of the Benefits of barley come from the whole grain form—called “hulled” barley, because only the inedible husk has been removed. Hulled barley retains the healthful bran and germ. Unfortunately, the more widely available “pearled” barley has been steamed and polished to remove the bran. To get the Benefits of barley, you’ll have to seek out the hulled, whole grain form.Nutritional Facts
(cooked barley) One cup of cooked, pearled barley provides 193 calories, 44.3 g carbohydrate, 3.5 g protein, 0.7 g fat, 6 g dietary fiber, 11 IU vitamin A, 3.2 mg niacin, 25 mcg folic acid, 146 mg potassium, 5 mg sodium, 85 mg phosphorus, 17 mg calcium, 2.09 mg iron, 35 mg magnesium, and 1.29 mg zinc.
(raw barley) One-quarter cup of raw, hulled barley provides 163 calories, 33.8 g carbohydrate, 5.7 g protein, 1.1 g fat, 8 g dietary fiber, 10 IU vitamin A, 2.1 mg niacin, 9 mcg folic acid, 208 mg potassium, 6 mg sodium, 121 mg phosphorus, 15 mg calcium, 1.66 mg iron, 61 mg magnesium, and 1.27 mg zinc.