Regarding cereal choices, most individuals opt for wheat, oats, or muesli, overlooking the often-neglected barley known as the ‘King of Cereals.’ Despite its lack of attention, barley is a versatile grain rich in essential nutrients, making it highly beneficial for overall health and beauty. Whether integrated into curries, soups, stews, and salads or consumed as seeds or water, this member of the grass family can leave a lasting impression in numerous ways. This article explores the health, skin, and hair benefits of barley to assist you in making informed choices about its inclusion in your diet.
What is Barley?
Barley (Hordeum vulgare), or jaw, is one of the oldest-grown grains and the fourth most-produced grain globally. It has also been reported as one of America’s most widely consumed cereals (1). Though barley cultivation started in Egypt over 10,000 years ago (2), it is now grown worldwide in temperate climates. The grain has a wheat-like appearance, a pasta-like chewy texture, and a mild nutty flavor that belongs to the grass family. It is primarily used as human and animal food. It is even used for processing alcoholic beverages like wine, beer, whiskey, etc. Barley is commercially available as barley grass, hulled barley, pearl barley, green powder, and barley flour. While they all hold essential nutrients, only hulled barley is considered a whole grain. Being rich in dietary fibers and phytonutrients (3), it is highly effective in lowering the risk of several chronic diseases (4) (5).
In brown-colored hulled barley, only the external fibrous hull is removed and discarded as it is completely inedible. The bran or endosperm of the bran is kept intact, making it a nutritious food for optimum health. The more widely used pearl barley, which is pearly-white in color, lacks the fiber-containing bran itself. Both of them need to be cooked by simmering in water. Hulled barley takes longer than pearl barley to cook. They double in size upon cooking.
Nutritional Profile of Barley
Barley stands out as an exceptional nutritional source for our bodies, boasting abundant carbohydrates, proteins, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as well as both soluble and insoluble dietary fibers. Additionally, it is rich in a spectrum of vitamins (A, B1, B3, niacin, pantothenic acid, B6, B12, C, E, K, and choline) and minerals (sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium, selenium, iron, zinc, copper, and phosphorous). Like many plant-based foods, barley is loaded with antioxidants and phytochemicals. It features a low glycemic index, minimal fat content, and zero cholesterol, making it a highly wholesome addition to your diet.
Health Benefits of Barley
So, how do the nutrients in barley benefit your health? We have listed them below:
1. Promotes digestion
A cup of barley contains almost 13 gm. of dietary fiber (6), the maximum among all the grains. It acts as a probiotic to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the intestines. Regular grain intake helps digestion by increasing the frequency and volume of bowel movements (7). It also pushes the wastes out of the body through the intestines and colon, relieving constipation and preventing hemorrhoids.
2. Helps Lose Weight
Barley is an ideal weight-loss food. The soluble fibers in it reach the intestines to prevent the absorption of fats and cholesterol into the bloodstream (8). It also reduces the hormone levels called ghrelin in the body, which is responsible for feelings of hunger and fullness (9). Consuming barley water is one of the best ways to keep the risk of obesity away.
3. Improves Bone Health
Being rich in calcium, copper, phosphorous, and manganese, barley may be an excellent remedy for weak bones and teeth. The calcium content of barley juice is almost 11 times more than milk. It maintains the strength and overall health of bones and helps prevent conditions like osteoporosis. Plenty of soluble fibers in barley may also decrease arthritis symptoms, such as swelling and inflammation of the joints (10).
4. Lowers Cholesterol Levels
Barley bran comes loaded with soluble fibers and propionic acid, which may help lower total cholesterol and triglycerides. It significantly reduces the blood’s low-density lipoprotein or LDL (bad cholesterol) levels while increasing high-density lipoprotein or HDL (good cholesterol). (11)
5. Protects the Cardiovascular System
You can keep your cardiovascular system healthy by including barley in your daily diet. The antioxidant and hypolipidemic properties of the grain protect from conditions like atherosclerosis by preventing plaque buildup around the arterial wall. It also helps stabilize and maintain the blood pressure levels in the body. Thus, barley improves cardiovascular risk factors and averts heart attack, stroke, etc.
6. Fights Against Diabetes
Barley contains a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which slows down glucose absorption into the bloodstream. Hence, it can regulate blood sugar levels for many hours after consumption. In addition, it is rich in magnesium and calcium, which are also known to reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes (12). Therefore, you will not see any spike in your blood sugar levels while consuming barley regularly.
Barley may also help in preventing gallstones, curing anemia, treating urinary tract infections (UTI), facilitating pregnancy, and lowering the risks of certain cancer.
Skin Benefits of Barley
If you have barley daily, the healthy skin will also not be far from you. Here is how the little hero can beautify your skin:
1. Cleanses the Skin
Barley cleanses and exfoliates the skin gently yet thoroughly by eliminating dead cells, dirt, grime, and excess oil. Just make a fine powder of barley brans, mix it with some raw milk or plain water, and wash your face with the mixture.
2. Lightens Skin Tone
Prepare a paste by combining barley flour and lemon juice and apply it to your skin. Let it dry before washing it off. As it slams dead cells off the skin surface and reveals the layer of fresh cells underneath, the skin tone naturally becomes lighter and brighter. In addition, it controls the secretion of sebaceous glands, which contributes to its skin-lightening effect.
3. Hydrates The Skin
When used as a dietary supplement, barley increases the hydration levels in the skin. This makes the skin softer, improves its texture, and gives it a youthful look.
4. Steer Clear of Acne
The anti-inflammatory properties of barley are attributed to the azelaic acid present in it, which unclogs skin pores and combats issues like acne, pimples, breakouts, infections, etc. Drinking barley water and applying it topically regularly may help considerably.
5. Heals the Skin
Barley is rich in zinc, which is highly effective in treating wounds. It also aids skin healing and repair to a large extent. All you need to do is consume barley powder with water or apply it to the affected parts of the skin as a paste.
6. Makes Skin Elastic
As barley comprises lots of selenium, the internal organs work efficiently and boost immunity. This keeps the skin healthy and young, reflecting through a firmer, more toned, and more elastic skin.
Read Also – Top 10 Health Benefits of Papaya Seeds
Hair Benefits of Barley
Apart from skin, it barely benefits our hair too. Following are the reasons why you should use it for hair:
- Stimulates the growth of lustrous hair with a plethora of vitamins
- Combats hair loss by increasing the number of red blood cells
- Restores the natural color of the hair with increased melanin
Side Effects of Barley
While barley is an excellent addition to your daily diet, you should always be careful about having it. Whole grain is very high in gluten and should not be consumed by patients with celiac disease, wheat intolerance, or gluten sensitivity. It may also cause adverse effects like gas, bloating, abdominal cramps, etc., in people with IBS or irritable bowel syndrome. People with diabetes should also have barley with caution as it may cause a sudden and significant drop in blood sugar levels.
Barley is a nutrient-rich whole grain that offers immense benefit to us. It keeps us healthy by reducing cholesterol levels, controlling blood sugar, reducing cardiovascular risks, and improving bone health. It also enhances our external beauty by manning our skin and hair. However, there are certain adverse effects of barley and you should not consume it without consulting your doctor first.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How to Incorporate Barley in Your Diet?
Add barley to your soups, stews, salads, milkshakes, smoothies, baked items, risotto, multi-grain bread, porridge, and continental dishes. You can even prepare barley water by adding a dash of lemon or honey.
Is it Good to Drink Barley Water Daily?
Yes, you can drink a maximum of two cups of barley water daily.
Does Barley Reduce Uric Acid?
Barley helps lower uric acid levels in the body and is enriched with dietary fibers.
Should I Use Barley Paste for Hair?
As barley can irritate the hair follicles on the scalp, it should never be applied to that directly. Instead, include the grain in your diet to enjoy its hair benefits.
- “Putting the Whole Grain Puzzle Together: Health Benefits Associated with Whole Grains—Summary of American Society for Nutrition 2010 Satellite Symposium“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “On the Origin and Domestication History of Barley (Hordeum vulgare),” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Bioactive Phytochemicals in Barley,” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Consumption of Whole Grains and Cereal Fiber and Total and Cause-Specific Mortality: Prospective Analysis of 367,442 Individuals“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Consumption of Cereal Fiber, Mixtures of Whole Grains and Bran, and Whole Grains and Risk Reduction in Type 2 Diabetes, Obesity, and Cardiovascular Disease“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Secrets of Super Grains,” TheWholeU.uw.edu
- “Germinated Barley Foodstuff Increases Fecal Volume and Butyrate Production at Relatively Low Doses and Relieves Constipation in Humans,” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Can Lifestyle Modifications Using Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) Reduce Weight and the Risk for Chronic Disease?“, CDC.gov
- “beta-Glucan-Enriched Bread Reduces Energy Intake and Modifies Plasma Ghrelin and Peptide YY Concentrations in the Short Term,” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Understanding Arthritis: The Benefits of a Healthy Diet,” canr.msu.edu
- “Lipids Significantly Reduced by Diets Containing Barley in Moderately Hypercholesterolemic Men,” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Dietary Calcium and Magnesium, Major Food Sources, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in U.S. Black Women“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov