Barley is a cereal grain that is used extensively in soups and stews. It is derived from the grass called Hordeum vulgare. It grows as a widely adaptable crop and is popular in tropical as well as temperate areas. Barley plant is resistant to drought and more tolerant to soil salinity. It is one of the first crops that were grown in the Near East, almost at the same time as einkorn and emmer wheat. Neolithic humans had a common liking for the barley drinks. Barley makes a nutritious food for humans, with several health benefits to its credit. In many parts of the world, it is also used as the food for animals. It has a rich nutty flavor and pasta-like consistency. Today, Canada, United States, Germany, France, Spain and the Russian Federation are the leading commercial producers of barley. We bring you the list of health benefits associated with barley, in the lines below.
Health Benefits Of Eating Barley
- Barley is rich in dietary fiber, which gives food to the friendly bacteria present in the large intestine. These bacteria ferment the insoluble fiber content of the barley to form butyric acid. The acid, in turn, functions as the main fuel for intestinal cells. Besides this, it is functional in maintaining a healthy colon.
- The dietary fiber in barley aids the production of acetic acids and propionic acid as well, which sever as the fuel for liver and muscle cells. Propionic acid also restricts the action of HMG-CoA reductase, which is involved in cholesterol production in the liver. In this way, barley helps in reducing the cholesterol level in blood.
- The dietary fiber in barley binds to bile acids and helps dispose them through the feces. The cholesterol level in the body is, thus, reduced to a considerable extent.
- The friendly bacteria that are fed by barley’s insoluble fiber also help in removing the pathogenic bacteria from the body.
- Barley is rich in niacin, which is highly effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. It prevents the oxidation of LDL, by the free radicals. Niacin also lowers the assembling of platelets, which can lead to the clotting of blood.
- The cereal is effective against diseases like atherosclerosis, diabetes, insulin resistance and ischemic stroke.
- Barley’s rich content of insoluble fiber helps women fight against the formation of gallstones.
- It is rich in phosphorous, which has an integral part in the formation of body cells’ structure. Phosphorous is highly required for the formation of mineral matrix of the bones. Besides, it is an important component of compounds like ATP, nucleic acids and lipid-containing structures, like nervous system and cell membranes.
- Barley helps in maintaining a healthy intestine. It helps in decreasing the transit time of fecal stuffs and also increases the bulk. As a result, the risk of colon cancer and hemorrhoids get reduced to a considerable extent.
- The cereal contains copper, which reduces the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Copper is also required for the activity of lysyl oxidase, an enzyme required for the cross-linking of collagen and elastin. These substances provide the basic substance and flexibility to bones, joints and blood vessels.
- The cereal contains plant ligans, which get converted into mammalian ligans by the friendly flora present in the intestines. They are said to provide protection against breast cancer and other hormone-dependent cancers, apart from being known for their effectiveness in case of heart diseases as well.
- Barley can prove to be extremely helpful in curing childhood asthma. It substantially lowers the risk of diabetes also.
- Barley belongs to the grain group called ‘Gluten grains’, which lead to some allergic reactions in people.
- People who have allergic disposition to wheat products can have gastrointestinal upset with barley products also.
- Barley dust may cause eye, sinus or nasal irritation in some people.
- If contaminated with fungus, barley can cause Kashin-Beck disease (KBD), which is associated with bones.
- Before cooking barley, you should rinse it properly under cold running water. Thereafter, remove stone and any debris, if any.
- After rinsing barley, mix one part with three and a half parts boiling water or broth. When you find that the liquid has started boiling, turn down the heat. Cover the container and allow it to simmer. You should simmer pearled barley for around one hour and the hulled barley for about 90 minutes, to cook it.
- You can mix barley flour with wheat flour and make breads and muffins out of them. You can add barley to any stew or soup and give it an extra flavor. Cracked barley or barley flakes can be used to make hot cereal.