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Surprising Health Benefits of Barley

Barley is perhaps one of the most commonly consumed grains in the world. This grain has a nutty flavor along with a chewy consistency and complements almost every dish. Barley is a powerhouse of nutrients and has many health benefits, including weight loss, cholesterol management, and also aids in digestion. Barley also has many surprising benefits for keeping your heart healthy. If you are facing difficulties with medical conditions such as arthritis, hypertension, skin problems, anemia, obesity, asthma, impotence, and other digestive problems, then it’s time you got to know about the many benefits of barley for the human body. Here are some of the surprising health benefits of barley.

Surprising Health Benefits of Barley

Surprising Health Benefits of Barley

Barley can be used for treating skin conditions, preventing disorders such as diabetes, gallstones, and osteoporosis. It also boosts your overall immunity. The many benefits associated with barley are due to the presence of either amino acids in barley. Due to this, this superfood completes your entire protein requirement in your diet. In fact, current studies have also shown that intake of whole grain barley also helps in regulating blood sugar or blood glucose levels to a big extent and is an excellent food source for diabetics.

Barley is also an excellent source of fiber, which is what many people often tend to neglect in their diet. Barley is rich in both soluble as well as insoluble fiber, which helps maintain good health.

Barley can be consumed in many types of presentations, including soups, salads, stew, and even with mutton, chicken, or other meat sources. Therefore, barley not only adds the needed nutrients to your diet, but it also helps add flavor to your palate.

Let’s take a look at some of the specific health benefits of barley and how this wonder food can help your health.

Barley Contains Many Essential Nutrients

Barley is a powerhouse of essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and plenty of beneficial plant compounds that your body needs to stay healthy. Barley in any form, from barley grits to hulled barley, to even barley flour or barley flakes, contains beneficial nutrients for your health. However, it is recommended that you avoid pearl barley, which is a polished version of the grain that ends up removing some or all of the outer layer of barley as well as the hull, stripping away several nutrients from the grain.

It is best to consume barley in the form of a whole grain as in this form it contains fiber, selenium, manganese, and molybdenum. Whole barley is also rich in copper, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, and vitamin B1. Apart from so many nutrients, barley also contains lignans, which is a type of antioxidant that helps reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and even cancer.

It is important, though, to keep in mind that similar to all whole grains, barley also has antinutrients, which prevents your body from absorbing all the nutrients and also hampers the digestion process. This is why to combat the antinutrient content of barley, you should try to soak or sprout barley before consumption. In this form, barley becomes more absorbable.

Sprouted barley or soaked barley also increases the levels of vitamins and minerals, as well as its antioxidant and protein levels.

Barley is Beneficial for the Intestines

Barley is a rich source of fiber, that too both types of fiber, as mentioned above. This helps this grain to keep the body free from toxins. Barley grass is also a rich source of dietary fiber and serves as fuel for aiding the growth of friendly bacteria in the large intestine. These friendly bacteria help the digestive system ferment the fiber contained in the barley. This forms butyric acid, which acts as a fuel source for the cells present in our intestines.

This is why barley is also effective in managing the health of your colon. When your intestines are in good health, it helps reduce the time taken by feces to move out, helping keep the stomach free from waste and toxins. Barley also significantly decreases the chances of getting hemorrhoids and colon cancer.

Benefits of Barley in Weight Loss and Appetite Control

Barley makes you feel full, reducing hunger pangs. This helps a person lose weight over a period of time. Because of the high content of fiber in barley, it helps reduce your hunger. Furthermore, barley contains a type of soluble fiber known as beta-glucan, which also helps in reducing hunger and reducing your appetite.

Soluble fiber such as beta-glucan works in the gut by forming a gel type of substance that slows down the process of digestion as well as the absorption process of nutrients. This, in return, controls your appetite and also promotes a feeling of fullness.

There have been many studies that have shown the benefit of soluble fibers in reducing appetite and thus, your food intake. Soluble fiber like beta-glucan also helps target belly fat that is commonly associated with many types of metabolic diseases.

Barley Helps Prevent Gallbladder Stones

Barley is known to be an effective solution for women who have developed gallstones. Due to the high content of insoluble fiber in barley, it helps lower the secretion of bile acid. This lowers the levels of triglyceride in the body and also increases insulin sensitivity. According to an article published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, women who consume a diet rich in fiber have a significantly lower risk of developing gallstones. They have a 17% lower risk of developing gallstones as compared to women who do not consume insoluble fiber.

Barley Helps Lower Cholesterol

Barley helps lower cholesterol levels in the body. Fiber, such as the beta-glucans present in barley, has been shown to effectively lower the levels of LDL, or bad, cholesterol. This is because beta-glucan binds to bile acids that are produced from the liver. This acid gets removed through the feces.

This means that the liver now needs to use more cholesterol in order to make new bile acids again, thus, decreasing the levels of cholesterol that circulates within the bloodstream.

In fact, a study found that men having high cholesterol levels, when put on a diet containing whole wheat and brown rice or barley, experienced a reduction in their cholesterol levels by nearly 7% or more within five weeks, as compared to men who were not following this diet. Furthermore, the men who were following a barley diet actually also experienced an increase in the levels of HD, or good, cholesterol. Triglyceride levels also went down.

Barley Prevents Osteoporosis

Regular consumption of barley is known to prevent the occurrence of osteoporosis. This is due to the high levels of phosphorus and copper in barley grass. This boosts the health of your bones. If you already have osteoporosis, then consuming barley grass can help you prevent your condition from deteriorating further. In fact, juice of barley grass has nearly 11 times more calcium than milk even. As is well known, calcium is one of the most important nutrients that our body needs for boosting bone health and for protecting your bones as well.

Furthermore, manganese, another content of barley, is also required for the normal production of bones in the body and also prevents anemia or iron deficiency. Manganese in barley works together with B-complex vitamins, helping maintain good health.

Barley Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Whole grains such as barley are known to promote a healthy heart. This is why consuming barley lowers your risk of getting heart disease.

Barley helps promote heart health because it lowers bad cholesterol and also lowers your blood pressure. A study conducted at the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Centre at the University of Toronto, in Canada, found that consuming 8.7 grams of fiber, particularly soluble fiber, every day reduces blood pressure by 0.5 to 1.5 mmHg.

Since high levels of LDL cholesterol and blood pressure are known to be the biggest risk factors that cause heart disease, barley thus helps protect your heart and also boost your heart health.


As can be seen, a small grain like barley has big surprising health benefits. Not only is it rich in vitamins and minerals, but it is also high in fiber content, which provides most of the health benefits associated with barley. From helping with weight loss to improving your digestion, barley provides many health benefits, and you should make an effort to include barley as one of the key ingredients in your diet to reap its many benefits.


  1. McIntosh, G.H. and Oakenfull, D., 1990. Possible health benefits from barley grain. Chemistry in Australia (Australia).
  2. Baik, B.K. and Ullrich, S.E., 2008. Barley for food: characteristics, improvement, and renewed interest. Journal of cereal science, 48(2), pp.233-242.
  3. Newman, R.K. and Newman, C.W., 2008. Barley for food and health: Science, technology, and products. John Wiley & Sons.
  4. Walters, D.R., Paterson, L., Walsh, D.J. and Havis, N.D., 2008. Priming for plant defense in barley provides benefits only under high disease pressure. Physiological and Molecular Plant Pathology, 73(4-5), pp.95-100.
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 28, 2020

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