The ancient grain, barley is a resourceful cereal with rich flavor. It was one of the first grains cultivated and continues to be used extensively. Being a whole grain food, it enriches the body with the nutrition as the refined grains are devoid of most of the nutrients and fiber. Barley has potent nutrients like manganese, selenium, copper, phosphorous, etc. (1). Fermented barley is largely used in the production of alcoholic beverages. There are many beauty and health benefits of barley that are all mentioned below.
Health Benefits of Barley
1. Blood Pressure
High levels of sodium in bloodstream decrease the efficiency of the kidney to eliminate excess fluid. This fluid puts a strain on blood vessels, increasing the blood pressure. According to a report published by American Dietetic Association, whole grain food helps lower the blood pressure levels (2). Along with this, the presence of calcium, magnesium, and potassium found in barley are effective in reducing the blood pressure.
2. Bone Health
Bone health is mainly maintained through proper concentration of calcium and phosphorous in the body (3). The presence of magnesium, manganese, zinc, phosphorous and calcium in barley makes it an apt food for strengthening the bones. Manganese plays a vital role in the bone formation whereas zinc promotes production and maturation of collagen.
3. Heart Health
One of the main benefits of barley is it being a great source of fibers that reduces the cholesterol levels in the blood, protecting the body from any kind of heart disease. According to a study, intake of barley leads to reduction in visceral fat and serum cholesterol, both of which are detrimental to cardiovascular health (4). Barley consists of beta-glucan fiber that lowers LDL cholesterol by binding them to bile acids and flushing them out through excretion. According to another study, intake of potassium lowers the risk of heart disease. The presence of folate and vitamin B6 inhibits the production of homocysteine, but larger quantity can damage the blood vessels.
- Atherosclerosis : It is a disease that is developed due to thickening of artery walls because of accumulation of fats and cholesterol. Niacin in barley lowers the bad cholesterol level and minimizes the cardiovascular disorder.
4. Cures Cancer
Barley consists of selenium that helps detoxify some cancer causing compounds. In addition to that, selenium inhibits the growth of the tumor and strengthens the immune system of the body (5) by encouraging the production of killer T cells. The high amount of fiber present in barley lowers the possibility of colorectal cancer. Beta-glucan fiber promotes the immunity of body by counteracting cancer cells and inhibits the development of tumors. Lignans lower the risk of cancer and has an anti-inflammatory effect and also reduce the chances of breast cancer (6).
Barley reduces inflammation in the body due to the presence of choline (7), a compound found in the whole grain that helps transfer nerve impulse, alleviates chronic inflammation, and sustains the composition of the cellular membrane. Choline also assists in sleeping, boosting memory, and muscle movement.
Fiber rich foods are great at easing constipation, and barley being one among them helps regulate bowel movements. The fiber increases the roughage content and adds bulk to the stool. A study carried out in 2003 showed that women who consumed more of barley were found to have positive effects on bowel movements and lipid metabolism (8). The dietary fiber in barley maintains the gut friendly bacteria within the large intestine that processes insoluble fibers into short chain essential fatty acids. These fatty acids work as a fuel for the large intestines giving them energy to carry out functions properly.
7. Weight Management
Barley is rich in both insoluble and soluble fiber. Consumption of insoluble fiber makes you feel full and satiates the hunger (9). It reduces appetite and lowers the calorie intake. This aids in weight loss.
8. Controls Blood Sugar Levels
The whole grain food can help people suffering from diabetes as beta-glucan lowers the glycemic index in the body (10). Intake of beta-glucan fiber develops a resistance to insulin (11). Barley is packed with 8 essential amino acids along with soluble fiber that controls insulin release in return to barley’s sugar in the form of carbohydrates. Beta-glucan is a viscous fiber that is not absorbed by our body and it moves within the digestive tract binding to other molecules present in the digestive tract, decreases the soaking of glucose by the body. A study has shown that barley is much better in lowering the blood sugar levels as compared to the oats (12).
Barley consists of lignans that are strong antioxidant phytonutrients. The antioxidants slow down the oxidative damage done to the body by free radicals (13). The most important lignan found in barley is 7-hydroxymatairesinol. Selenium along with vitamin E counteracts oxidative stress.
10. High in Vitamins and Minerals
Barley is a rich source of magnesium, copper, selenium, thiamine, and many other important nutrients. The presence of copper prevents coordination impairment in old age. Manganese in barley is good for brain health and supports the nervous system. Magnesium relaxes the blood vessels, helps muscles and nerves function smoothly (14).
11. Cures Arthritis and Osteoporosis
Barley is enriched with copper that alleviates from the uncomfortable situation of rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis is mainly caused by deposition of iron in the joints due to copper deficiency (15). Copper promotes the production of collagen and elastin that provides flexibility to bones and joints.
12. Inhibits Formation of Gallstones
Gallstones are the hard deposits found in the gallbladder that can eventually block the duct. Research has shown that the soluble fibre gets attached to the bile acids and eliminates them (16). Bile is responsible for causing gallstone as the components in bile crystallize and harden (17).
13. Healthy Teeth
A beautiful smile adds confidence to the personality. Barley is enriched with calcium and phosphorous that is responsible for healthy teeth. Calcium strengthens the teeth (18), and phosphorus preserves the periodontal health being the basic their building blocks.
14. Improves Immunity
The immune system consists of potent antibodies that protect the body from foreign objects. When the immune system is working properly, cases of falling prey to a disease are extremely rare. Barley is equipped with beta-glucan (19), a powerful antioxidant and delivers nutrients and vitamins into the body.
Beauty Benefits of Barley
15. Improves Skin Elasticity
Barley is packed with a good amount of selenium. Selenium repairs tissue and retains the skin elasticity making it youthful and attractive (20). Barley can be used as a cleanser by mixing a tsp of barley powder with some milk. Exfoliate the face with the paste regularly to get a radiant and soft skin.
16. Barley For lustrous Hair
Barley contains vitamin B complex and iron that promote the hair health, reducing the hair fall, and inducing hair growth. The elements that are responsible for hair growth are niacin and procyanidin (21). Both of them are found in barley.
Note: It should be consumed for enhancing the quality of hair. Application of barley on the scalp may cause irritation in hair follicles.
17. Cures Acne
Regular consumption of barley water and its application on the acne prone skin helps get relief from acne. The presence of azelaic acid in barley treats clogged pores and cures acne. Azelaic acid is antimicrobial and treats acne (22) by inhibiting the growth of bacteria that leads to the skin disease.
18. Restores Hair Color
Copper is an important mineral for our body. It has been found that the cattle that had a deficiency of copper got their hair color changed, from black to red or gray (23). Inadequate amount of copper leads to reduced pigmentation of hair. Taking barley supplies the body with copper, maintaining dark and black hair.
19. Cures Anemia
Anemia is a condition in which your body falls short of red blood cells. Ample amount of copper present in barley increases the haemoglobin formation (24) that promotes the production of red blood cells, overcoming anaemia.
Note: Barley is not gluten free. Hence, it should be avoided by those suffering from celiac disease.
20. Beat the Heat
Barley water is a great drink to be consumed in summers. It alleviates the internal body heat and cools the body (25). The soothing properties of the beverage refresh and energize the body offering a delicious taste.
At the time of pregnancy, there are loads of hormonal changes taking place that may cause a lot of health problems to the would-be mothers. Barley prevents fungal infections (26) and maintains proper levels of blood sugar level. Moreover, barley is beneficial for breastfeeding mothers as the lactogenic properties increase the breast milk. Barley is enriched with folic acid that helps avoid all sorts of neutral tube problems like, spinal bifida and cleft lip. Being diuretic, it flushes out toxins from the body, further reducing chances of any infection.
22. Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infection is caused by some bacteria that enter the urinary tract and spread infection (27). Barley water brings a relief from the urinary tract infections. Barley water can be made by boiling 2 tsp of barley seeds in water. Let the concoction cook for 20 minutes. Let it cool down and enjoy the drink. The cooling properties of barley flush out the infection. Regular consumption of the drink eliminates the harmful bacteria from the body and clears out the infection.
Barley contains loads of antioxidants that aid in radical scavenging process and saves us from the wrath of free radicals (28). Along with this, barley being diuretic flushes out a majority of toxins present in kidney and large intestine through urine. This removal is mainly carried out by beta-glucan.
24. Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are caused by wrong eating habits in some people while in others, it might be present due to heredity. The stones cause a lot of pain. Barley water comes to rescue as it maintains an alkaline pH that inhibits the production of kidney stones (29). Vitamin B6 supplied by the body fragments the calcium oxalate masses. The magnesium speeds up their dissolution. Barley water contains all the minerals favorable for inhibiting stone formation.
1) Sensitive people may develop anaphylaxis by drinking the beer made from barley.
2) Since barley is a fiber superstar, it may restrain your body to absorb certain drugs.
3) Consumption of too much barley may result in fiber overdose eventually leading to abdominal gas, cramping and bloating.