According to the Whole Grains Council’s website, barley is one of the more important grains when it comes to the world’s food supply – fourth in fact after wheat, rice, and corn – making it something of a superfood.


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Barley is a very nutritious grain, and has been studied extensively for its role in heart health. It’s one of the few whole grains that have been granted the claim that it can help to reduce the risk for coronary heart disease by the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) because there are several studies showing strong support for its role in cardiovascular health.

Note that barley does contain gluten, and so should be traded for a gluten-free grain for those who are sensitive.

Barley Nutrition

Barley is the heaviest hitter when it comes to fiber content. On average, barley is about 17% fiber; in comparison, brown rice is about 3.5% fiber, corn about 7%, oats 10%, and wheat 12%. Unlike other whole grains where the bulk of the fiber is found in the outer bran, the fiber in barley is found throughout the grain, so that even more polished versions like ‘pearl’ barley, which is missing some or all of its bran layer, will still have more fiber than other polished grains. If your goal is to eat a truly whole grain, be sure to choose ‘hulled’ barley.

Nutrients per 1 cup / 157 g cooked barley (equal to 4¾ Tbsp. / 55 g dry)*

Nutritional Factor

Hulled Barley

Pearl Barley


193 kcal

193 kcal


6.8 g

3.55 g


40 g

44 g


9.4 g

6.1 g


0.7 g

0.7 g


2 mg

2 mg


72.5 mg

35 mg


144 mg

85 mg


246 mg

146 mg


1.5 mg

1.3 mg


20.5 mcg

14 mcg

Vitamin B3

2.5 mg

3.2 mg

*Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Health Benefits of Barley

Scientific research studies have found several key advantages to consuming barley.

Cholesterol reduction and heart health: Barley has been suggested to reduce cholesterol due to a type of soluble fiber called beta glucan; this fiber helps to specifically lower LDL cholesterol. This may contribute to prevention of cardiovascular diseases and protection of heart health.

Weight management: The soluble fiber content of barley may help with weight loss and weight management by increasing satiety, the sense of feeling fuller longer, which may help you to eat less over the long run.

Bowel health: Because of barley’s fiber content, it’s a great food to help promote regularity and healthy bowels by adding bulk to stool and decreasing the transit time, the time needed for food to pass through the digestive tract. Fiber is also good for the bowel in another way: by helping to promote the growth of healthy bacteria that live in our gut. Some of the fiber acts as a prebiotic, a food source for bacteria, allowing them to reproduce. As the bacteria feed on the fiber, they produce a type of fatty acid called butyric acid which is used as a fuel source for the cells our large intestine helping to maintain a healthy bowel. This helps to promote overall health and well-being, including through supporting insulin sensitivity and control of inflammation, and to keep our immune system strong.

Diabetes: Regular consumption of whole grains, including barley, has been shown to lower the risk for type 2 diabetes. In addition to basic nutrients such as magnesium and chromium, two minerals that are essential for insulin sensitivity and glucose (blood sugar) metabolism, barley is a source of phytonutrients such as ferulic acid and phenolic acids also shown to benefit glycemic control and diabetes prevention.

In addition, because barley is high in soluble fiber, it may help to better balance blood sugar levels helping to prevent highs and lows. Research has shown that diets high in both total fiber and soluble fiber help to stabilize blood sugar in those with diabetes and barley delivers on the fiber front.

Cancer risk: Barley contains lunasin, a protein-related compound found to have anti-cancer activity in scientific research, attributed to anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Barley’s beta-glucan is also suggested to be protective, having shown positive results in both relevant animal and early human studies.

Cooking barley

Before cooking barley, it’s a good idea to rinse it (as with all whole grains). For cooking, the general rule is to use a ratio of one part barley to three-and-a-half parts of liquid (water or broth). Bring the liquid to a boil, add the barley, and once the liquid has come to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer; pearled barley takes about one hour, hulled barley about 90 minutes.

Cooked barley has a light, grainy taste and makes a unique hot breakfast cereal similar in consistency and texture to rice pudding, and can be sweetened with a little coconut sugar or inulin sweetener, another source of beta-glucan. Barley can also be cooked as a savory side dish, and used in recipes where rice is called for – it can be cooked into a pilaf-like dish, added to soups and stews, or served cold as a salad. ( You can even get the benefits of barely using barley flour in baking.

Click here to learn more about the Trim Down Club’s “whole foods” simple approach to weight loss.


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Health Canada. Summary of Health Canada’s Assessment of a Health Claim about Barley Products and Blood Cholesterol Lowering. 2012.

AbuMweis SS, Jew S, Ames NP. Beta-glucan from barley and its lipid-lowering capacity: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010;64:1472-1480.

Talati R, Baker WL, Pabilonia MS, White CM, Coleman CI. The effects of barley-derived soluble fiber on serum lipids. Ann Fam Med. 2009;7:157-163.

Heart Health

NUTRA FDA confirms barley/heart health claim. 2006.

Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

Hruby A, Meigs JB, O’Donnell CJ, Jacques PF, McKeown NM. Higher magnesium intake reduces risk of impaired glucose and insulin metabolism, and progression from prediabetes to diabetes in middle-aged Americans. Diabetes Care. 2013 Oct 2

Mahdi GS, Naismith DJ. Role of chromium in barley in modulating the symptoms of diabetes. Ann Nutr Metab. 1991;35(2):65-70.

Belobrajdic DP, Bird AR. The potential role of phytochemicals in wholegrain cereals for the prevention of type-2 diabetes. Nutr J. 2013 May 16;12:62.



Vitaglione P, Lumaga RB, Montagnese C, Messia MC, Marconi E, Scalfi L. Satiating effect of a barley beta-glucan-enriched snack. J Am Coll Nutr. 2010 Apr;29(2):113-21.

Intestinal Health

Maccaferri S, Klinder A, Cacciatore S, Chitarrari R, Honda H, Luchinat C, Bertini I, Carnevali P, Gibson GR, Brigidi P, Costabile A. In vitro fermentation of potential prebiotic flours from natural sources: impact on the human colonic microbiota and metabolome. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2012 Aug;56(8):1342-52.

Priebe MG, Wang H, Weening D, Schepers M, Preston T, Vonk RJ. Factors related to colonic fermentation of nondigestible carbohydrates of a previous evening meal increase tissue glucose uptake and moderate glucose-associated inflammation. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Jan;91(1):90-7.

Nilsson A, Granfeldt Y, Ostman E, Preston T, Björck I. Effects of GI and content of indigestible carbohydrates of cereal-based evening meals on glucose tolerance at a subsequent standardised breakfast. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2006 Sep;60(9):1092-9.

Kanauchi O, Mitsuyama K, Saiki T, Nakamura T, Hitomi Y, Bamba T, Araki Y, Fujiyama Y. Germinated barley foodstuff increases fecal volume and butyrate production at relatively low doses and relieves constipation in humans. Int J Mol Med. 1998 Oct;2(4):445-50.

Cancer Risk

Xiang D, Sharma VR, Freter CE, Yan J. Anti-tumor monoclonal antibodies in conjunction with β-glucans: a novel anti-cancer immunotherapy. Curr Med Chem. 2012;19(25):4298-305.

Jeong HJ, Jeong JB, Hsieh CC, Hernández-Ledesma B, de Lumen BO. Nutr Cancer. 2010;62(8):1113-9. Lunasin is prevalent in barley and is bioavailable and bioactive in in vivo and in vitro studies.

Hernández-Ledesma B, Hsieh CC, de Lumen BO. Lunasin, a novel seed peptide for cancer prevention. Peptides. 2009 Feb;30(2):426-30.

Mantovani MS, Bellini MF, Angeli JP, Oliveira RJ, Silva AF, Ribeiro LR. beta-Glucans in promoting health: prevention against mutation and cancer. Mutat Res. 2008 Mar-Apr;658(3):154-61.

Comments 4

  1. What about oats and oatmeal? I live in Scotland and we eat mostly porridge and home made oatcakes for breakfast, and I know that it is good food but I do not see much about oats in your promos! In the US I think it is known as steel cut oats. Please confirm its efficacy. GavinMoncrieff

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