The Amazing Nutrition of Barley


Hey guys. This cold weather blows, and if you’re from the Midwest like I am, it’s been exceptionally snowy these days. The snow, or the Devil’s Dandruff as I like to call it, has been unrelenting these past few days with storm after storm. On days like these, I really like to make something thats warm on my throat. I decided to make Chicken Vegetable soup with Barley. I went to Whole Foods to grab some barley, and as I was looking at the Grain Wall, I had a dilemma. Which Barley do I get. Theres Hulled Barley and there’s Pearled Barley. Let me explain what each is.

Hulled barley is covered barley that has been minimally processed to remove only the tough inedible outer hull. It’s challenging to remove the hull carefully so that some of the bran is not lost – but that’s what must be done for covered barley to be considered whole grain. 

Pearl Barley (not a whole grain) has been polished, or “pearled” to remove some or all of the outer bran layer along with the hull. If it’s lightly pearled, pearl barley will be tan colored; if it’s heavily pearled, barley will be quite white. Most of the barley found in the typical supermarket is pearl barley. Although it is technically a refined grain, it’s much healthier than other refined grains because (a) some of the bran may still be present and (b) the fiber in barley is distributed throughout the kernel, and not just in the outer bran layer. Pearl barley cooks more quickly than whole grain barley.

Now that you know the difference, choose Hulled Barley for it has been minimally processed and the bran is still intact. I usually add a half of a cup to a whole cup of Barley to my soup. Sometimes I don’t even measure. Just toss some in for added nutrition!

With one cup of Barley adding up to roughly 193 calories, Barley is most know for  being a very good source of molybdenum, manganese, dietary fiber, and selenium, and a good source of copper, vitamin B1, chromium, phosphorus, magnesium, and niacin. Not only is barley a low-glycemic grain, it is high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps the body metabolize fats, cholesterol and carbohydrates, and lowers blood cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber—commonly called “roughage”—promotes a healthy digestive tract and reduces the risk of cancers affecting it

Eating hulled barley on a regular basis:

  • Lowers blood cholesterol levels
  • Protects against cancer because its high fiber content helps speed food through the digestive tract, and because its a good source of selenium, shown to significantly reduce the risk of colon cancer
  • Is a good source of niacin, the B vitamin that is cardio-protective
  • Slows starch digestion, which may help keep blood sugar levels stable
  • Provides high concentrations of tocotrienols, the “super” form of vitamin E
  • Provides lignans, phytochemicals that function as antioxidants. Women who consume lignans (also present in high levels in flaxseed) are less likely to develop breast cancer.


So, there you go folks, EAT YOUR BARLEY!!




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