Barley is an ancient grain that has been farmed for over 10,000 years. When cooked, its chewy texture and mild, nutty flavor make a versatile addition to salads, side dishes, soups and stews. But barley isn’t just good for us humans, it is commonly cultivated as a type of animal feed as well.
When the grain is dried through a process known as malting, it becomes a crisp cereal. Barley is also used in the brewing process of beer and whiskey. It can also be smoked with wood chips to bring out its nutty flavor and served alongside grilled meats like beef or lamb. Barley can be substituted for pretty much any other whole grain. Some people even like to use it in risotto instead of rice.
This grain offers a number of surprising health benefits. For example, it is high in fiber, especially beta-glucan, which helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Did you know that barley may also aid weight loss? It’s true. Barley decreases the production of the hunger hormone, Ghrelin. However, you may be wondering if there is a place for this grain on a low carb diet? Keep reading to find out.
Is Barley Keto Friendly?
Barley is a high carb grain that does not fall on the approved foods list for Keto and therefore should be avoided. Strict low carb diets like Keto advise followers to aim for around 20 grams of carbs per day. One single serving of barley contains almost 3 times that amount, which is enough carbs to kick your body out of ketosis.
How Many Carbs are in Barley?
A 100-gram serving of pearl or hulled barley contains a whopping 73 grams of carbs of total carbs. After accounting for the 17 grams of fiber, that amount decreases to 56 grams of net carbs per serving. If you’re following a low carb diet, you may wish to swap out barley for a lower carb grain. For example, a 100-gram portion of oatmeal contains only 12 grams of carbs. Cooked wild rice contains just 21 grams of carbs per 100 grams.
How Many Calories are in Barley?
There are 354 calories in a 100-gram serving of hulled barley. A 100-gram serving of pearl barley 120 calories. If you’re consuming barley as part of a calorie reduction plan, remember to count the calories for the foods you eat along with barley. For example: If you consume barley as a cereal, you’ll also need to account for the calories in the milk. Likewise, if you’re using barley in a soup, such as beef and barley soup, the calories in the other soup ingredients also need to be counted.
|Amount: 100 grams of Barley, hulled (1/2 cup)|
|Total Fat 2.3 grams||3%|
|Saturated fat 0.5 grams||2%|
|Polyunsaturated fat 1.1 grams|
|Monounsaturated fat 0.3 grams|
|Cholesterol 0 milligrams||0%|
|Sodium 12 milligrams||0%|
|Potassium 452 milligrams||12%|
|Total Carbohydrate 73 grams||24%|
|Dietary fiber 17 grams||68%|
|Sugar 0.8 grams|
|Protein 12 grams||24%|
|Vitamin A||0%||Vitamin C||0%|
|Vitamin D||0%||Vitamin B-6||15%|
Packed with Vitamins and Minerals
A half-cup (100 grams) of uncooked, hulled barley contains the following nutrients:
- Copper: 25% of the RDI
- Folate: 5% of the RDI
- Iron: 20% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 33% of the RDI
- Manganese: 97% of the RDI
- Niacin: 23% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 26% of the RDI
- Potassium: 13% of the RDI
- Riboflavin: 17% of the RDI
- Selenium: 54% of the RDI
- Thiamine: 43% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Vitamin B6: 16% of the RDI
- Zinc: 18% of the RDI
Fights Chronic Disease
Eating whole grains, like hulled barley, has been associated with a decreased risk of chronic diseases. Hulled barley contains beta-glucan, a fiber which may help lower cholesterol and blood sugar. Stable blood sugar levels help prevent the onset of diabetes.
Aids in Digestion
Barley is high in fiber, a nutrient that is vital for healthy digestion. Research shows that consuming barley can relieve constipation, improve certain bowel conditions and increase the activity of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Promotes Heart Health
Because barley is high in soluble fiber, it helps lower cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber has been shown to lower total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol significantly.
One study conducted by Frontier Laboratories of Value Creation in Japan looked at a group of 44 men with high cholesterol. It was found that those who ate a mixture of rice and pearled barley reduced unhealthy LDL cholesterol and decreased belly fat, compared to the control group that consumed rice alone.
Barley and other whole grains are healthy additions to most diets. However, people with celiac disease or other intolerances to other grains like wheat should refrain from consuming barley.
Individuals who take blood-sugar-lowering medications should also exercise caution.
Furthermore, barley contains short-chain carbohydrates known as fructans, a fermentable type of fiber. Fructans are known to cause gas and bloating in people with digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). For this reason, IBS sufferers may choose to avoid barley.
Hulled Barley vs. Pearl Barley: Which is Healthier?
Whole-grain, hulled barley is healthier than refined, pearled barley. Hulled barley has only the inedible outer shell removed during processing, so it is still considered a whole grain. On the other hand, pearled barley is not a whole grain because the bran has been removed.
While pearled barley may still be a decent source of nutrients, hulled barley is a much healthier option, as whole grains have been linked to heart health and a lower risk of chronic diseases.
How to Cook Barley:
- Combine 1 cup barley with 2 1/2 cups water or broth in a small pot and bring to a rolling boil. (There is no need to soak barley, pearled or not.)
- Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until tender (about 40 or 50 minutes).
- Once most of the liquid has been absorbed, let stand for 5 minutes.
Quick Cooking Barley:
- Bring 1 3/4 cups water or broth to a boil in a small pot or saucepan.
- Add 1 cup barley.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until tender for about 10 to 12 minutes.
Is Barley Good for Weight Loss?
Both pearled barley (with the bran removed) and “quick-cooking” (parboiled) barley both contain a decent amount of soluble fiber, which can help you slim down.
In one small Japanese study, eating barley helped the participants reduce their cholesterol levels, shrink their midsections, and significantly reduce harmful visceral fat.
Because the human body cannot digest fiber, foods high in fiber add volume to your diet without increasing calories. This makes high-fiber foods very filling, which is useful for people trying to lose weight.
Another reason barley promotes fullness is that it decreases the levels of ghrelin – the hormone that makes you feel hungry.
Is Barley Safe for Diabetics?
Research shows that regular consumption of barley may lower blood sugar and insulin levels. The grain has a low glycemic index, making it a smart choice for people with diabetes or those at risk of developing diabetes.
Whole-grain barley is a good source of the soluble fiber known as beta-glucan. This special type of fiber helps slow the absorption of sugar by binding with it in your digestive tract.
A study conducted by the US Dept. of Agriculture in Albany, California looked at the effects of barley on blood sugar. A group of 17 obese women with an increased risk of insulin resistance who consumed a breakfast cereal containing 10 grams of beta-glucan from barley significantly decreased blood sugar levels more than other types of grain cereals.