As cereal grains go, barley is a winner when it comes to good nutrition. This centuries-old grain is packed with fiber, contains important vitamins and minerals, is slim on fat, and, like all plant products, cholesterol-free. Here’s a closer look:
Barley is a great source of dietary fiber and actually contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is effective in lowering blood cholesterol and can reduce the risk of heart disease. Soluble fiber is also beneficial in slowing the absorption of sugar and reducing the risk for developing type 2 or non-insulin-dependent diabetes. The insoluble fiber found in barley may be beneficial in helping the body maintain regular bowl function. Insoluble fiber may also help lower the risk for certain cancers such as colon cancer.
Cholesterol and fat
Like all plant foods, barley is naturally cholesterol-free and low in fat. A 1/2-cup serving of cooked pearl barley, a typical grain serving, contains less than 1/2 gram of fat and only 100 calories*
*Source: USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference 13 (November 1999)
Vitamins and minerals
Barley contains several vitamins and minerals including niacin (Vitamin B3), thiamine ( Vitamin B1), selenium, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and copper.
Barley contains antioxidants, which are also important for maintaining good health. Specifically, antioxidants work to slow down the rate of oxidative damage by gathering up free radicals that form when body cells use oxygen.
Barley contains phytochemicals, which are natural plant-based chemicals. Studies indicate that phytochemicals may decrease the risk for certain diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. More research is needed to confirm these results.