health benefits of Barley

Barley is a cereal that is widely available. It was once popular in Britain but then owing to its multiple uses, it has traveled across borders.

Nutrition information

Barley is rich in Potassium, dietary fiber, carbohydrates, Iron, Vitamin B-6 and Magnesium.

Health benefits of Barley

Reduces Type 2 Diabetes risk

The glycemic index of barley is much lower than that of white rice and few other cereals. It is hence a healthier alternative. While white rice or even white bread is a high GI food, Barley has a glycemic index value below 55 and is hence a low GI food.

Prevents Osteoporosis in women

Barley is a rich source of Copper and Manganese. Both these are not found in abundance in many foods. But these are excellent for connective tissue synthesis and result in stronger bones. Another noteworthy aspect here is that Phosphorous is an important component that can prevent the breakage of bones. For both these reasons, barley is a suitable cereal for all women.

Lowers Cholesterol levels

Barley has the ability to lower blood cholesterol levels (LDL). Barley pasta has been found to be a good way to reduce cholesterol levels.

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Cardiovascular benefits

One of the key reasons for heart diseases is high cholesterol levels. Multiple studies have been conducted that show the positive impact of barley in fighting cardiac diseases.

A randomized double-blind study in Japan followed 44 men with high cholesterol for twelve weeks, as the men ate either a standard white-rice diet or one with a mixture of rice and high-beta-glucan pearl barley. Barley intake significantly reduced serum cholesterol and visceral fat, both accepted markers of cardiovascular risk. (Shimizu C, March 2008)

Prevents and fights Asthma

Barley is one of the highly recommended foods for those suffering from Asthma. Magnesium which is important to cure Asthma is found in abundance in Barley (33%). Good amounts of magnesium intake reduces the chances of spasm of the airways.  It can also be consumed by those with a genetic history of asthma as a prevention. In addition, barley can fight many other respiratory diseases.

To manage blood pressure

Barley is high in potassium and magnesium content. These two components help to decrease the blood pressure. In addition, barley is found to have very low sodium levels (12 mg per 100 gm). For any person who wishes to control their blood pressure, maintaining low sodium levels becomes inevitable. Given this fact, barley can help to gain substantial amounts of magnesium and potassium without any consequential sodium intake.

Is Barley gluten-free?

The short answer is – No. Barley contains a substantial amount of gluten protein. If you are allergic to gluten or are following a gluten free diet, then barley may not be right for you.

pearl barley
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Barley porridge or soup

To build strength in toddlers, a porridge can be made using barley rice.

To reduce dry cough and irritation when passing urine due to excessive heat in the body, barley soup or porridge can be used.

Method with pearl barley:

  1. Wash barley well.
  2. In a vessel, add lot of water and allow it to get heated a bit.
  3. Add barley to the water.
  4. Close the vessel with a lid.
  5. Allow the barley rice to cook for around 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Switch off.
  7. Allow it to cool down.

Drink the excess water. This water and the porridge is very healthy for people across all ages. You can add cut vegetables and leafy greens while cooking the porridge to make it more palatable for breakfast. Those with a sweet tooth can add berries or any other fruit of their choice instead too.

Barley porridge
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The above method is using pearl barley. You can also make porridge using barley powder. This is powder is made by dry roasting and grinding pearl barley.

Method with barley powder:

  1. In a vessel, boil two cups of water.
  2. Add two heaped teaspoons of barley powder.
  3. Keep stirring to avoid the formation of lumps.
  4. Add a teaspoon of palm sugar and keep stirring.
  5. Once the barley is cooked (it would take a few minutes only), switch off.

This porridge is smooth and you can even give this to your children.

Barley water

Barley water is a boon to those suffering from urinary problems. Some have the problem of water retention in their legs – this is referred to as Edema in medical terms. Older people and pregnant women face this issue in addition to those with renal problems. Just 100 – 200 ml of barley water a day can help to reduce this swelling by improving frequency of urination.

It is more beneficial during pregnancy since it also supplies lot of essential nutrients such as magnesium, lignans and natural fiber.

But a caution here. Check with your doctor if this remedy is suitable for you. Your doctor may suggest otherwise based upon your exact condition.


  1. Wash barley well.
  2. In a vessel boil water.
  3. Add the pearl barley to the boiling water.
  4. Leave the lid open and allow it to boil for around 10 to 15 minutes. This should be on a low flame.
  5. Noe switch off and allow to cool.
  6. Strain and drink this water.
Barley flakes
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Barley sprouts

Sprouted barley can be a healthy evening snack. You can also use this as a garnish on salads or just snack on a cup of these healthy little cereal.


  1. Soak one tablespoon of barley in 1.5 cups of water. (Basically, the ratio of barley:water is 1:3)
  2. Let it soak for 1-2 hours.
  3. Then drain the water and place it in a wet cloth.
  4. Tie it like a bundle and leave it overnight.
  5. You can get beautifully sprouted barley the next morning.

Squeeze some lemon juice and sprinkle little salt and pepper on the sprouts, mix well and eat.


Shimizu C, K. M. A. S. A. S. I. K. H. K. W. J. S. Y. I. S., March 2008. Effect of high beta-glucan barley on serum cholesterol concentrations and visceral fat area in Japanese men–a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial.. Plant Foods and Human Nutrition.


Ramya Srinivasan, PDGBA, earned her Master’s degree in Business. As a result of her passion in native medicine, she got her Diploma in Traditional Siddha Medicine from Bharat Sevak Samaj registered under the Indian Planning Commission. She is certified by Stanford University School of Medicine in Introduction to Food and Health.