Barley – Nutritional Facts and Health Benefits

Parul Dube

July 18, 2022

Barley is a cereal plant of the Poaceae grass family. Barley is the fourth-largest grain crop grown globally, after wheat, rice, and corn, and it is suitable for harvest in various environments. Its scientific name is Hordeum vulgare. Barley has several unique features among crop plants and is an essential crop in modern agriculture. It is a crop used both for human nutrition and for animal feed. 

Barley also plays a vital role as an experimental model plant allowing advances in plant genetics, plant physiology, plant pathology, plant biochemistry, and, more recently, biotechnology. In addition, it is versatile, and you can use it to make bread, soups, stews, and health products. Interestingly, it is also a source of malt for alcoholic beverages.

In ancient times, people used barley as currency. Evidence shows its cultivation dated to 5000 BCE in Egypt. It also plays a significant role in Ayurveda. The ayurvedic term for barley is Yava, the only grain mentioned in the ancient Indian writings. 

This article will guide you through everything you need to know about barley.

Nutritional Properties of Barley

As per USDA, 100g of barley serving contains:

  • Energy: 352 kcal
  • Protein: 9.91 g
  • Fat: 1.16 g
  • Carbohydrates: 77.7 g
  • Fibre: 15.6 g
  • Calcium: 29 mg
  • Iron: 2.5 mg
  • Magnesium: 79 mg
  • Phosphorous: 221 mg
  • Potassium: 280 mg
  • Niacin: 4.6 mg
  • Vitamin B6: 0. 26 mg
  • Vitamin A: 22 IU

The HealthifyMe Note

Barley has many health benefits because of its nutritional properties. It is rich in minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients. In addition, it contains protein, fat, and fibre. It also has a significant amount of iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and niacin.

Health Benefits of Barley

Reduces Hunger and Aids Weight Loss

Barley is rich in fibre, which keeps you satiated for long and reduces hunger. As a result, it prevents excess calorie consumption, leading to weight loss.

The soluble fibre in barley, known as beta-glucan, forms a gel-like substance in the gut. It slows digestion and promotes nutrient absorption and fullness. Barley is low in calories and has an impressive amino acid profile that can help with weight reduction and management. 

Prevents Constipation

The high fibre content in Barley is also helpful in preventing constipation. Fibre adds weight to your food and makes it pass through the digestive tract easily.

In addition, it enables the stool to pass easily. As a result, it improves the overall digestive process. It also increases metabolism and makes you feel light. Furthermore, fibre helps cure bloating in the stomach and boosts intestinal health.

The soluble fibre produces short-chain fatty acids, which help feed gut cells and reduce inflammation.

Prevents Gall Stone

Barley reduces the level of triglycerides, which are a type of fat found in the blood. In addition, barley contains insoluble fibre, which reduces bile acid secretion and gallstone formation.

Research shows that supplementing concentrated barley fibre sources minimises the frequency of gallstone formation. These gallstones are solid particles forming in the gallbladder, producing bile acid. Fibre also prevents fat absorption in the body.

Lowers Cholesterol Levels

Barley contains beta-glucan, which lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol levels binding to bile acids. As a result, barley increases HDL (good) cholesterol and lowers triglyceride levels.

In addition, studies prove barley prevents hypercholesterolemia. Short-chain fatty acids are produced when healthy gut bacteria feed on soluble fibre that helps reduce cholesterol levels.

Reduces the Risk of Heart Diseases

Barley contains flavonoids, substances that help protect against heart disease and cancer. Barley has the highest amount of flavonoids. As a result, it lowers risk factors like bad cholesterol levels (LDL), and blood pressure levels.

A reduction in these factors reduces the risk of heart disease. In addition, phytochemicals in barley called Tocols have antioxidant properties that reduce the risk of stroke. Studies prove including whole grains like barley and oats reduces cardiovascular disease outcomes. 

Protects Against Diabetes

Barley is rich in magnesium, a mineral essential in insulin production and the body’s use of sugar. Studies indicate that magnesium can lower the spikes in blood sugar levels. As a result, consuming barley can reduce the risk of prediabetes and diabetes type 2.

Prevents Colon Cancer

Evidence in-vivo studies show that consuming barley prevents the risk of colon cancer. The fibre content in barley plays a vital role in preventing cancer.

The insoluble fibre in barley helps reduce the time to clear the gut, which is protective against colon cancer. In addition, soluble fibre binds harmful carcinogens in the gut. Compounds like antioxidants, phytic acid, phenolic acid, and saponins protect against cancer.

Improves Bone and Teeth Health

Barley’s abundance in phosphorous, calcium, copper, magnesium, and zinc improves bone health and strengthens them. Zinc plays a role in mineralising and developing bones. Whereas calcium, copper, magnesium, and phosphorous are essential for maintaining a strong skeleton system. Vitamin C in the barley also plays a role in the healthy development of bones.

Skin and Hair Benefits

Barley has a high amount of vitamin C, antioxidants, and minerals. As a result, it reduces oxidative stress and promotes healthy skin. Zinc promotes a healing effect on the skin. Barley is also rich in selenium, which prevents skin elasticity. It tightens skin and eliminates toxins from the body. 

Antioxidants in the barley help make your skin look younger. In addition, since it contains significant amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to maintain healthy hair growth, it contains copper and iron, which reduces hair loss.

The HealthifyMe Note

Barley is a nutrient-rich grain that helps reduce hunger and can help lose weight. Its rich fibre content also improves digestion. Furthermore, barley consumption helps prevent gallstones, lowers cholesterol, and reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Barley can also help prevent colon cancer, regulate blood pressure, improve bone health, reduce inflammation, reduce symptoms of arthritis, repair body tissue etc. 

Best Ways to Include Barley in Your Diet

Barley is a versatile ingredient that you can incorporate into various dishes. It adds taste and nutritional benefits to your food. Some of the ways to use barley are:

  • You can add whole-grain barley to soups.
  • You can stir some barley in a salad.
  • Add barley in stuffings or casseroles.
  • Cook it and make a hot cereal.
  • Use it as a substitute for white rice or potatoes.
  • Include it in breakfast. Semi-cooked barley with milk and some honey makes a nice change to the usual meal.
  • Barley flakes as a breakfast make it nutritious and healthy.
  • Try drinking barley water.
  • Mix barley flour with other whole grain flour.

Healthy Barley Recipes for You

Barley and Vegetable Soup

Serving: 6 to 8 

Total time: 45 minutes


  • Olive oil: 1 tbsp
  • Onion: 1 medium
  • Cloves garlic: 2
  • Water: 8 cup
  • Uncooked barley: ¾ cup
  • Carrot: 2
  • Sliced cabbage: 1½ cup
  • Zucchini (sliced): 1 medium
  • Tomato: 1
  • Bay leaves: 2
  • Parsley: ¼ cup
  • Sea salt: 2 tsp or as per taste
  • Black pepper: 1 pinch


  • In a large soup or stockpot, saute or fry the chopped garlic and the onions in olive oil for 4 to 5 minutes, until it gets soft.
  • Add the water along with the barley, diced carrots, chopped cabbage, zucchini, crushed tomatoes, and bay leaves, and bring to a slow simmer over medium heat.
  • Add the fresh parsley and a bit of salt and pepper.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover the stockpot.
  • Allow the mixture to cook until the barley is soft (approx. 30 minutes) or longer if you have time. Stir occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
  • Drizzle the soup with freshly grated cheese when serving.
  • Enjoy a healthy and tasty meal.

Nutritional Value per serving

  • Calories: 133
  • Fat: 4g
  • Carbohydrate: 23g
  • Fibre: 6g
  • Vitamin C: 28mg
  • Calcium: 72mg
  • Iron: 1mg
  • Potassium: 411mg

Greek Style Barley Salad

Servings: 6 

Total time: 60 minutes


  • Pearl barley: 1 cup
  • Water: 3 cup
  • Rock salt: ½ tsp
  • Olive oil: ¼ cup
  • Balsamic vinegar: 2 tbsp
  • Lemon juice: 2 tbsp
  • Chopped onions: ¼ cup
  • Tomatoes: 2 medium
  • Yellow bell pepper: ½ cup
  • Cheese: ½ cup
  • Mint: ¼ cup
  • Kalamata olives: ¼ cup
  • Oregano: ½ tsp
  • Rock salt: 1 pinch


  • Bring 3 cups of water to a boil and add half tsp of salt.
  • Add barley, cover, and allow to simmer over medium-low heat for about 40 minutes, or until barley is cooked.
  • Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, and vinegar, and gently toss with barley to coat well.
  • Allow the barley to cool slightly, then add red onion, tomato, bell pepper, cheese, kalamata olives, fresh parsley or mint, and oregano.
  • Season well with oregano and rock salt, and adjust seasonings to taste.
  • Serve Greek-style barley salad, either chilled or at room temperature. And enjoy.

Nutritional Value

  • Calories: 168
  • Fat: 12g
  • Sodium: 314mg
  • Carbohydrates: 13g
  • Fibre: 2g
  • Protein: 3g
  • Vitamin C: 35mg
  • Calcium: 81mg
  • Potassium: 195mg


You should store barley in airtight containers in a cool and dry place. It lasts up to one year. After that, you must keep cooked barley in the refrigerator, and one should consume it within a week. 

Ayurvedic Analysis of Barley

Barley is essential in Ayurveda because it is a cooling diuretic and the ideal Kapha grain. In addition, barley has high insoluble fibre content and regulates blood sugar levels. Hence, it slows down the absorption of glucose.

Barley consumption lowers fasting glucose levels and reduces spikes in blood sugar levels after meals. Furthermore, it increases the release of bile from the liver and gall bladder, aiding fat metabolism.

Bile is an oily substance, and the release of bile directly lowers triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood. The high fibre content keeps you fuller for longer. 

Barley is called Yava in Ayurveda. Ayurveda considers barley to be a strength-promoting grain that alleviates vital Kapha dosha. It also suggests that barley helps manage weight.

It is light to digest and Ruksha (drying), making it great in ailments where we see excess Kleda (moisture). Excess Kleda (moisture) can lead to diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and most Kapha disease. 

According to Ayurveda, we see loose Dhatus (bodily tissues) in diabetes. This is known as dhatu “saitilya”. According to Ayurveda research Yava, i.e., barley, is:

  • Raksha: Dry
  • Sheeta: Cold
  • Aguru: Not heavy to digest
  • Svadu: Sweet
  • Sakashaya: Slightly astringent
  • Balya: Strength promoting
  • Bahuvata Shakrut: Produces stool, i.e. laxative

Adverse Effects of Barley

Barley is a good source of fibre. However, it may cause intestinal gases due to the beneficial bacteria in our colon. Therefore, excess consumption of barley water may upset the stomach. It may also interact with certain medications.

The stomach irritation can come with minor and major symptoms like pain, cramps, bloating, and even loose intestinal problems or diarrhoea. In addition, drinking too much barley water can cause chronic constipation. In several cases, constipation may lead to rectal bleeding with acute pain. 

An allergic reaction to barley is common. If you suffer from allergies, limit your consumption. Common symptoms include rashes, inflammation, hives, irritation, and swelling of eyes, eyelids, nose, arms, legs, and even anaphylaxis.


The benefits of barley are no secret. Barley is a very healthy and nutritious grain. It is rich in vitamins, minerals and other plant components. It is high in fibre and responsible for health benefits, better digestion, reducing hunger, and weight loss.

Including barley in the daily diet prevents chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. Many kinds of barley offer fantastic health benefits.

It is also a healthy grain as per Ayurveda. Therefore, incorporating barley into your diet will assist you in living a healthy life. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What does barley do for your body?

A. Barley is a nutrient-rich grain that offers several benefits to the body. For example, the fibre in barley aids digestion and also helps lower cholesterol levels. Barley can also reduce blood sugar levels and prevent diabetes. Barley can also help lose weight. Besides its versatile usage for cooking, it also offers benefits to the skin, improves bone health and promotes heart health. 

Q. Is it ok to drink barley every day?

A. Barley water is a delicious, simple, and refreshing way to get a hearty dose of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. While drinking barley water can strain the digestive system, drinking it 2-3 times a week can help lose weight and avoid diabetes and heart disease.  

Q. What are the side effects of barley?

A. Excess intake of barley water may cause adverse effects. It may cause intestinal gas, stomach upset, constipation, rectal bleeding, and allergic reactions. In addition, its gluten content may cause issues in people with celiac disease. 

Q. Who should not take barley?

A. Patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or gluten intolerance or have a sensitive digestive tract should avoid barley. In addition, since barley strongly affects blood sugar levels, you may want to exercise precautions while consuming it if you have diabetes and take any blood sugar lowering medication or insulin. 

Q. Is barley alkaline or acidic?

A. A pH scale measures from 0 to 14. Something alkaline is greater than 7pH. Barley is acidic. Uncooked raw barley’s pH ranges between 5.0-5.3. However, once digested, it has 4.5 pH, making it acidic.

Q. Which is better, oats or barley?

A. Yes, oats are better than barley because, as compared to oats, barley has a lower glycemic index and is lower in calories. In addition, barley is rich in fibre, vitamins B2, B3, and B6. On the other hand, oats are richer in phosphorous, zinc, copper, magnesium, iron, potassium, vitamins B1, B5, and folate. Therefore, in terms of nutrients, oats are better than barley.  

Q. What happens if we drink barley water daily?

A. Unstained barley is delicious, simple, and refreshing, a way to get a hearty dose of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. However, too much barley water can strain the digestive system; drinking it 2-3 times a week can help you lose weight and avoid diabetes and heart disease.

Q. Can I drink barley before bed?

A. Certainly, barley is safe to drink before bed since it contains amino acids, melatonin, and tryptophan and provides quality sleep. In addition, barley tea does not contain any caffeine, so it is safe to have it before bed. 

Q. Is barley healthier than rice?

A. Barley is healthier than white rice. However, barley and brown rice both have immense health benefits. If you are avoiding gluten, brown rice should be your go-to food since barley has gluten. In addition, brown rice has a higher folate and vitamin E content, whereas barley has enough fibre and calcium. 

Q. Is barley better than quinoa?

A. There is not much difference. Quinoa is very healthy, and barley also holds its benefits. The nutritional content shows quinoa is high in protein while barley is high in fibre. Quinoa is considered a superfood and is nutrient-dense compared to barley.  

Q. What are the benefits of eating barley?

A. Barley is rich in many beneficial nutrients. It reduces hunger and helps prevent obesity. The insoluble and soluble fibre in barley improves digestion. Moreover, barley consumption can prevent gallstones. It helps in lowering cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart diseases. 

Q. Is barley a superfood?

A. Barley has a rich nutritional profile and immense health benefits, making it a superfood. Barley grass is commonly available at health stores or markets. People often use it as a superfood and a supplement to boost weight loss, enhance immune function and support overall health. 

Q. Why is barley not good for you?

A. Barley contains short-chain carbohydrates called fructans, fermentable fibre types. Fructans may cause gas and bloat in people with irritable bowel syndrome or other digestive disorders.

About the Author

Parul holds a Masters of Medical Science in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and has worked across the globe from the U.K to New Zealand (NZ) gaining her License with the Health Professionals Council (HPC, UK) and the NZ Nutrition Council. From being a Gold medalist in Clinical Nutrition to being awarded an internship with World Health Organisation (WHO, Cairo, Egypt) and Contracts with CDC Parul has had a wide spectrum of work experiences. She is very passionate about Nutrition and Fitness and holds strong to her guiding mantras ‘ Move more’ and ‘Eat Food that your grandmother can recognize’!

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