What is barley?
Rich in taste and nutrients, barley is an ancient whole grain that has been used for thousands of years in everything from beer to bread. It can be prepared in a variety of different ways, but pearl barley and pot barley are the most popular.
Pearl barley is polished to remove its nutritious outer bran layer and pot barley still has most of its outer layer intact. Additionally, sprouted barley grains can be used to make malt extract which is often enjoyed spread on toast or used as a sugar replacement in baking.
What are the health benefits of barley?
Great source of plant-based protein and can help build muscle
With 12g of protein in every 100g, barley contains more of this essential nutrient than similar grains such as brown rice. This makes it a beneficial mealtime addition for vegans, vegetarians and people following a meat-free diet.
As well as helping our bodies to grow and repair, evidence suggests that eating plenty of protein can help us to build muscle, keep us feeling fuller for longer and boost metabolism, making it easier to manage weight.
Rich in magnesium, iron and vitamin B6
As well as protein, the grains are also full of a whole range of vital nutrients. It is especially high in magnesium which works in our bodies to turn our food into energy and keep our muscles and nerves working normally.
In addition, barley contains iron and vitamin B6 which our bodies need to keep our blood healthy.
Selenium, which helps to keep the immune system working is should, is also found in the grains.
Linked to lowering high cholesterol
Grains of barley are a great source of fibre which has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease caused by high levels of cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is carried in our blood.
There are two types of cholesterol: HDL and LDL cholesterol. HDL is known as “good” cholesterol while LDL is known as “bad” cholesterol as it can clog the arteries. Over time, a build-up of LDL can lead to conditions like heart disease. According to one study, men that ate a diet high in whole grain barley saw an improvement in their cholesterol levels after five weeks.
Could help you control your weight
Partly due to its fibre and protein content, including barley as part of your diet could be the key if your goal is to shed some pounds. Research suggested that people lost weight and felt less hungry when they ate barley fibre for six weeks.
How do you eat barley?
From pearl barley and pot barley to barley flakes and malt extract, there are several ways to make this super grain a part of your everyday diet.
Here are some of our favourite recipes that harness its nutty flavour.
Delicious banana smoothie
Delicious, nutritious and easy to make, this smoothie is easy to whip up in a few minutes in the morning. Simply place banana, honey, almond milk and a tablespoon of Barleycup granules into a blender and mix until smooth.
Start the day with a comforting bowl of barley flakes for a filling breakfast. Make them just like your usual porridge oats and sprinkle with cinnamon and dried fruit. You can also sprinkle the flakes into soups to add thickness.
Classic baked barley pudding
As an alternative to a classic rice pudding, try mixing cooked barley with milk, eggs, vanilla and honey or sweetener. Season with nutmeg or cinnamon then bake in a water bath in the oven for a hearty dessert.
Switch rice for barley and you’ll have a filling, comforting dish. Fry garlic and onion in a saucepan before adding barley grains. Stir in your chosen stock a little bit at a time. Leave to simmer for 25 minutes until the stock has been absorbed. Serve immediately.
Fibre-filled toasted barley
To boost flavour, toast barley grains in an oiled pan for a few minutes until golden. Add water and boil until tender. Next, toss into a leafy salad for a boost of fibre and protein.
Refreshing lemon barley water
It’s surprisingly easy to make this traditional drink at home, instead of buying it from the supermarket.
Simply boil one part barley grains with six parts water and some lemon peel for up to half an hour. Strain the grains from the fluid then add lemon juice and honey to taste before leaving to cool.
Find more delicious recipes and health and wellbeing ideas in our Health Hub.