Barley and the glycemic index

Barley and gluten

Barley fights diabetes
Barley: a nutritional powerhouse
Get the facts on fiber, fat, cholesterol and heart health
Barley lowers cholesterol

Barley health claim - FDA Final Rule
Fiber 101
Are you getting enough?
Barley: a good carb with whole grain goodness
Nutritional analysis

 

Barley and the glycemic index

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the glycemic index (GI) essentially measures how foods containing carbohydrates raise blood glucose.  Carbohydrate-containing foods are ranked on the glycemic index according to how they compare to a reference food which is either glucose or white bread.  Glucose or white bread is given a GI of 100.  Carbohydrate-containing foods are typically ranked high GI (70 or more), medium GI (56-69) and low GI (55 or less).  A food with a high GI raises blood glucose more than a food with a medium or low GI.  Barley is considered a low GI food.  The ADA emphasizes that if you are concerned about diabetes it’s important to follow a meal plan that fits your personal preferences and lifestyle, and that will help you reach your overall goals for managing blood glucose.  Using the GI may be helpful in “fine-tuning” blood glucose management when combined with carbohydrate counting. 

 

Barley and gluten

Does barley contain gluten?  Yes. Gluten is a type of protein and is recognized for its ability to help baked goods rise.  On average, barley contains about 5% to 8% gluten. Individuals who are concerned about gluten should check with their health care advisor for more information.

Barley fights diabetes

Type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes affect over 80 million Americans.  Health and nutrition professionals remind us, however, that this disease can be controlled and even prevented.  It’s a matter of making some simple but important lifestyle choices including losing weight, increasing physical activity and including plenty of whole grain, high fiber foods such as barley in the daily diet.

Barley is an excellent food choice for those concerned about type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes because the grain contains essential vitamins and minerals and is an excellent source of dietary fiber, particularly beta-glucan soluble fiber.  Research shows that barley beta-glucan soluble fiber promotes healthy blood sugar by slowing glucose absorption.  For example, findings from a clinical trial published in the December 2006 edition of Nutrition Research showed that mildly insulin-resistant men who ate muffins containing barley beta-glucan soluble fiber experienced significant reductions in glucose and insulin responses, compared to responses after eating muffins made with corn starch.  In a clinical study reported in the August 2006 edition of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, data showed that subjects who ate cookies and crackers made with barley flour enriched with beta-glucan soluble fiber also experienced significant reductions in glucose and insulin responses compared to responses after eating the same products made with whole wheat flour.  A long-term study published in the August 2007 edition of the Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice journal reported a 30-percent decrease in HbA1c (average blood glucose level) in type 2 diabetics who consumed a healthy diet including pearl barley that supplied 18 grams of soluble fiber a day. Regardless of the form of the grain, there is always a ready source of beta-glucan soluble fiber in barley.  Unlike many grains which contain fiber only in the outer bran layer, barley contains fiber throughout the entire kernel.  So whether it’s whole grain or processed barley products, dietary fiber, including beta-glucan soluble fiber, is available in amounts that have a positive impact on improving blood glucose levels.

It’s easy to include barley in a healthful and delicious diet.  Choose barley flakes for a hardy cooked breakfast cereal.  Add pearl or whole grain barley kernels to your favorite soups, stews, casseroles and salads.  Or use cooked pearl or whole grain barley kernels as a fiber-rich addition to your favorite stir-fry or Chinese take-out entrees.  Click here for more delicious ideas.

^ Back to top


Barley: a nutritional powerhouse

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:

Fiber
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 bowel 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.

Antioxidants
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.

 

Phytochemicals
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.

^ Back to top


Get the facts on fiber, fat, cholesterol and heart health

Health and nutrition professionals say a heart-healthy diet should include plenty of fiber and limited amounts of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. What’s the connection between heart disease and foods containing fiber, fat and cholesterol? What foods should be included in a heart-healthy diet and which should be limited? Here’s a quick run-down on the facts:

Saturated fat
Saturated fat is found in animal products such as fatty cuts of meat, chicken skin, full-fat dairy products (whole milk, butter, cream, cheese) and in tropical vegetable oils such as palm, palm kernel and coconut oil.

Trans fat
This is a type of fat that is formed when vegetable oil is hardened through a process called hydrogenation. The process is used to prolong the shelf life of foods, give them shape and make them more solid. Trans fat is found in vegetable shortening, hard or stick margarine, crackers, cookies, baked goods, fried foods, salad dressings and other processed foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Small amounts of trans fat also occur naturally in some animal products such as milk products, beef and lamb.

Cholesterol
Foods that are typically high in cholesterol include organ meats such as liver, egg yolks, shrimp, and full-fat dairy products.

The fat-cholesterol-heart disease connection
Saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol in the diet raise the level of LDL cholesterol (often called “bad” cholesterol) in the blood. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Americans consume 4 to 5 times as much saturated fat as trans fat. But it’s important that consumers are aware of all three – saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol – in the foods they consume in order to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

Limit intake of fat, cholesterol
How much fat and cholesterol should be included in a healthful diet? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 say that our total fat intake should be between 20 to 35 percent of total calories consumed, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats such as fish, nuts and vegetable oils. The Guidelines say we should consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat and less than 300 milligrams a day of cholesterol. The Guidelines recommend keeping trans fat consumption as low as possible.

What about the fiber-cholesterol connection?
Fiber is a substance that comes from plants and cannot be digested or absorbed by the human body. The type of fiber that we eat is called dietary fiber. There are two main types of dietary fiber, soluble and insoluble. Both are important for maintaining good health and should be included in foods we eat every day.

Soluble fiber promotes heart health
Soluble fiber has been found to be effective in lowering blood cholesterol. This type of fiber mixes with liquid and binds to fatty substances to help remove them from the body. For more detailed information on clinical research on barley soluble fiber and cholesterol reduction, click here. Soluble fiber has also been found to be beneficial in slowing the absorption of sugar, which, for people with diabetes, may help decrease the need for insulin. Soluble fiber may also help reduce the risk for developing type 2 or non-insulin-dependent diabetes.

Insoluble fiber effective in reducing cancer risk
Insoluble fiber is the type of fiber that helps the body maintain regular bowel function. Studies show that insoluble fiber may be beneficial in lowering the risk for certain cancers such as colon cancer.

Experts recommend fiber every day
Health and nutrition professionals recommend eating 25 to 38 grams of dietary fiber (including both soluble and insoluble) every day. To do that, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommend eating plenty of grains, fruits and vegetables, which are considered excellent sources for fiber.  The Guidelines recommend eating about 2 cups of fruit and 2-1/2 cups of vegetables every day for a reference 2,000-calorie intake. The Guidelines also recommend eating at least 6 servings of grain products every day with at least 3 of those servings coming from whole grain products.

Is barley a good fiber choice?
Yes! Barley is an excellent choice when it comes to adding both soluble and insoluble fiber to the diet. Our favorite grain compares favorably to other grains in total dietary fiber content. For example, a ½-cup serving of cooked pearl barley contains 3 grams of dietary fiber. In comparison, a ½-cup serving of long-grain brown rice contains 1.75 grams dietary fiber. One-half-cup serving of white long-grain rice contains less than 1 gram of dietary fiber.

Choose barley for your heart health
Barley’s soluble fiber content, along with its naturally low-fat content and zero cholesterol make this grain a wise choice for heart-smart dining. Because barley is available in several forms (pearled, flour and flakes), it may be used in many different recipes and for all eating occasions – breakfast, lunch and dinner. For more information about barley products, click here. For delicious recipe ideas featuring our favorite grain, click here.

^ Back to top


Barley lowers cholesterol

Laboratory and animal studies around the world have yielded promising results regarding barley’s potential health benefits.  Now, data from human clinical trials bolster past findings and show a significant correlation between barley consumption and cholesterol reduction.

Two clinical trials were conducted at the United States Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Services (USDA/ARS) Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, MD between 2001 and 2002.  Final data from the trials were published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.The trials were designed to investigate whether barley, as a soluble fiber source, would beneficially change cardiovascular risk factors and included men, pre-menopausal women and post-menopausal women with moderately elevated cholesterol levels.For both trials, the men and women were given controlled American Heart Association Step 1 diets for 17 weeks.  After a two-week adaptation period, the diets were modified to include low, medium and high levels of soluble fiber from barley.  The three diets were consumed for five weeks each.  Cholesterol levels were measured after each five-week period.Final data from the trials showed that compared to pre-study concentrations, total cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (commonly known as “bad” cholesterol) levels were significantly reduced after the subjects consumed the modified diets containing low, medium and high levels of soluble fiber from barley.  The researchers reported that the reduction in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol concentrations was most notable after the subjects consumed the higher levels of soluble fiber from barley.Data between both trials showed total cholesterol levels were reduced on average by 6.5%, 9.3% and 13.3% after consuming the low, medium and high soluble fiber diets respectively.  LDL cholesterol levels were reduced on average by 8.6%, 11.9% and 17.4% after consuming the low, medium and high soluble fiber diets respectively.USDA/ARS researchers concluded that the consumption of barley-containing foods and the associated soluble fiber significantly improved several cardiovascular disease risk factors among the subjects.  They emphasized that the highest barley soluble fiber intake resulted in the greatest reduction in total and LDL cholesterol concentrations.“We’ve known for years that barley holds tremendous potential as a healthful food choice,” says Dr. Christine Fastnaught, cereal scientist and research consultant for the National Barley Foods Council.  “These results confirm key barley health benefits, particularly the grain’s ability to reduce cholesterol.”“When it comes to soluble fiber availability, barley is a superior choice,” notes Fastnaught.  “That’s because soluble fiber is found throughout the entire kernel.”  That’s not necessarily the case with other grains.  “In some grains, fiber is only found in the bran layer of the kernel,” says Fastnaught.  “In these cases, if the grain is processed and the bran layer is removed, all of the fiber is lost as well.”Fiber, including soluble fiber, is found throughout the entire barley kernel.  “If barley is processed and the bran layer is removed, the end product still contains significant amounts of fiber, including soluble fiber,” says Fastnaught.  “Whether whole grain or more heavily processed, barley is an excellent choice when it comes to heart-healthy dining.  Its inherent nutritional benefits will likely increase its use as an ingredient in new foods development in the future.”Researchers note that barley’s qualities as a nutritious food ingredient go well beyond cardiovascular disease risk reduction.  Future studies, including those conducted by USDA/ARS researchers are planned to investigate barley’s ability to improve intestinal health, increase immunity to disease, and promote weight-loss maintenance by reducing insulin resistance.

Research publication information:
Lipids Significantly Reduced by Diets Containing Barley in Moderately Hypercholesterolemic Men, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 23, No. 1, 55-62 (2004)

Diets Containing Barley Significantly Reduce Lipids in Mildly Hypercholesterolemic Men and Women, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2004:80:1185-93

^ Back to top

Fiber 101

We’ve all heard it: Eat more fiber. Health and nutrition professionals recommend eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, due in part to the healthful high-fiber nature of these foods. So what is fiber? What exactly does it do to promote good health? How can you incorporate fiber into your family favorites? Read on for all the answers.

What is fiber?
Fiber is a substance that’s only found in plants. It cannot be digested or absorbed by the human body. The type of fiber that we eat is called dietary fiber. There are two main types of dietary fiber, soluble and insoluble. Both are important for good health.

What’s the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber?
The main difference between the two is how they more through the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber, also known as roughage, does not dissolve in water and moves more quickly through the digestive tract. Soluble fiber, on the other hand, mixes with liquid and binds to fatty substances to help remove them from the body. It’s important to eat foods that contain both types of fiber every day.

What are the health benefits of soluble and insoluble fiber?
Studies show that soluble fiber (including clinical research on barley soluble fiber) is effective in lowering blood cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease. Soluble fiber has also been shown to be beneficial in slowing the absorption of sugar, which, for people with diabetes, may help decrease the need for insulin. Soluble fiber may also help reduce the risk of developing type 2 or non-insulin-dependent diabetes. Studies show that insoluble fiber may be beneficial in lowering the risk of disorders such as hemorrhoids irritable bowel syndrome and certain cancers such as colon cancer. Insoluble fiber is the type of fiber that helps the human body maintain more “regular” bowel function.

Can dietary fiber help control weight?
Eating a high-fiber diet may be beneficial in weight control as well. High-fiber foods generally require more chewing time, which gives the body more time to register that it’s no longer hungry. This in turn may lessen the likelihood of overeating.

How much dietary fiber should I eat?
Health and nutrition professionals, as well as health organizations such as the American Heart Association, the American Dietetics Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommend eating 25 to 38 grams of dietary fiber every day.

What are some good sources of dietary fiber?
Good choices include grains such as barley, legumes such as split peas and lentils, fruits and vegetables.

How does barley compare?
Barley is a great choice when it comes to adding fiber to the diet. This wholesome grain contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. Click here to see how pearl barley compares to other common grains in total dietary fiber content.

How can I easily incorporate more fiber into my family meals?
For interesting variety, try adding a few vegetarian meals to your weekly dining repertoire. Entrees that use grains such as pearl barley, dry beans, lentils and vegetables are both economical and provide plenty of healthful fiber. For some delicious ideas featuring our favorite grain, click here.

^ Back to top


Are you getting enough?

Fiber, that is. Health and nutrition professionals say adult women should eat about 25 grams of fiber and adult men should eat about 38 grams of fiber each day.  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 continue to place a significant emphasis on eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains because they are nutrient-rich foods and because they are excellent choices when it comes to fiber consumption. But not all foods are created equal when it comes to fiber.

In the world of grains, barley ranks high as a fiber choice. See how a half-cup serving of cooked pearl barley compares to other typical grains:

Total dietary fiber per ½-cup serving cooked:
Pearl barley – 3 grams
Brown long-grain rice – 1.75 grams
Couscous – 1 gram
White long-grain rice – less than 1 gram

^ Back to top



Barley: a good carb with whole grain goodness

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 continue to put a major emphasis on eating whole grains. What is a whole grain? Is barley considered whole grain? How can you tell? Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know:

What is a whole grain?
In its natural state, a whole grain is considered the entire seed or kernel of the plant. The seed or kernel is made up of three parts, the bran, germ and endosperm. Whole grain products contain essential parts and the naturally occurring nutrients of the seed or kernel.

Bran
This is the outer skin of the kernel. The bran is typically a tougher layer that’s designed to protect the rest of the seed or kernel. The bran layer usually contains important antioxidants, B vitamins and fiber. It’s important to note that for many grains, fiber is only found in the bran layer. Barley differs from many grains in that fiber is found throughout the entire barley kernel and not just in the bran layer.

Germ
This layer is actually the embryo of the seed or kernel. The germ layer typically contains B vitamins, some protein, minerals and healthful fats.

Endosperm
This is the germ’s food supply and is the largest portion of the kernel. The endosperm contains starchy carbohydrates, proteins and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.

Why are whole grains considered such an important part of a healthful diet?
Whole grains naturally contain many key nutrients that are essential for good health. These include fiber, protein, important vitamins and minerals, and disease-fighting phytochemicals and antioxidants.

If a grain is processed, can it still be considered whole grain?
A seed or kernel that is processed (such as cracked, crushed, rolled or extruded) may be considered whole grain if the end product contains essentially the same balance of nutrients that are found in the original seed or kernel.

Is barley considered whole grain?
Yes, specific types of barley are considered whole grain. These include hulled barley (in which the kernels are minimally processed to remove only the tough inedible outer hull) and hulless barley (a type of barley in which the tough inedible hull is loosely adhered to the kernel and requires minimal to no processing). Hulled barley may be purchased in several forms including kernels (berries), cut (grits) and ground (meal and flour). Both hulled and hulless barley products are in more limited supply, but may be found in some health food stores and in the natural sections of some supermarkets.

What about pearled barley?
Pearl barley refers to covered barley that has been processed to a greater degree than hulled barley. Because pearl barley undergoes more processing, some insoluble fiber, trace minerals and micronutrients may be lost. Pearl barley is not considered whole grain. However it’s important to note that pearl barley (even heavily pearled barley) retains significant amounts of fiber, particularly heart-healthy soluble fiber. This is because, unlike some other grains, barley contains fiber throughout the entire kernel and not just in the outer bran layer. Very heavily pearled barley typically retains at least 8% fiber content. For a comparison of fiber content between pearl barley and other whole grains, click here. Even though pearl barley is not considered whole grain, it offers many important nutrients necessary for a healthful diet including heart-healthy soluble fiber, vitamins and minerals. For a nutritional breakdown of pearl barley, click here.

^ Back to top



Nutritional analysis

Per 1 cup cooked pearl barley
Calories - 193
Protein - 3.5g
Fat - 0.7g
Cholesterol - 0
Carbohydrate - 44g
Total dietary fiber - 6g
Calcium - 17mg
Iron - 2mg
Magnesium - 35 mg
Phosphorus - 85 mg
Potassium -146 mg
Sodium - 5 mg
Zinc - 1.2 mg
Copper - 0.16 mg

Manganese - 0.4 mg
Selenium - 13.5 mcg
Vitamin C - 0
Thiamin - 0.13 mg
Riboflavin - 0.09 mg
Niacin - 3.23 mg
Pantothenic acid - 0.21 mg
Vitamin B6 - 0.18 mg
Folate - 25 mg
Vitamin B12 - 0
Vitamin A - 11 IU
Vitamin E - 0.01 mg
Vitamin K - 1.25mcg

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 16
(July 2003)

^ Back to top