Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.): Health benefits and Side effects

Barley health benefits and side effects

Edited By Dr. Asha Jyoti Bharati
Barley scientifically known as Hordeum vulgare L. is a fast growing, annual grain crop, that could be used as forage as well as malt. It holds 7% of the global cereal production and ranks fourth after wheat, rice, and soybean (1). Barley is categorized under superfood because it contains high amount of dietary fibers and phytochemicals.
Regular consumption of barley reduces the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, obesity, heart problems (2). Also barely exhibit strong antioxidant, antiproliferative, and cholesterol-lowering properties (3).

Nutritional value of Barley

Barley is a good source of many nutrients and minerals and other components as follows (4).

Compound Amounts per 100 g.
Water 9.44 g
Energy 354 kcal
Protein 12.48 g
Total lipid (Fat)s 2.30 g
Carbohydrates 73.48 g
Dietary Fiber 17.3 g
Sugar 0.80 g
Folates 19 µg
Niacin 4.60 mg
Riboflavin 0.28 mg
Thiamin 0.64 mg
Vitamin B-6 0.32 mg
Vitamin E 0.57 mg
Vitamin K 2.2 µg
Vitamin A 22 IU
Calcium 33 mg
Iron 3.60 mg
Magnesium 133 mg
Phosphorous 264 mg
Zinc 2.77 mg
Sodium 12 mg
Potassium 452 mg

Health benefits of Barley

1. Sleep-inducing

Barley is a very effective functional food for inducing sleep. The components like GABA, Ca, K and tryptophan in barley shows sleep-inducing properties (5).

2. Antidiabetic

Magnesium, selenium, copper, and chromium present in barley acts as an antioxidant. This helps in protecting the vascular diseases of diabetic patients. The rich dietary fibers also help in delaying the sugar absorption and glucose and hence reduce the fasting blood sugar level (6). The beta-glucan of barley is very effective in controlling Type II diabetes (7).

3. Healthy Stomach

Barley in diet due to insoluble dietary fibers increases the fecal weight and shortened the gastrointestinal transit time (8). It also contains β-glucans which is able to improve the growth rate of the tested probiotic bacteria in the digestive tract (9).

4. Prevents obesity

Anti-adipogenic property of barley due to coumaric and ferulic acid helps in stopping fat cell accumulation in the body (10). Also, the β-glucans and fiber of barley suppress appetite and improvement of insulin sensitivity (11).

5. Prevents gall stone

Barley is a rich source of insoluble fiber which prevents gallstones formation. It not only minimizes the secretion of bile acid but also dissolves previously formed gallstones (12).

6. Healthy Heart

Barley contains high soluble fiber and beta-glucans consumption to protect against cardiovascular disease (13).

7. Healthy beverage option

Barley is used as a tea ingredient in East Asian countries such as Korea, China, and Japan. The phenolic and antioxidants compounds present is thus provides a healthy beverage option.

8. Controls cholesterol

The research suggested that consumption of 3 – 10 g of β-glucan lowers total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides in the body (14). Also, barley dietary fiber is more effective than any other fiber at lowering blood cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic person (15).

9. Prevents hypertension

Saponarin in barley regulates blood pressure and prevent diseases caused by oxidative damage. It also contains minerals like K, Na and Ca and GABA which maintain blood flow, digestion and general detoxification of the body (16).

10. Antidepressant

Barley leaves prevent the stress-related psychiatric disorders of depression. Main functional compound for this are vitamins and minerals and antioxidants such as flavones C-glycoside, saponarin, and lutonarin. (17).

11. Healthy Liver

Barley sprouts are a rich source of saponarin, which protect liver effect by inhibiting the inflammatory response induced by alcohol (18).

12. Healthy skin

Barley contains GABA compound which reduces the inflammation and increases the WBCs further detoxifies acne skin (19).

13. Anti Cancerous

Barley prevented cell cycle progression, causes the death of breast and prostate cancer cells because of strong antioxidant, phytochemicals, and flavonoids (20).

Side effects of Barley

1. Asthma

Barley flour may induce bronchial asthma through inhalation and oral routes due to an IgE-mediated mechanism (21).

2. Celiac disease

Due to gluten present in barley, it can induce celiac diseases results in the inflammatory of the small intestine (22).

Healthy Recipes of Barley

1. Barley soup

Preparation of barley soup is easy and is a healthy option.


  1. Pour oil in a pan (1 tablespoon) heat it and fry ginger and garlic for atleast 1 to 1 and a half min.
  2. Add vegetables of your choice (beans, zucchini, bell peppers, raw papaya, etc) and barley (Presoaked) and saute it. Best if you boil the vegetables for 5 to 8 mins before adding in the pan as it will cook easily and requires lesser oil. Then add water and cook again for 10 to 15 mins
  3. Garnish it with coriander and spring onions.

2. Sprout barley salad

Barley sprouts can be prepared by soaking and draining barley for two to three days. These spouts can be eaten with other salad and vegetables like onion, cucumber tomato, carrots, olives, etc.

3. Barley fruit salad

Barley can be consumed as a salad with other fruits like pomegranate, avocado and lemon juice.

4. Barley drink

  1. Boil the barley for at least half an hour.
  2. Strain the mixture
  3. Add lemon juice and honey




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