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Barley, a small cereal grain with great benefits

January 06, 2021
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Barley, a small cereal grain with great benefits

Antioxidant, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetes and anti-obesity action, protects the heart and the microbiota, strengthens the immune system, thanks to the fibers contained in it brings a sense of satiety

Barley is a cereal grain, scientific name Hordeum vulgare, widespread and appreciated all over the world. Barley can be found in different forms, such as flakes, grains, powder to prepare tasty drinks, but also flour that can be added to bread and pasta. Let's see what science says about the properties of the cereal and also some ideas to eat it in an enjoyable way!

Barley, properties

Barley contains mineral salts, such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, zinc and selenium, vitamins of group B, vitamin E and K (USDA Database). Not only that, barley is rich in fiber, especially beta glucans, but it also contains antioxidants, such as flavanols, and folates. These substances give this cereal the ability to counteract free radicals, but also powerful antitumor and antidiabetic properties, since barley increases the sense of satiety, improves insulin resistance and reduces the glycemic peak after eating (Zeng et al, Oxid Med Cell Longev, 2020).

Moreover, barley fibers help reduce bad cholesterol and triglyceride values ??in the blood, lowering cardiovascular risk. Barley fibers support the intestinal microbiota, counteract constipation and help reduce abdominal fat (Li et al, Nutrition, 2003). This latter effect, as well as the reduction of cholesterol, was observed over the long term, at least after twelve months of barley intake (Shimizu et al, Nutrients, 2019). It should also be noted that the beta glucans of barley act by reducing chronic inflammation in the body, which in the long run could weaken the immune system and also increase the risk of atherosclerosis (Arcidiacono et al, Sci Rep, 2019). Finally, the polyphenols contained in barley also show antiobesity properties (Zeng et al, Oxid Med Cell Longev, 2020).

Barley, hulled or pearl?

Hulled barley is considered a whole grain since, in this case, only the outermost, inedible part of the grain is removed. Precisely for this characteristic, hulled barley is the richest variant in mineral salts, fibers and vitamins, but it requires prolonged soaking and cooking. Pearl barley, on the other hand, is easier to find, requires a shorter cooking but is poorer in beneficial substances as it has undergone a processing that has deprived it of the bran.

Barley in the kitchen

Barley can be added in flakes to morning yogurt while barley flour can be used to replace a small part of wheat or spelt flour to prepare, for example, biscuits or focaccia. Barley flour increases the antioxidant power and the fiber content, in particular beta glucans, of the products to which it is added (Narwal et al, J Food Sci Technol, 2017). In the Healthy Food section of the app you can find some ideas for serving barley without forgetting the taste. For example, the orzotto with Belgian endive or, for the winter period, the barley and legume soup is excellent.

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