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Health Food of the month - Barley

August 2019

Field of Barley

Previous Health Foods of the Month...


Brown and white foods



Diet & Supplements Index

Do you remember barley sugars? This traditional golden boiled sweet used to be one of the staple treats of childhood before more extravagant and exotic food ideas entered the market. And what about Robinson’s Barley Water? Most people of a certain age will definitely remember this pale drink that was the staple refreshment for tennis players at Wimbledon as well as at many childhood parties.

While barley is still popular in America, here in the UK barley, apart from its use in beer making, no longer features highly in modern life. This is a shame as it is a super nutritious food that offers all sorts of great benefits.

For a start, almost all forms of barley use the whole grain and this offers a particularly rich source of fibre, molybdenum, manganese and selenium. It also offers very good levels of copper, vitamin B1, chromium, phosphorus, magnesium and niacin.

Interestingly, barley contains lignans. This is a group of antioxidants that are linked to a lower risk of cancer and heart disease so is especially appropriate for us as we get older.

Barley though, like many grains, contains an enzyme inhibitor or antinutrient which helps prevent the proper breakdown of their proteins. This means they can be less digestible in their raw state. Cooking, soaking or sprouting the barley can help make it more easily digestible by deactivating these protein protective enzymes.

Barley is available in many forms, from whole and hulled barley and barley cereals to a range of barley flours including organic barley flour. Scotch barley means some or all of its bran husk has been removed and pearl barley is when the grain has been processed to remove its fibrous outer hull and then polished to remove some or all of the bran layer. Pearl barley is the most common form of barley to eat because it cooks more quickly and can also be softer and less chewy to eat than other forms.

Barley has remained popular for beer making because its carbohydrates are well suited to malting and break down easily into sugars. Some whisky also uses barley. But today we are beginning to see a little more barley being used in every day diets as well, not just as barley flakes for breakfast cereals of porridge or in stews to add extra nutrition and thickening, but also cooked as a side dish instead of rice or quinoa or even in modern protein bars.

You can easily obtain barley flour these days for cooking, including organic barley flour, and it produces a wonderfully soft texture ideal for scones or muffins. Ideally though, it is best to mix it with wheat flour to get a good result. Many recipes suggest half barley flour and half wheat flour give a perfect result.

You can make barley flour bread as well, but again most recipes suggest mixing the barley flour with another grain for the best results. Today barley flour is very easily obtainable, including from the top online websites.

However you use it, with its excellent nutritional properties and unique flavour, it is definitely worth considering adding barley to your diet.

There is lots of information on the web. Some useful sites include:


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