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Health food of the month - Barley

September 2011

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Diet & Supplements Index
Barley is a member of the grass family and is such a normal part of our everyday life that few of us give it any consideration at all. It has been known as barley (or baerlic) from around 966 AD and is an excellent cereal grain.      

It is used in many of our breakfast cereals today and also found in many health foods and sometimes in soups and stews. It is also used in beer making and as animal food. It does contain gluten which means if you have celiac disease, then barley is inappropriate for you.

But for the rest of us, along with its nice nutty taste, it has a surprisingly high level of good nutritional qualities.

BarleyFor a start, barley is a high fibre food, something that is essential in everyone’s diet. Also it seems the propionic acid produced from barley’s insoluble fibre may contribute towards lowering cholesterol. Barley is also a good source of niacin, a B vitamin that has numerous benefits including protection against certain cardiovascular risk factors. Niacin is also said to help reduce the clumping together of platelets; this joining of platelets can lead to blood clots.

Barley is also said to be a rich source of magnesium. This mineral acts as a co-factor for more than three hundred enzymes in our body including our use of glucose and insulin secretion. Barley is also said to be an excellent source of selenium, an essential for many of our major metabolic pathways and of benefit to help protect us against many life-threatening problems. A cup of cooked barley is said to provide us with just over half of our daily requirements of selenium.

The list of benefits from barley go on. It seems it is abundant in phytonutrients such as plant lignans, which help form our protection against breast and other hormone-dependent cancers.

Finally it seems that copper and phosphorus are also provided by this amazing cereal, trace minerals that both have a role to play in our well-being.

It really is quite surprising that something considered as such a basic and even boring cereal can contain quite such a wide spectrum of key nutrients. I am not sure that barley retains all its goodness when used in beer making, so I won’t drink the pub dry in my latest attempts to get fit and healthy! But I will be looking at barley in a new light and check to see whether I should think about changing my breakfast cereals to ensure barley is now regularly included in my normal diet.

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