See also Wheat Cereals.
Energy value (calories per serving): Moderate
Saturated fat: Low Cholesterol: None Carbohydrates: High Fiber: High
Major vitamin contribution: B vitamins, folate
Major mineral contribution: Iron, potassium
About the Nutrients in This Food
Barley is a high-carbohydrate food, rich in starch and dietary fiber, particu- larly pectins and soluble gums, including beta-glucans, the fiber that makes cooked oatmeal sticky. The proteins in barley are incomplete, limited in the essential amino acid lysine. Barley is a good source of the B vitamin folate.
One-half cup cooked barley has 4.5 grams dietary fiber and 12.5 mg folate (3 percent of the R DA for healthy adults).
The Most Nutritious Way to Serve This Food
With a calcium-rich food and with a food such as legumes or meat, milk, or eggs that supplies the lysine barley is missing.
Diets That May Restrict or Exclude This Food
Buying This Food
Look for: Clean, tightly sealed boxes or plastic bags. Stains indicate that something has spilled on the box and may have seeped through to con- taminate the grain inside.
* Values are for pearled barley.
Storing This Food
Store barley in air- and moisture-proof containers in a cool, dark, dry cabinet. Well protected, it will keep for several months with no loss of nutrients.
Preparing This Food
Pick over the barley and discard any damaged or darkened grains.
What Happens When You Cook This Food
Starch consists of molecules of the complex carbohydrates amylose and amylopectin packed into a starch granule. When you cook barley in water, its starch granules absorb water mol- ecules, swell, and soften. When the temperature of the liquid reaches approximately 140°F, the amylose and amylopectin molecules inside the granules relax and unfold, breaking some of their internal bonds (bonds between atoms on the same molecule) and forming new bonds between atoms on different molecules. The result is a network that traps and holds water molecules. The starch granules swell and the barley becomes soft and bulky. If you continue to cook the barley, the starch granules will rupture, releasing some of the amylose and amylopectin molecules inside. These molecules will attract and immobilize some of the water molecules in the liquid, which is why a little barley added to a soup or stew will make the soup or stew thicker.
The B vitamins in barley are water-soluble. You can save them by serving the barley with the liquid in which it was cooked.
How Other Kinds of Processing Affect This Food
Pearling. Pearled barley is barley from which the outer layer has been removed. Milling, the process by which barley is turned into flour, also removes the outer coating (bran) of the grain. Since most of the B vitamins and fiber are concentrated in the bran, both pearled and milled barley are lower in nutrients and fiber than whole barley.
Malting. After barley is harvested, the grain may be left to germinate, a natural chemical process during which complex carbohydrates in the grain (starches and beta-glucans) change into sugar. The grain, now called malted barley, is used as the base for several fermented and distilled alcohol beverages, including beer and whiskey.
Medical Uses and/or Benefits
To reduce cholesterol levels. The soluble gums and pectins in barley appear to lower the amount of cholesterol circulating in your blood. There are currently two theories to explain how this might work. The first theory is that the pectins form a gel in your stomach that sops up fats and keeps them from being absorbed by your body. The second is that bacteria living in your gut may feed on the beta-glucans in the barley to produce short-chain fatty acids that slow the natural production of cholesterol in your liver. Barley is very rich in beta-glucans; some strains have three times as much as oats. It also has tocotrienol, another chemical that mops up cholesterol.