Why is Barley a great alternative grain?
Updated: Jan 6
There are certain foods we do not find ourselves eating in our regular diet though we know the benefits of it. Barley is one such popular grain that has been around for centuries. It is grown in many different parts of the world and can be used to make flour, beer, and even whiskey! No matter what you use barley for, there are some major benefits to this food. In this blog post, we will talk about the benefits so you can see why barley should be part of your diet and some easy to whip up recipes to include this grain in your diet.
Barley is grown on a significant scale in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Punjab. Usually sown during the autumn months of November and harvested in March or April, this crop is commonly available throughout India alongside wheat and rice. From being used as the main ingredient in food preparation to using it in traditional medicine, barley has many versatile roles to play.
Barley is found in two forms - Hulled Barley and Pearled Barley. If you are someone who has barley in your kitchen cabinet, the chances are that it is pearled barley. Let's see what the difference is?
Hulling is a process that removes the inedible shell on the grains leaving the layer of husk and the endosperm intact. In simple words, the fiber and the nutrients are all in there. Pearled barley like the name suggests appears like tiny white pearls. But that is not why it is called Pearled Barley. Unhulled barley is put in a pearling machine that polishes the surface and removes the husk layer.
Now that we have established there are 2 types of barley and most of you have checked your kitchen cabinet to see which one you have, let's look into these two types - their benefits, nutritional values, and recipes.
Barley - Nutrition Profile
Nutrition profile mostly depends on the soil and climate the crop is grown in and hence there will be a slight difference in the values. That said, both types of barley are nutritious and contain soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which are essential for good digestion. The grain is relatively low in the fat and sodium profile. As for the calories, pearled barley is low on calories when compared with white rice and has similar calories as brown rice. Hulled barley on the other hand has similar calories as white rice but is high on protein and fiber when compared to brown and white rice. Both the varieties of barley also contain beta-glucan, an insoluble fiber that is known to aid with managing cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Hence barley is definitely a great alternative for diabetics and those with elevated cholesterol.
Pearled barley has lesser calorie than hulled barley! Is it the right weight loss option then?
In hulled barley, the fiber content makes you full quickly, and hence you wouldn't be consuming equal quantities as white rice, which means you do not consume as many calories. Pearled barley on the other hand, though low on calories has lesser fiber which means you might tend to eat more quantity when compared to hulled.
Now you see how hulled barley can aid in weight loss?
So is pearled barley not healthy then? Not absolutely true! Though pearled barley does not have the husk which is insoluble fiber, it still contains soluble fibers. That makes it one of the best remedies for loose stools or diarrhea.
Will eating barley cause constipation?
Barley contains gluten just like wheat, rye, and spelt. This can cause constipation in some people. Barley is hence not suggested in those who have celiac disease. Try barley in your diet and notice for signs of constipation. If you do have signs of constipation, try the hulled variety. If constipation still persists try after a few weeks with more vegetables on the side.
How to cook Barley?
Like any other grain, barley can be cooked in water. Rinse the grain thoroughly before cooking. Boil 3 cups of water and add 1 cup barley to it. Bring to a boil and then cover and cook on simmer for about 40-50 minutes (pearled barley) or 50-60 minutes (hulled barley). If there is water left over, drain it out before serving the barley. The excess water can be consumed.
You can also rinse and dry the barley to mill it into powder and add in Chapathi/ bread dough, or simply mix in hot water to make barley water.
Barley is a versatile produce that can be used in many different dishes. Let us know how you'd like to eat barley in the comments below. Check out the recipes we whipped up using barley!