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Unlocking the Health Benefits of Barley: From Ancient Remedies to Modern Science

Author: Yean Toh | Published date: May 11, 2024 | Category: Nutrition


Barley: More Than Just a Drink - Unlocking its Health Benefits

Barley is more often drunk than eaten. The Chinese drink barley water as a fever remedy and also to dispel "body heatiness". Beer, which is brewed from barley, is likewise reputed to have a cooling effect on the body.

The Surprising Health Benefits of Barley: From Ancient Remedies to Modern Science

While carbohydrates and grains are being blamed for causing problems like diabetes and obesity, barley has been scientifically proven to actually help these problems.

  • In 2009, Japanese researchers reported that study subjects had lower blood glucose levels if they switched from eating rice to eating barley.
  • In 2010, Dutch researchers reported on a study in which to men were given either cooked barley or refined wheat bread for dinner. The next morning, they were given a high glycemic index breakfast that had 50g of glucose. Those who ate barley the night before were found to have 30 percent greater insulin sensitivity than those who ate refined wheat.


Exploring the Therapeutic Potential of Barley: Insights from Science and Tradition

In Ayurveda or traditional Indian medicine, barley is recommended as a cure for "sweet urine disease". In fact, people on diabetes medication are advised to monitor their blood glucose levels if they eat barley, for fear of low blood glucose or hypoglycemia.
This quality of barley probably stems from the fact that it has a very high fibre content- averaging 17 percent and reaching as high as 30 percent in the case of a special variety called Prowashonupana barley. In comparison, the fibre content of other grains range from 3.5 percent for brown rice, to 10.6 percent for oats and 12.2 percent for wheat. And what's unique about barley fibre is that it occurs throughout the grain, not just on the skin or bran. So even "pearled" or polished barley still contains good amounts of fibre.

Barley Fiber: The Key to Managing Blood Glucose and Insulin Sensitivity

'Chinese' barley: When the Chinese talk about "barley", they actually refer to a different grain, known as Chinese barley, Job's tears, yi ren in Chinese, or hato mugi in Japanese. This is the main type of "barley" eaten, or boiled into barley water, throughout East Asia.
Chinese barley is fatter and rounder, with a wider slit down the middle, compared to regular barley. The taste and nutritional properties of the two grains are similar. In traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine, Chinese barley is claimed to have anti-tumour, anti-cancer and other medicinal properties.

The fibre content of Chinese barley is about 20 percent, slightly higher than that of regular barley. This fibre is also present throughout the grain.

This content is adapted, with permission, from Book 1 of 2 : The Wonders of Nutrition by Dr Ang Poon Liat. MBBS, M.MED (PAED), MRCP (UK PAED), FAMS, MD.

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