Barley is a wonderfully versatile grain with a rich nut like flavor and chewy consistency. It's appearance resembles wheat berries, although it's slightly lighter in color. Barley does have gluten so it's not a good choice if you have Celiac disease. Sprouted barley is naturally high in maltose, a sugar that serves as the basis for both a malt syrup sweetener and when fermented, as an ingredient in beer and other alcoholic beverages.
Barley can be found in the market in various different forms:
- Hulled barley: Like the name suggests, the outermost hull of the grain is all that gets removed in this form of barley. While this makes for a chewier grain that requires more soaking and cooking, it also makes for a more nutritious food. Hulled barley is also sometimes called "dehulled barley," and it's the only form of barley what would be considered whole grain.
- Pearl barley: Various degrees of polishing, or "pearling" take place in the production of pearl barley. In addition to a polishing off of the outermost hull, the grain's bran layer, and even parts of its inner endosperm layer, may be removed during the pearling process. In general, as you move from regular to medium to fine to baby pearl barley, you find increasing loss of nutrients. Pearl barley is much less chewy and quicker cooking than hulled barley, but it is also much lower in nutrients, and would not be considered whole grain.
- Pot/scotch barley: In terms of processing, this form of barley falls in between hulled and pearl barley. It's been polished to remove its outer hull, but the polishing process is short, so that a large amount of the remaining grain is left intact. While pot barley would not technically be considered whole grain, and would lack some of the benefits of hulled barley, it's still a very reasonable nutritional choice and more nutrient dense than pearl barley. In many countries, pot barley is popular in soups - thus the origin of its name.
- Barley flakes: Flattened and sliced, barley flakes are similar in shape to rolled oats. Barley flakes can be made from hulled, hulless, or pearl barley, and can be significantly different in nutrient content for this reason.
- Barley grits: Barley that has been toasted and cracked, barley grits are similar in appearance to bulgar. Barley grits can be made from hulled, hulless, or pearl barley, and can be significantly different in nutrient content for this reason.
Baking With Barley
Barley flour lacks sufficient gluten for many baked good recipes. When making baked goods that require gluten, combine barley flour and wheat flour. The more the baked good needs to rise, the less barley flour should be used, proportionately. For loaves of yeast bread, the barley flour should only constitute about 20 to 25 percent of the total flour content. For flat breads, you can use a little more. For quick breads and cookies, you can use barley flour for up to half of the flour content. It's inadvisable to use much more than 50 percent barley flour in any baking recipe. Baked goods made with barley flour, breads in particular, have a different consistency than those made with other kinds of flour. Barley flour makes baked goods moister than flour made from other grains. Barley flour also gives baked goods a cake-like texture as opposed to a bread-like one.
Health Benefits Of Barley
In scientific studies, barley has been shown to reduce the risk of many diseases, and to provide important health benefits. Barley offers many of the same healthy vitamins and minerals as other whole grains, but many think its special health benefits stem from the high levels of soluble beta-glucan fiber found in this grain.
According to a recent review in the journal Minerva Med, beta-glucans reduce cholesterol, help control blood sugar, and improve immune system function. New research even indicates that beta-glucans may be radio protective: they may help our bodies stand up better to chemotherapy, radiation therapy and nuclear emergencies.
- Barley, like all whole grains, reduces blood pressure.
- Eating barley has been shown to lower LDL "bad" cholesterol and may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
- A flood of recent research indicates that barley's ability to control blood sugar may be exceptional, offering an important tool against rising rates of diabetes.
- Barley has more protein than corn, brown rice, millet, sorghum or rye, and is higher in fiber and lower in soluble (starch) carbohydrates than almost all other whole grains.
- Barley may help you feel full longer, and thereby help you control your weight.
- Barley – even pearl barley – may help reduce visceral fat and waist circumference.
- Barley's Copper may also be helpful in reducing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
The Grain Council
Celliac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity
Is barley gluten-free, or does barley contain gluten? March 31st 2014