In this article, we look at the evidence behind the many health claims about barley, as well as its nutritional value. We also list steps on how to make barley water at home.
Five potential benefits
The health benefits of barley water include:
1. Fiber boost
Barley water is an excellent source of fiber, which helps to keep the digestive system healthy.
Many of barley's health benefits come from it being an excellent source of dietary fiber. Fiber is essential for keeping the digestive system healthy, contributing to healthy bowel movements, and helping people avoid problems such as constipation.
Researchers have linked a diet high in dietary fiber to a reduced risk of developing some chronic diseases. For example, people who eat plenty of fiber have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Barley is a soluble fiber, meaning it can dissolve in water and provides the body with useful energy. Fiber can also be insoluble, meaning it passes through the digestive tract without breaking down and does not provide the body with energy.
The American Dietetic Association recommend that adult women eat 25 grams (g) and adult men eat 38 g of dietary fiber every day. Most people in the United States do not meet this target, so barley may be an easy way for people to increase their intake.
In addition to its high fiber content, barley also contains a mix of beneficial vitamins and minerals.
2. Lowers cholesterol
While the results varied depending on the participant's overall health and the doses and quality of barley used, the author's concluded that eating or drinking barley products can be considered part of a plan to reduce total and LDL cholesterol.
3. Helps balance gut bacteria
The balance of natural gut bacteria plays an essential role in keeping a person healthy. Studies have shown that consuming barley-based foods leads to a reduction of a gut bacteria called bacteroides.
While these bacteria are not usually a threat, they are the most common species found in anaerobic infections, which occur after an injury or trauma. These infections can affect the abdomen, genitals, heart, bones, joints, and the central nervous system.
4. Lowers blood sugar levels
Barley-based foods have been shown to help boost the number of beneficial bacteria prevotella in the gut. These bacteria have been shown to help lower blood sugar levels for up to 11–14 hours.
5. Encourages weight loss
Barley prompts the body to release hormones that regulate appetite by making the person feel fuller for longer. These hormones may also boost the metabolism, which can contribute to weight loss.
How to make barley water
Barley water can be made with pearl barley, lemons, honey, and water.
Barley water is easy to make. Many people choose to add natural flavorings, such as lemon, to the water to give it a better taste.
To make 6 cups of lemon barley water, a person will need:
- ¾ cup of pearl barley
- 2 lemons (juice and peel)
- ½ cup of honey
- 6 cups of water
A person can follow the steps below to make barley water:
- Rinse the barley under cold water until water runs clear.
- Put the barley in a saucepan, along with lemon peel and 6 cups of water.
- Bring the mixture to the boil over a medium heat.
- Turn down the heat and simmer for between 15 and 30 minutes.
- Strain the mixture into a heatproof bowl and discard the barley.
- Stir in the honey until it dissolves.
- Pour into bottles and refrigerate until chilled.
Note that while the honey will enhance the flavor, it will also add sugar. People looking to reduce sugar in their diet may wish to replace honey with a pinch of stevia.
Are there any risks or side effects?
Barley contains gluten, so anyone with a wheat allergy or intolerance should avoid it. Symptoms of a wheat allergy may include:
Compared to whole-grain oats, barley has more dietary fiber and is lower in fat and calories. Per 100 g, barley contains 354 calories, 2.3 g of fat, and 17.3 g of fiber. The same quantity of oats contains 389 calories, 6.9 g of fat, and 1.60 g of fiber.
Barley-based foods have a range of health benefits, many of which come from its fiber content.
However, most studies have not looked at barley water specifically. It is also important to remember that sweetened barley water contains extra sugar and calories.