Barley is an ancient grain mentioned in the bible and first cultivated around 13.000 years ago. It is often overlooked by today's culinary trendsetters, yet it is one of the grains with the greatest health benefits and has a good flavour and is very versatile. Barley can be used as a breakfast cereal, in soups and stews and as a highly nutritious substitute for dishes such as risotto. It is a low-glycaemic grain, high in both soluble and insoluble fibre. It is a good source of vitamin B3 (niacin), has high concentrations of tocotrienols, the "super" form of vitamin E, selenium and provides lignans, which are phytochemicals that function as
antioxidants. Women who consume lignans (also present in high levels in flaxseed) are less likely to develop breast cancer.
Soluble fibre helps the body metabolise fats, cholesterol and carbohydrates and lowers blood cholesterol levels, is cardio-protective. Insoluble fibre promotes a healthy digestive tract and reduces the risk of cancers especially colon cancer. Hulled barley, in which the outer husk (the bran) is left intact, contains more fibre and nutrients than other forms, such as pearl barley. Hulled barley lowers blood cholesterol levels, protects against cancer especially colon cancer, is cardio-protective, protects against diabetes as it slows starch digestion, which help keep blood sugar levels stable.
The fibre found in barley provides food for the beneficial bacteria in the large intestine. This is important as the "good" bacteria can crowd out the disease-causing bacteria in the intestinal tract, resulting in greater health and disease resistance.
Green barley grass, which is the young shoots of barley, is rich in calcium, iron and many other minerals, all the essential amino acids, chlorophyll, flavonoids, vitamin B12, Vitamin C and enzymes. Green barley juice made from these sprouts is said to contain eleven times the calcium in cows' milk, nearly five times the iron in spinach, seven times the vitamin C in oranges, and, unusual for plant food sources, it contains 80 mcg of vitamin B12 per hundred grams. Barley greens are also rich in beta-carotene, vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6 and B9. Because of this barley grass juice can be used to treat avitaminosis and many other health disorders.
Barley grass juice is also used medicinally to heal stomach and colon disorders, duodenal ulcers, ulcerative colitis and is an effective anti-inflammatory. Research in Japan has also proven it an effective treatment for Alzheimer's disease, anaemia, arthritis, asthma, cancer, cellular damage from x-rays, diabetes, gastritis, heart disease, hepatitis, obesity, Parkinson's disease and peptic ulcers and useful for skin rejuvenation. It can also repair the DNA in the cells of the body and aid in the prevention of abnormal growths, aging and cell death. Barley grass is also extremely rich in antioxidants, including tocotrienols (vitamin E) and one powerful
antioxidant called tricin and it also also has antiviral activity.
Barley grass is easily grown as a sprouting seed. See the Sprouts page for more information.