BARLEY: A HEALTHFUL CEREAL
DR. S. M. ALAM
Nov 28 - Dec 4, 2011
Barley is a wonderfully versatile cereal grain with a rich nutlike flavor and an appealing chewy, pasta-like consistency. Its appearance resembles wheat berries, although it is slightly lighter in color. Sprouted barley is naturally high in maltose, a sugar that serves as the basis for malt syrup sweetener.
When fermented, barley is used as an ingredient in beer and other alcoholic beverages. Barley originated in Ethiopia and southeast Asia, where it has been cultivated for more than 10,000 years. Barley was used by ancient civilizations as a food for humans and animals, as well as to make alcoholic beverages; the first known recipe for barley wine dates back to 2800 BC in Babylonia.
In addition, since ancient times, barley water has been used for various medicinal purposes. Barley played an important role in ancient Greek culture as a staple bread-making grain as well as an important food for athletes, who attributed much of their strength to their barley-containing training diets.
Roman athletes continued this tradition of honoring barley for the strength that it gave them. Gladiators were known as hordearii, which means "barley eaters". Barley was also honored in ancient China as a symbol of male virility since the heads of barley are heavy and contain numerous seeds.
Since wheat was very expensive and not widely available in the middle ages, many Europeans at that time made bread from a combination of barley and rye. In the 16th century, the Spanish introduced barley to south America, while the English and Dutch settlers of the 17th century brought it with them to the United States.
Barley contains eight essential amino acids. According to a recent study, eating whole grain barley can regulate blood sugar (i.e. reduce blood glucose response to a meal) for up to 10 hours after consumption compared to white or even whole-grain wheat.
The effect was attributed to colonic fermentation of indigestible carbohydrates. Barley can also be used as a coffee substitute. Hulled barley (or covered barley) is eaten after removing the inedible, fibrous outer hull. Once removed, it is called de-hulled barley (or pot barley or scotch barley).
Pearl barley (or pearled barley) is de-hulled barley which has been steam processed further to remove the bran. It may be polished, a process known as "pearling". De-hulled barley may be processed into a variety of barley products including flour, flakes similar to oatmeal and grits.
Barley-meal, a whole meal barley flour, which is lighter than wheat meal but darker in color, is used in porridge and gruel in Scotland.
Barley-meal gruel is known as Sawiq in the Arab world. With a long history of cultivation in the Middle East, barley is used in a wide range of traditional Assyrian, Arabic, Kurdish, Persian, and Assyrian foodstuffs including kashkak, kashk and murri.
Barley soup is traditionally eaten during Ramadan in Saudi Arabia. It is also used in soups and stews in Eastern Europe. In Africa, it is a traditional food plant. The six-row variety bere is cultivated in Orkney, Shetland, Caithness, and the Western Isles in the Scottish Highlands and islands.
The grain is used to make beremeal, used locally in bread, biscuits, and the traditional beremeal bannock.
Barley is a cereal grain that is used extensively in soups and stews. It is derived from the grass called Hordeum vulgare.
It grows as a widely adaptable crop and is popular in tropical as well as temperate areas. Barley plant is resistant to drought and more tolerant to soil salinity. It is one of the first crops that were grown in the near East, almost at the same time as einkorn and emmer wheat.
Neolithic humans had a common liking for the barley drinks. Barley makes a nutritious food for humans, with several health benefits to its credit. In many parts of the world, it is also used as the food for animals. It has a rich nutty flavor and pasta-like consistency.
Today, Canada, United States, Germany, France, Spain, and the Russian Federation are the leading commercial producers of barley.
The benefits of taking barley supplements, according to the health food industry, cover a wide range of conditions. The health benefits of barley, oats, and other whole grains are believed to include a decreased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes.
Barley is rich in dietary fiber, which gives food to the friendly bacteria present in the large intestine. These bacteria ferment the insoluble fiber content of the barley to form butyric acid.
The acid, in turn, functions as the main fuel for intestinal cells. Besides this, it is functional in maintaining a healthy colon. The dietary fiber in barley aids the production of acetic acids and propionic acid as well, which serve as the fuel for liver and muscle cells.
Barley helps in reducing the cholesterol level in blood. The friendly bacteria that are fed by barley's insoluble fiber also help in removing the pathogenic bacteria from the body.
Barley is rich in niacin, which is highly effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. It prevents the oxidation of LDL, by the free radicals. Niacin also lowers the assembling of platelets, which can lead to the clotting of blood.
The cereal is effective against diseases like atherosclerosis, diabetes, insulin resistance, and ischemic stroke. Barley's rich content of insoluble fiber helps women fight against the formation of gallstones.
It is rich in phosphorous, which has an integral part in the formation of body cells' structure. Phosphorous is highly required for the formation of mineral matrix of the bones.
Besides, it is an important component of compounds like ATP, nucleic acids and lipid-containing structures like nervous system and cell membranes.
Barley helps in maintaining a healthy intestine. It helps in decreasing the transit time of fecal stuffs and also increases the bulk. As a result, the risk of colon cancer and hemorrhoids gets reduced to a considerable extent. The cereal contains copper, which reduces the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Copper is also required for the activity of lysyl oxidase, an enzyme required for the cross-linking of collagen and elastin. These substances provide the basic substance and flexibility to bones, joints, and blood vessels.
The cereal contains plant ligans, which get converted into mammalian ligans by the friendly flora present in the intestines. They are said to provide protection against breast cancer and other hormone-dependent cancers, apart from being known for their effectiveness in case of heart diseases as well. Barley can prove to be extremely helpful in curing childhood asthma. It substantially lowers the risk of diabetes also.
The benefits of eating barley for breakfast are numerous and well-documented. A cereal grain taken from the annual grass called Hordeum vulgare, barley is so versatile that it presently offers itself up for use in many aspects. It is utilized in both stews and soups, barley bread of different cultures, animal fodder, as a malt base for beer and other kinds of distilled drinks, and a part of various types of health foods.
A recent survey of different forms of cereal crops found barley to be ranked number four in the context of both its area of cultivation as well as the amount produced.
One of the top reasons that barley is produced in such a great magnitude is due to the health benefits it provides for people who pick it as a part of their breakfast meal.
Eating barley for breakfast can provide benefits to your blood sugar levels. Partially because of the eight kinds of essential amino acids that barley has, studies have found that regularly ingesting barley (the whole-grain kind) can actually control your blood sugar levels.
Regularly eating barley can lessen the usual blood glucose reaction that people typically get after eating a meal. These blood sugar-reduction benefits were observed for up to 10 hours after each meal in people who regularly eat barley.
The final benefit of eating barley for breakfast is the amount of zinc you get by eating it. Zinc is a vital element that has advantageous effects on the human body. It has been proven as a healing element in that it contributes to speeding up healing after an injury.