Barley may be best known as an ingredient in beer, but it is actually an important cereal grain worldwide, as well as a source of numerous health benefits!

Why barley?

  • Barley is higher in fiber than most whole grains, especially soluble fiber which slows down digestion and makes you feel full longer.
  • Whole grain barley is a good source of cancer-fighting antioxidants.
  • Eating barley can help lower blood pressure, LDL ("bad" cholesterol), and help reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Recent studies have shown barley to be especially helpful in controlling blood sugar.


There are dozens of varieties of barley, but most fall into the following three categories:

  • Pearled — The inedible hull has been scraped off, which also eliminates much of the bran layer (See "Whole Grains" diagram). This is the most common, but least nutritious variety. 1/2 cup cooked provides about 97 calories, 2 grams protein, and 2 grams fiber.
  • Hulled — The hull is removed more carefully, leaving most of the nutritious bran layer intact.
  • Hull-less — This type of barley grows in a looser hull, so it doesn't need to be "pearled." 1/2 cup cooked provides about 113 calories, 4 grams protein, and 5 grams fiber.

How do I use barley?

  • Choose hulled or hull-less barley for the most nutrition.
  • Whole grain barley has a long cooking time (50-60 minutes, or slightly longer at high altitudes), so it can be helpful to make a large batch, then freeze or refrigerate smaller quantities for later use.
  • See the panel to the left for several tasty ways to get the health benefits of barley!