The Benefits of Barley: Appetite and Blood Sugar Control

Barley has such a mild flavor some might call it boring, but Swedish researchers have uncovered barley’s tremendous diabetes-related health benefits.

Putting Barley To The Test

After consuming bread primarily made from barley kernels for three days - at breakfast, lunch, and dinner - research participants had decreases in blood sugar and insulin levels, an increase in insulin sensitivity, and demonstrated better appetite control.

The effect barley has on blood glucose and appetite is attributed to barley’s amazing mix of dietary fibers. The fibers stimulate and cultivate good digestive bacteria, and the release of certain hormones.

“After eating the bread made out of barley kernel, we saw an increase in gut hormones that regulate metabolism and appetite, and an increase in a hormone that helps reduce chronic low-grade inflammation, among the participants,” said researcher Anne Nillsson. “In time this could help prevent the occurrence of both cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”

Getting Barley's Benefits

Though the Swedish scientists are not suggesting that eating barley is a solution for type 2 diabetes, they do hope more people will more often consume these fiber-rich, glucose normalizing kernels.

It’s easy to cook creatively with versatile barley:

  • Barley does not have to be restricted to beef barley soup. It makes an excellent nutritious addition to many of your favorite soups, stews, and casseroles without appreciably altering the flavor.
  • Some salads and veggie dishes will benefit from barley’s earthy texture. Barley goes very well in beet salads, for instance, and could be an interesting addition to your favorite potato salad.
  • Rice is usually used to make risotto, but you can make it with barley instead.
  • Barley can be used in drinks, including teas and water. To make lemon barley water simmer some pearl barley, strain the liquid, add lemon, and a bit of stevia or honey to sweeten.
  • A little milk and some fresh berries make cooked barley a warm, satisfying breakfast cereal.

Barley is also awesome on its own. The nutty, slightly buttery flavor and somewhat chewy texture makes barley a great compliment to many meats and main course dishes.

Sources: Science Daily; The Kitchn
Photo credit: Christian Scheja

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