When the weather gets cold, the soup on the stove warms the heart. With some barley in the pot will improve your health along with the flavor of whatever soup or stew you're cooking. In addition to its robust flavor, barley's claim to nutritional fame is based on its being a very good source of fiber and selenium, and a good source of phosphorus, copper and manganese.
Barley's Fiber for Regularity, Lower Cholesterol, & Intestinal Protection
Wish you were more regular? Let barley give your intestinal health a boost. In addition to providing bulk and decreasing the transit time of fecal matter, thus decreasing the risk of colon cancer and hemorrhoids, barley'sdietary fiber also provides food for the "friendly" bacteria in the large intestine. When these helpful bacteria ferment barley's insoluble fiber, they produce a short-chain fatty acid called butyric acid, which serves as the primary fuel for the cells of the large intestine and helps maintain a healthy colon. These helpful bacteria also create two other short-chain fatty acids, propionic and acetic acid, which are used as fuel by the cells of the liver and muscles.
The propionic acid produced from barley's insoluble fiber may also be partly responsible for the cholesterol-lowering properties of fiber. In animal studies, propionic acid has been shown to inhibit HMG-CoA reductase, an enzyme involved in the production of cholesterol by the liver. By lowering the activity of this enzyme,propionic acid helps lower blood cholesterol levels.
In addition, barley'sdietary fiber is high in beta glucan, which helps to lower cholesterol by binding to bile acids and removing them from the body via the feces. Bile acids are compounds used to digest fat that are manufactured by the liver from cholesterol. When they are excreted along with barley's fiber, the liver must manufacture new bile acids and uses up more cholesterol, thus lowering the amount of cholesterol in circulation. Soluble fiber may also reduce the amount of cholesterol manufactured by the liver.
Lastly, when barley provides insoluble fibers that feed friendly bacteria in the digestive tract, this helps to maintain larger populations of friendly bacteria. In addition to producing the helpful short-chain fatty acids described above, friendly bacteria play an important protective role by crowding out pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria and preventing them from surviving in the intestinal tract.
Barley's fiber can prevent or help with a number of different conditions. For example, when barley's fiber binds to and removes cholesterol-containing bile, this can be very beneficial for people struggling with heart disease since it forces the body to make more bile by breaking down cholesterol, thus lowering cholesterol levels.
The fiber in barley can also help to prevent blood sugar levels from rising too high in people with diabetes.
Additional Protection Against Atherosclerosis
Yet another reason to increase your intake of barley is that, in addition to its fiber, barley is also a good source ofniacin, a B vitamin that provides numerous protective actions against cardiovascular risk factors. Niacin can help reduce total cholesterol and lipoprotein levels.
Niacin may also help prevent free radicals from oxidizing LDL, which only becomes potentially harmful to blood vessel walls after oxidation. Lastly, niacin can help reduce platelet aggregation, the clumping together of platelets that can result in the formation of blood clots. One cup of barley will supply you with 14.2% of the daily value for niacin.
Significant Cardiovascular Benefits for Postmenopausal Women
Eating a serving of whole grains, such as barley, at least 6 times each week is a good idea, especially for postmenopausal women with high cholesterol, high blood pressure or other signs of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Barley and Other Whole Grains Substantially Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Barley and other whole grains are a rich source of magnesium, a mineral that acts as a co-factor for more than 300 enzymes, including enzymes involved in the body's use of glucose and insulin secretion.