Several studies suggest that barley can lower cholesterol levels by 15 per cent in individuals with elevated cholesterol levels. In one study, subjects with hypercholesterolemia were fed barley or oat foods for six weeks. Barley and oat flours were used in equivalent amounts in breakfast cereals, bran muffins, and flat bread recipes. While both barley and oat diets lowered total cholesterol by five per cent, LDL (bad) cholesterol was reduced by 14 per cent in subjects fed barley diet compared to seven per cent in those fed the oat diet.
Barley and oats are a good source of "beta glucan", a water-soluble form of fibre. The viscous fibre seems to retard fat and cholesterol absorption by the intestine. The fibre tends to bind bile salts, thus increasing cholesterol removal from the body. Presence of fat-soluble substances such as tocotrienols (vitamin E) in it appears to suppress cholesterol synthesis by the liver. However, this does not explain barley's efficacy in getting cholesterol levels down. A 100 gm of barley contain about 3 gm of soluble fibre which pales in comparison to oatbran's 7.2 gm. Barley's cholesterol-reducing capacity goes beyond what its soluble fibre content provides. Scientists are trying to figure out what is it about barley that makes it effective.
Another important benefit of barley is its remarkably low glycemic index, which means it releases its carbohydrate much slower than most grains. This property helps increase the satiety value of the meal and offers immense benefits for those with diabetes and obesity.
Barley is a high-fibre, low-fat food that helps to promote satiety. It is also a pre-biotic i.e. it promotes the growth of friendly bacteria. It has been found extremely useful in treating ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, constipation and diarrhoea. Barley broth and lemon barley water are also used to treat urinary tract infection.
While several varieties of barley are known, it is mostly used today for preparing malt. Whole barley is available as porridge (cracked) or ground as barley flour. Pearled barley is a refined form which may not be as useful as "whole" for cholesterol reduction. Meanwhile, just add barley to your diet as a flour to make rotis or bread, to porridge, in soup or salad.
Source: Indian Express