EN on Foods

February 2009 Issue

Barley Boasts a Bonanza of Fiber and Selenium

The Folklore. Initially cultivated in Southeast Asia and Ethiopia, barley was used for food and fermented into wine, a popular beverage in ancient Babylonia. In ancient Greece and Rome, barley was a major food for athletes; gladiators were called hordearii, "eaters of barley." The Facts. Barley is available in many forms—whole, pearled, flakes, grits, meal, flour—which vary in fiber and nutrients, though all are nutritious. Barley is a good source of the B vitamin niacin and the minerals copper and selenium, but it shines in fiber content. Cup for cup, even pearled barley (the most common form) contains nearly twice the fiber of brown rice and six times that of white rice. All barley contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which provide health benefits, including helping lower total and low-density lipoprotein ("bad" LDL) cholesterol; slowing the absorption of glucose, which stabilizes blood sugar levels; promoting regularity; and increasing satiety.

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