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How Barley Helps with Weight Loss and Diabetes

barley for weight loss and diabetes

Barley is an often overlooked and misunderstood food you should consider including as part of your weight loss program. As an added bonus, barley can play a significant role in the management of diabetes, a condition often associated with being overweight. Barley also is a super food for vegetarian weight loss.


What’s special about barley?
Barley has many great qualities that make it a wise choice for losing weight, diabetes, and overall health. If you are exploring a vegetarian weight loss program and you haven’t tried barley yet, it’s time to put it on your shopping list.

Here are just a few reasons barley is special:

  • Easy to prepare—add water, boil, simmer, and you’re ready to enjoy as a hot cereal with your favorite toppings or you can add it to soups, cold or hot salads, casseroles, and more!
  • Barley water, which can be a byproduct of cooking barley, depending on how much water you use. Barley water is a nutritious and tasty alternative to regular water for dieters
  • A special fiber in barley called beta glucan helps lowers cholesterol
  • Barley fibers are also credited with reducing appetite, thus can help with weight loss
  • Fiber in barley also acts as food for beneficial bacteria (probiotics) living in your large intestine. In fact, a recent found that barley fiber enhances the activity of probiotics. When friendly bacteria in the intestines ferment the fiber in barley, the result is butyric acid, which supports a healthy colon, as well as acetic and propionic acids, which are used by your liver and muscles.
  • A little goes a long way. Just ½ cup of cooked barley provides less than 100 calories, 3 grams of fiber, less than 1 gram of fat, and 2 grams of protein
  • Packed with nutrients, especially manganese, molybdenum, fiber, and selenium, along with chromium, copper, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, and vitamin B1
  • Barley is also low on the glycemic index

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Barley for weight loss and diabetes
A new study from Lund University in Sweden found that barley can provide a number of significant health benefits within a matter of days. In fact, one of the study’s researchers, Anne Nilsson, Associate Professor at the Food for Health Science Centre, remarked that “It is surprising yet promising that choosing the right blend of dietary fibres [as present in barley] can—in a short period of time—generate such remarkable health benefits.”

In the study, middle-aged adults ate bread made either largely from barley kernels or white wheat for three days at each meal. Within 11 to 14 hours after the volunteers finished their final meal of the day, the researchers examined them for risk indicators of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Here’s what they found when they compared those who ate the barley bread with the controls:

  • Increased appetite control. “We saw an increase in gut hormones that regulate metabolism and appetite,” noted the authors. In fact, metabolisms improved for up to 14 hours among those who consumed barley bread
  • Decreased in blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Increases in insulin sensitivity

Ways to include more barley in your diet

  • Substitute barley for white rice as a side dish
  • Add barley to stews, salads, and soups
  • Choose breads made with barley
  • Consider trying barley water with a twist of lemon, ginger, or mint

Arena MP et al. Barley B-glucans-containing food enhances probiotic performances of beneficial bacteria. International Journal of Molecular Science 2014 Feb 20; 15(2): 3025-39
Nilsson AC et al. Increased gut hormones and insulin sensitivity index following a 3-d intervention with a barley kernel-based product: a randomized cross-over study in healthy middle-aged subjects. British Journal of Nutrition 2015 Sep 28; 114(6): 899-907