Barley has long been known to been one of the best grains to eat mainly because of its benefits for maintaining heart health but recently, Swedish researchers found that this grain that doesn’t get much press like other grains should actually be part of your eating plan to lose weight.
Health benefits of barley
Before we get into the benefits of barley for weight loss, let’s look at why you need this grain in your diet even if there are no weight loss benefits attached to it.
Barley is one of the richest sources of certain types of antioxidants (tocotrienols) which prevent damage from free radicals (dangerous oxygen molecules) to healthy cells. If free radicals are allowed to damage your healthy cells unabated, it increases the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc.
The antioxidants in barley prevent heart disease by first lowering cholesterol levels and reducing the body’s production of cholesterol. Other antioxidants in barley also help prevent tiny blood clots from forming which also reduces the risk of heart disease.
Barley is also beneficial for preventing the development of certain cancers because it is a rich source of vitamin E and selenium which can help protect against cancer.
In addition, barley is a very rich source of fiber especially soluble fiber which has many health benefits such as lowering cholesterol, binding to certain cancer causing agents and preventing their absorption in the body, slowing digestion which helps to control blood sugar, preventing constipation, etc.
Barley as part of your eating plan to lose weight
Back to the reason that you are probably reading this article. The reason that Swedish researchers think that barley should be part of your eating plan to lose weight is tied to it being a rich source of fiber. As we’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site, fiber is important for weight loss and weight management. With barley being a rich source of fiber, you should plan for this to be part of your weight loss diet.
New research from Lund University in Sweden found that adding barley to the diet may help people lose weight. The study, which was published in the British Journal of Nutrition, had adults eat either a barley kernel-based bread or white bread three times a day for three days.
Researchers examine participants’ blood after the brief diet and found that those who ate the barley bread had a boost in their metabolism for up to 14 hours, decreased blood sugar and insulin levels, and better appetite control than their white bread-eating counterparts.
The metabolism boost and reduced feelings of hunger are due to an increase in good gut hormones caused by fiber in the barley, scientists say. There was also an increase in a hormone that helps reduce chronic inflammation. Over time, researchers say, this could lower the odds that a person will develop heart disease and diabetes.
“It is surprising yet promising that choosing the right blend of dietary fibers can — in a short period of time — generate such remarkable health benefits”, says Anne Nilsson, one of the researchers involved in the study, which appears in the British Journal of Nutrition.
The researchers hope that this knowledge about barley will translate into more stores stocking food products containing barley, so that people are encouraged to use it in meals, for example in salads, soups, stews, or as an alternative to rice or potatoes.
In the meantime, the researchers suggest taking these steps:
- Avoid white flour
- Choose bread with as much whole grains as possible. Feel free to mix with other grains, for example rye
- Add barley kernel grains in soups and stews
- Replace for example white rice with cooked barley
- Eat beans and chickpeas with your meal, as these foods, like barley have a good blend of dietary fibers and, like barley, do not stimulate appetite and have positive health effects.
Other beneficial tips for making barley an important part of your eating plan to lose weight is to buy it whole because what you commonly find in grocery stores (pearl barley) has gone through an extensive refining process which removes the healthful outer husk and bran layer.
The best type of barley is hulled barley for which only the outer inedible hull has been removed leaving the part that is the best source for fiber and other vitamins and minerals intact. Hulled barley will taste nuttier and have a more distinctive flavor than barley that has gone through extensive processing. Hulled barley is commonly found at health food stores although more grocery stores are starting to carry more healthful products including hulled barley.
Besides making barley a part of your eating plan to lose weight, there are other foods that should be part of this plan since I’m sure you don’t just want to only eat barley. Discover the types of food you should eat as well as when to eat then so that you will be able to lose 21 lbs in 3 weeks following the proven eating plan in The 3 Week Diet guide.