Barley for a Healthier Heart

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Did you know that all foods made with the whole grain barley are legally allowed to highlight the fact that they reduce your risk of heart disease?

The edict was given by the FDA, and it isn’t a claim the organization throws around too often. Any company that makes food that uses barley, or has at least 3/4 of a gram of soluble fiber from barley, can claim to provide heart disease protection. These foods include such barley products as grits, flour, flakes and barley meal.

The reason is that barley, easily one of the healthiest whole grains in the world, has been proven to lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood. And high cholesterol is a serious hidden cause of heart disease, because you are completely unaware it is occurring. You can’t see your cholesterol levels rising in the bloodstream. And many are unaware of what it can do: harden arteries and bring on a condition of atherosclerosis.

High levels of cholesterol seem to irritate the walls of blood vessels and cause them to change. The higher your cholesterol, the greater the risk for heart disease, so getting a blood-cholesterol test is important. Experts believe that cholesterol levels should not exceed 180 mg/dl.

Your total cholesterol is made up of: LDL, the “bad” form that causes blockage in the arteries; HDL, the “good” one that prevents cholesterol from building up in the arteries; and triglycerides, a form of fat in your blood that is dangerous.

By making a move to include whole grain barley foods in your diet, you can take a stand against heart disease — the number one killer of adults, causing half a million people to die prematurely every year in the U.S.

This old, cultivated cereal is extremely nutritious. Most notably, it provides incomparable amounts of fiber: just one cup nets you nearly 70% of what your body needs daily. Aside from the cholesterol bit, this enormous fiber content leads to many other health benefits. It helps with the passing of stool, decreasing the risk of colorectal problems (most notably, colon cancer).

Fiber also produces butyric acid when it’s digested in your intestines. This is a fatty acid that becomes the major energy source for cells in your intestines. The fiber in barley also produces propionic acid, which has been proven to lower cholesterol by inhibiting an enzyme in the liver that produces cholesterol.

Barley is also high in beta-glucan, which helps lower cholesterol. The whole grain contains extremely high levels of selenium, a mineral with potent antioxidant power and one that is continually being investigated for cancer- protection abilities. Barley also has very high levels of tryptophan, phosphorus, copper and vitamin B3.

Finally, eating fiber-rich barley helps trigger large numbers of the good, friendly bacteria in the digestive tract, because they feed on fiber. This in itself is a disease- blocking action, because it means there will be more good bacteria and less of the kind that can cause disease.

Look out for barley bits you can add to soups and stews, or flakes of barley or rolled barley that can be made into cereal or used in baked goods. Or, any way you can creatively come up with to incorporate this food into your diet.

You need to substitute barley for less-healthy foods for this cholesterol-lowering effect to occur. Simply adding it to a diet of cheeseburgers and nachos won’t help. Eating barley is another lifestyle and diet measure to take to help out your heart.

In 2004, a study was published to see how barley could affect people whose total cholesterol ranged from 200 to 240. (Everyone should aim to be under 200.) With no drugs as an aid, the participants maintained a balanced diet for two weeks, one created by the American Heart Association.

Then, after two weeks, barley entered the equation on a daily basis. A key ingredient in barley is beta-glucan, and some people ate barley flakes, barley flour, and pearled barley to get the most of this ingredient. The rules were that nobody could cheat the diet and they had to eat everything the researchers gave them. Sure enough, the heavy-hitter barley lowered cholesterol across the board. The numbers went like this:

  • Low levels of beta-glucan: total cholesterol dropped four
    percent; LDL cholesterol dropped eight percent
  • Medium levels: total cholesterol dropped nine percent;
    LDL dropped 14%
  • High levels: total cholesterol dropped 10%; LDL
    dropped 17.4%

Sometimes eating a lot of barley can make people feel overly full. That’s about the only downside to this
explosively healthy kitchen cure. There are other whole grains, such as oats, spelt, brown rice, and rye, which will help you gain similar results. But it’s the fiber in barley that sets it apart.