Barley is a whole grain rich in vitamin B-complex, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, selenium, zinc, copper, protein, amino acids, dietary fiber, beta-glucans and various antioxidants. You can reap the health benefits of this versatile grain not just by including it in your diet, but also by preparing a healthy drink called barley water.
Drinking barley water on a regular basis helps keep many health problems at bay and nourishes your body. In addition to drinking barley water, you can add it to your salads, stews and steamed vegetables.
Homemade barley water is healthier than packaged versions laden with sugar and preservatives that is sold in stores.
How to Make Barley Water
Rinse barley under running water, then soak it in water for at least 4 hours.
Strain it and mix 1 cup of the soaked barley in 3 to 4 cups of water.
Bring it to a boil, then let it simmer (covered) for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the grains are cooked and softened.
Allow it to cool.
Strain it through a fine mesh strainer, or simply pour it in your cup and let the grains remain settled at the bottom of the pan.
Drink 1 to 2 cups of barley water daily for good health. To improve its taste and enhance its health benefits, you can add a little lemon juice and raw honey.
You can prepare this drink with pearl or hulled barley. Although pearl barley is more readily available in the market, it is best to use whole, hulled barley as it has the most fiber and nutrients.
Store the excess barley water in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You need not discard the cooked barley grains after making your barley water. Use them as a thickening agent for soups and stews, or simply add them to your smoothies.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of barley water.
1. Treats UTIs
Drinking barley water is a great natural remedy for urinary tract infections (UTIs). Being a natural diuretic, it increases urination to help flush toxins and the infection-causing bacteria out of the body.
Plus, it helps cleanse the kidneys and acts as a good anti-inflammatory for the urinary system. Thus, it is also used for treating issues like cystitis, kidney stones and high creatinine levels.
To combat a UTI, drink several cups of barley water daily until you get rid of the problem.
2. Supports Weight Loss
Barley water is a great health drink for those striving to lose weight. Its high fiber content, especially beta-glucans, keeps you satiated for a long time so you do not indulge in eating unnecessarily, simply out of habit.
Plus, barley water is good for digestion and stimulates metabolism of fats. Although barley water is made of barley, rest assured that it is not the same as beer that increases the risk of weight gain.
To assist weight loss, drink 3 cups of barley water daily.
3. Lowers Cholesterol
Being high in insoluble fiber, barley water is considered good for reducing blood cholesterol levels, thereby decreasing the risk of developing heart disease. The dietary fiber in barley is also high in beta-glucans that help prevent the absorption of cholesterol from food in the stomach and intestines.
Barley-derived beta-glucans have been found to be beneficial for reducing total cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins (LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol) and triglycerides.
4. Heart Healthy
In addition to lowering cholesterol, barley water also helps prevent atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by thickening of arterial walls that puts blood flow at risk and increases the chances of developing cardiovascular disease.
Barley water contains the B vitamin niacin that has been found to help slow the development of atherosclerosis, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and lipid-altering effects. Plus, barley water helps lower high blood pressure, another contributing factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke.
5. Digestive Aid
Being alkaline in nature and rich in soluble as well as insoluble fiber, barley water is excellent for your intestinal health and promotes digestion. It is beneficial for treating digestive problems including constipation, hemorrhoids and gastritis.
You can also drink barley water during bouts of diarrhea to restore fluids and electrolyte balance. Moreover, its dietary fiber helps reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancers as it increases the bulk activity and reduces the transit time of fecal matter. It is also believed to help prevent gallstones by reducing the secretion of bile acid.
6. Controls Diabetes
Barley water is good for diabetics because it helps stabilize blood glucose levels. The beta-glucans (a type of soluble fiber) in barley help slow the absorption of glucose after a meal and reduce the rise in glucose and insulin.
Numerous studies have found that beta-glucans can help improve blood glucose control and insulin resistance. It also reduces the risk of obesity, a key risk factor for Type 2 diabetes.
Moreover, barley is considered a low glycemic index food. When combined with carbohydrate counting, foods low on the glycemic index help in blood glucose management. The phytochemicals present in barley are also beneficial for controlling diabetes as well as heart disease and cancer.