Barley has written its own history since the era of the ancient Egyptians. More than ten thousand years ago, ancient Egyptians were using barley, one of the earth’s oldest grains. They used it as food for humans and animals. The grain was also used in making alcoholic beverages and barley water for medicinal purposes.
The ancient Greeks used barley for making bread and served it as food for their athletes. They believed that barley bread contributed to the athlete’s overall strength. Even in ancient China, they recognized this special grain as a symbol of male virility.
In 1494, Christopher Columbus introduced barley to the land of America. However, even with barley’s ancient history, Americans do not include it as one of their staple foods. Unlike wheat and oats, barley was unpopular… until now! Barley has recently gained some recognition, not only in the culinary field, but also in the medicinal field as scientists have uncovered its astounding health benefits.
Today, Canada, the United States, Russia, Germany, France and Spain are the world’s largest producers of barley. It is a rich source of fiber, minerals, and phytochemicals that combat several types of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. Including barley in your meals is an appetizing way to combat these diseases since it has a rich, nutty flavor with a chewy consistency.
Barley resembles wheat berries but is lighter in color. It is also notable for its maltose content which is used for making malt syrup sweeteners. Breweries also use the grain for making beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages (although I don’t recommend those as part of your cancer-fighting diet!)
How Barley Fights Cancer
It was mentioned earlier that barley has the ability to combat cancer. Since it is naturally rich in fiber, it can boost your intestinal health; hence, protecting you from colon cancer. The fiber component of barley decreases your risk of colon cancer by increasing the bulk activity and decreasing the transit time of fecal matter which makes your colon healthier.
It’s not only the barley grain which wards off cancer, but the greens are also beneficial because of their superoxide dismutase component. Superoxide dismutase (SOD) is a type of enzyme that destroys harmful free radicals in the body. Based on a study conducted at the University of Iowa, there is a relationship between the levels of SOD and the occurrence of cancer. Diminished amounts of SOD were found in cancer cells. Researchers concluded that this relationship may help clinicians to formulate appropriate cancer treatments.
It is also believed that the barley greens’ antioxidant component, called alpha-tocopherol succinate, can fight cancer. Alpha-tocopherol succinate is a relative of vitamin E, which is known for its anti-cancer mechanisms. Alpha-tocopherol succinate has relative effects for several types of cancer such as brain tumors, prostate cancer, and leukemia.
Based on an experimental study conducted at George Washington University, the researchers used dehydrated barley grass extract to kill leukemic cancer cells. All of the leukemic cancer cells were killed. The researchers also tested the effects of the extract on brain cancer cells. Results revealed that the dehydrated barley grass extract eradicated 30 to 50% of the brain cancer cells. And on their third trial, the extract inhibited the growth of prostate cancer cells which was from 90 to 100 percent.
Barley grass is also rich in vitamin B-17 which has the potential to destroy cancer cells while leaving the healthy cells unharmed. Barley grass’ chlorophyll components play an important role in the detoxification of the body. With chlorophyll, free radicals can be warded off which cause harm to healthy cells.
Health Benefits of Barley
The benefits of barley do not stop with fighting cancer. It has a wide array of benefits for every individual. Here are some of barley’s other health benefits:
- Stabilizes blood pressure: The dietary fiber of barley helps stabilize blood pressure. It is also low in fat content and has zero cholesterol.
- Helps manage diabetes: Diabetic patients may benefit from barley due to its fibrous content. Since diabetic patients often need to lose weight to manage their blood sugar level, the inclusion of barley in their diet can be helpful. The grain also contains beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that slows down glucose absorption which is very beneficial for diabetics.
- Prevents formation of gallstones: Barley prevents gallstone formation by reducing bile acid secretion. Based on a study, women consuming a fibrous diet have a lower risk of developing gallstones.
- Prevents osteoporosis: Barley is rich in phosphorus which makes it ideal for preventing osteoporosis. Phosphorus plays an important role in the health of our bones. In fact, barley grass juice contains eleven times greater calcium content than milk. Ingesting enough phosphorus and calcium makes the bones strong and healthy.
- Prevents atherosclerosis: Atherosclerosis is a thickened artery wall which may be due to the acquisition of fatty materials. Since barley contains B-vitamins, it reduces the cholesterol level and fatty deposits accumulated in the arteries.
- Other health benefits include: Keeping the digestive system healthy, prevents heart disease, preserves skin elasticity, prevents asthma, and more.
How to Cook Barley
Here are some of the easiest ways to include this grain in your diet:
Barley salad. Making a barley salad is easy. Just mix a cup of pearled barley to a few slices of cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, freshly chopped mint, sliced bell peppers, and minced shallots. Add salt, freshly ground black pepper, and olive oil to taste.
Sautéed barley and mushrooms. Sauté onions in olive oil until caramelized. Then sauté the mushrooms. After a few minutes, toss the barley grains and greens into the pan. Add some dill and salt. Mushrooms also have anti-cancer mechanisms.
Barley-stuffed bell peppers. You can make barley-stuffed bell peppers for snacks. Cut the bell peppers in half. Remove the seeds. Stuff a mixture of cooked barley, cooked ground beef or turkey, chopped onion, cheese, eggs, salt and black pepper. Bake them for around 15 to 20 minutes until heated through. Serve and enjoy.
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