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.
7. Gives You Clear Skin
As barley water helps remove toxins from the body, it helps you maintain clear and glowing skin. Moreover, barley contains a compound called azelaic acid that is used to treat mild to moderate acne. It also helps reduce inflammation associated with skin breakouts and prevents clogged pores.
Plus, the antioxidants present in barley water help fight free radicals. Thus, it helps reduce the signs of aging and maintain younger-looking skin.
In addition to drinking barley water, you can also apply it on your face, leave it on for 10 minutes and then rinse it off. You can apply it a few times a week.
8. Beats the Summer Heat
Barley water is excellent for quenching your thirst and providing relief from the summer heat. In addition to hydrating the body, it helps reduce internal body heat, thanks to its natural cooling and soothing properties. Plus, this healthy beverage provides nutrition and improves blood circulation.
Make your barley water more refreshing and energizing by adding fresh lemon juice and rock sugar. You can serve it warm or chilled. The cooling relief that you get by drinking barley water comes from its cooling properties, not from its external temperature.
9. Pregnancy Elixir
Being loaded with nutrients, barley water is a wonderful health drink for pregnant women. Plus, it promotes digestion, prevents constipation and eases morning sickness. It regulates blood sugar levels to avoid gestational diabetes and also prevents fungal infections during pregnancy.
As barley water helps flush out toxins and gets rid of excess water from the body, it helps treat water retention, also called edema. Pregnancy edema is characterized by foot and ankle swelling during pregnancy.
Nursing mothers can also take barley water as a lactogenic food to help increase breast milk production. To increase its effectiveness for this purpose, you can pour hot barley water over 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds, let it steep for 5 to 10 minutes and then drink it.
10. Improves Immunity
Barley water is a nutritional powerhouse packed with plenty of nutrients like B vitamins, iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc and selenium, all of which boost your immunity. Plus, the beta-glucans present in barley have the ability to activate the immune system.
It is essential to strengthen the immune system because it is the body’s defense mechanism to fight off various diseases and infections like the common cold, flu, stomach flu and more. Moreover, due to its iron and copper content, barley water also helps prevent anemia and fatigue.
- As barley water is a diuretic, do not drink more than 6 glasses a day.
- Barley water contains gluten. So, it is not recommended for those who are gluten intolerant.