Is Barley Gluten Free?

Is Barley Gluten Free

Barley is a cereal grain that belongs to the grass family Poaceae. It is the fourth largest grain crop globally, after wheat, rice, and corn. Barley is commonly used in breads, soups, stews, and health products, though it is primarily grown as animal fodder and as a source of malt for alcoholic beverages, especially beer.

Is Barley Gluten Free?

No, barley is not gluten-free. Barley contains around 5 to 8 percent gluten, so it should not be consumed by people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Barley is a cereal grain that is often used in soups, stews, beer, cereals, snack foods, and other processed foods. It is also referred to by various names on food labels, such as malted barley flour, barley flavoring, malt extract, and malt syrup.

While barley is a healthy whole grain, it is not suitable for a gluten-free diet. People following a gluten-free diet should avoid barley and products containing barley, as even small amounts can cause health issues for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Instead of barley, there are several gluten-free grains that can be enjoyed, such as buckwheat, amaranth, corn, millet, quinoa, teff, wild rice, and sorghum.

Nutritional Value of Barley

Barley is a highly nutritious whole grain that offers numerous health benefits. Here are some of the key benefits and nutritional value of barley:

  • Barley is rich in various vitamins and minerals, including niacin, vitamin B6, thiamin, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, and selenium.
  • It is an excellent source of fiber, providing 17.3 grams per 100 grams of uncooked hulled barley.The fiber in barley is mostly insoluble, which promotes digestive health.
  • Barley contains antioxidants called lignans that may help protect against certain types of cancer.
  • It is a good source of protein, providing 12.5 grams per 100 grams of uncooked hulled barley.

Health Benefits of Barley

  1. Improves digestion:The high fiber content in barley, particularly the soluble fiber beta-glucan, helps promote regular bowel movements and reduce constipation.
  2. Aids weight loss:The fiber and protein in barley can help promote feelings of fullness, reducing hunger and potentially leading to weight loss over time.
  3. Lowers cholesterol:The soluble fiber in barley, especially beta-glucan, can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by binding to bile acids and removing them from the body.
  4. Reduces risk of heart disease:The fiber, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant compounds in barley may help protect against heart disease by reducing inflammation, improving cholesterol levels, and supporting healthy blood pressure.
  5. Manages blood sugar:Barley has a low glycemic index, meaning it does not cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. The fiber and protein in barley may also help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  6. Protects against certain cancers:Preliminary research suggests that the antioxidants and fiber in barley may help protect against certain types of cancer, particularly gastrointestinal, breast, and prostate cancers.

In conclusion, barley is a highly nutritious whole grain that offers a range of health benefits due to its fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant content. Incorporating barley into a balanced diet can contribute to overall health and well-being.

Types and Uses of Barley

There are several different types of barley, each with its own unique characteristics and uses:

Whole Grain or Hulled Barley

  • Also called dehulled barley, it has been minimally processed to remove the tough, inedible outer hull while leaving most of the bran layer intact.
  • As the bran, endosperm and germ are left intact, hulled barley is considered a whole grain.
  • It has a chewy consistency and a slightly nutty flavor.

Pearl Barley

  • Pearl barley has been heavily polished in a pearling machine to remove the hull and the bran layer.
  • It is slightly smaller and white in color compared to hulled barley.
  • Technically, pearl barley is not considered a whole grain because the bran has been removed.
  • However, the fiber in barley is distributed through the kernel, so pearl barley still contains a lot of healthy fiber.

Pot Barley

  • Pot barley has been lightly polished in a pearling machine to remove the hull and some of the bran layer.
  • It is tan in color and because most of the bran layer is intact, pot barley is considered a whole grain.

Hull-less Barley

  • Hull-less barley has a loose outer hull that generally falls off during harvest.
  • This reduces processing and ensures that the bran is intact, making it a whole grain.

Barley Grits

  • Barley grits are made from cutting the barley kernel into several pieces, similar to steel-cut oats.
  • Grits from hulled or hull-less barley are considered a whole grain, but if made from pearled barley they are not a whole grain.

Barley Flakes

  • Barley flakes are created by steaming, rolling and drying barley kernels, similar to rolled oats.
  • They remain a niche product and are often only available in health food or specialty stores.

Barley Flour

  • Barley flour has a coarse texture and nutty flavor that lends itself well to hearty baked goods like spice cake, molasses cookies or artisan breads.
  • It does contain gluten, although not as much as wheat flour, so it is usually blended with wheat flour to make bread that will rise properly.
  • Barley flour has a shorter shelf life than wheat flour, so it should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer to maximize freshness.

Barley can be used in a variety of dishes, such as soups, stews, salads, pilafs, risottos, and as a side dish instead of couscous, pasta, or rice. It can also be added to desserts like puddings and ice cream for a unique twist.

Abbas Jahangir

I am a researcher and writer with a background in food and nutritional science. I am the founder of, our reputable online platform offering scientifically-backed articles on health, food, nutrition, kitchen tips, recipes, diet, and fitness. With a commitment to providing accurate and reliable information, we strive to empower our readers to make informed decisions about their health and lifestyle choices. Join us on's journey toward a healthier and happier lifestyle.

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