Cereal grains are some of the most common sources of energy available to our society; they are powerful sources of essential vitamins, fiber, and phytochemicals (plant nutrients) that are crucial for optimal human health. They are versatile seeds from grasses that our ancestors cultivated for making bread, beer, oats and maize products.
Cereal grains like barley and wheat are often cited as nutritional gemstones, and incorporating them into your diet can help you meet your daily requirements for whole grains and fiber.
However, many readers may be unfamiliar with the nuanced nutritional differences between barley vs. wheat. Both have certain strengths and weaknesses depending on your health goals and understanding how barley or wheat fits into your diet can be a useful addition to your overall knowledge of healthy food options.
To better understand how the two are similar, different, and which one is best for you, we'll be taking a look at...
- The nutritional content of Barley
- The nutritional content of Wheat
- How Barley and Wheat compare to one another and how to best add them to your diet.
Cereal grains have been irreplaceable in the human diet circa thousands of years, and they are staples necessary for the survival of millions of people. Even more critical, their chemistry offers important clues into their applications to our health.
To begin, let’s start by explaining the grain that is probably less familiar to most readers...
WHAT IS BARLEY?
Barley, known by its Latin name Hordeum vulgare, is the fourth most important cereal grain in the world (wheat, corn and rice have it beat); many people know it as a key ingredient in the production of beer.
The quality of their malt and their total yield depends on the size of the grain and their overall weight. This grain is highly versatile, and can be processed fine into flour, or served as a whole grain; it has a light, slightly nutty flavor profile, and pairs well with foods that are usually served with whole wheat products.
Barley is often processed into two forms; hulled barley or pearled barley. Hulled barley simply has the hard, inedible shell casing removed, preserving its bran. Pearled barley has the outer shell and bran removed, resulting in a less nutritious product. Thus, only hulled barley is considered a true whole grain, despite the fact that pearled barley is more available.
Barley nutrition, in particular, is fascinating compared to other whole grains. 100 grams of hulled barley contains:
- 354 calories.
- Fiber (17.3 g)
- Vitamin E (.06 mg)
- Vitamin K (2.2 mcg)
- Folate (19.0 mcg)
- Calcium (33.0 mg)
- Magnesium (133 mg)
- Phosphorus (264 mg)
- Potassium (452 mg)
Barley health benefits are directly related to its high fiber content. A diet high in fiber has been definitively linked to better cardiovascular and metabolic outcomes in adults.
There is also evidence that certain crops of barley are able to increase the body’s concentration of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an inhibitory neurotransmitter that reduces excitotoxicity of reactive neural ensembles, and promotes feelings of well-being, relaxation, heightened cognition, and better sleep.
The next time you consider adding a healthy bonus to your diet and want to make meeting your daily fiber requirements more interesting, consider supplements that use hulled barley.
Or better yet, cook some up for yourself -- its preparation is relatively simple compared to other whole grains that require additional processing to be edible! Tasty and versatile, barley is a wonderful grain that can supercharge your health.
WHAT IS WHEAT?
Wheat (Latin name: Triticum) is one of the more popular whole-grain cereals and is currently the most widely-used cereal crop in the world. Not only that, over 150 metric tons of wheat are traded around the world every single year; its unmatched versatility as an ingredient has made it one of the most profitable, available, and nutritious cereal grains.
Wheat is often processed into bleached white flour, which is a popular way of consuming wheat; unfortunately, this type of processing can remove up to 40% of the original grain, such as the bran and germ that have the most nutrients. Opting for products that are complete whole wheat is much better, as the nutrient content is preserved; these can include products made with whole wheat flour.
Whole-grain wheat flour nutrition can be broken down into the following nutrient quantities. 100 grams of whole-grain wheat flour contains:
- 332 calories
- Fiber (13.1 g)
- Vitamin A (9 IU)
- Vitamin E (.53 mg)
- Folate (28.0 mcg)
- Calcium (33.0 mg)
- Magnesium (117 mg)
- Phosphorus (323 mg)
- Potassium (394 mg)
Phosphorus, potassium, and folate are crucial dietary minerals and vitamins that maintain different bodily functions. Phosphorus allows our tissues to develop and grow, potassium is needed for our neurons to function well, and folate is needed to make red and white blood cells, as well as turn dietary carbohydrates into energy.
Similar to barley, wheat cannot be fully digested, and its high fiber content -- combined with its nutrient profile -- may provide a protective effect against heart disease and obesity.
Societies that primarily eat a lot of whole-grain foods (at least 210 grams per day) like wheat have a reduced risk for heart disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and death from chronic diseases. There is strong evidence that whole grain diets -- those that include wheat -- significantly reduce the likelihood of developing colon cancer, in particular.
IS BARLEY OR WHEAT BETTER FOR ME?
Both of these grains can be a healthy addition to your diet, but they do have some notable differences that may make one or the other a better choice for your goals and lifestyle. Despite being whole grains, barley and wheat vary in their nutrient profile, as well as their ease of preparation.
For example, when deciding on barley vs. wheat, it is important to consider:
Both barley and wheat contain high amounts of fiber per 100 grams, and we really are splitting hairs here when deciding which is the better source. However, barley comes out on top by containing more fiber than wheat at the same weight.
Whole grains do contain a certain amount of protein, and in this pairing, both hulled barley and whole-grain wheat are comparable sources of protein.
While both cereal grains can be prepared easily, wheat must be processed and ground into something useable, while barley can be prepared relatively quickly (much like rice).
Barley is the fourth most-grown cereal grain in the world, but wheat is number one.
Wheat has a weaker, less pronounced depth of flavor than barley.
In many cases, the amount of fiber in both are the main reason for wheat and barley’s substantial health benefits.
That’s why ATH Organics found the best of both worlds -- great flavor, natural supplementation, and a high fiber content that doesn’t feel heavy.
With ATH Organics’s GREENS, you receive an organic blend of:
- Alkalizing greens
- Immunity booster
- Energy enhancers
Quality is at the heart of ATH Organic’s mission, and whether you choose wheat, barley, or any other plentiful whole grain choice, we have you taken care of with organic blends that fit into your lifestyle and fitness journey.