Barley grass is a common ingredient at juice shops and health stores, frequently appearing alongside other greens like kale, spinach, and wheat grass. It’s often dubbed a super food and used as a supplement to boost weight loss, enhance immune function, and support overall health.
What is barley grass?
Barley is a type of grain that’s considered the fourth most important cereal crop around the globe. Also known as barley leaves and barley greens, barley grass is the leaf of the barley plant. It has been studied extensively for its beneficial health effects and is often featured in green juices and supplements.
Although fresh barley grass can be tricky to find, it’s available in other forms, including powders, juices, tablets, and gummies. It’s often combined with other ingredients in green blends, including kale, spirulina, and wheatgrass.
Barley grass is rich in a variety of important nutrients. Dried barley grass, in particular, is a great source of fiber, boasting nearly 3 grams per tablespoon (10 grams).Plus, each serving of barley grass contains a good amount of vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin that regulates immune function, cell growth, and vision.
It’s also high in vitamin C, which plays a central role in everything from skin health to wound healing to oral health. It provides vitamin K as well, an essential micronutrient that’s needed for blood clotting, bone formation, heart health, and more.
Lastly, it’s rich in polyphenols and flavonoids. These compounds act as antioxidants to reduce oxidative stress and protect against chronic disease.
Barley grass has been associated with several potential health benefits:
May balance blood sugar levels: Some studies suggest that barley grass could help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels. This may be thanks to its content of insoluble fiber, a type of fiber that doesn’t dissolve in water. It’s speculated that increasing your fiber intake could reduce blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, making it easier for your body to use insulin effectively.
Nevertheless, studies on the effects of barley grass specifically are limited, and many are outdated. More research is needed to determine how consuming this plant could affect your blood sugar levels.
May support heart health:Adding barley grass to your diet is a great way to support heart health.According to one older study in 36 people with diabetes, taking 15 grams of barley leaf extract for 4 weeks decreased the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
What’s more, in an older animal study, rabbits fed barley leaf essence experienced decreased levels of total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, compared with a control group.
Barley grass also contains compounds like saponarin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and tryptophan, all of which have been linked to decreased blood pressure, reduced inflammation, and improved heart health.
However, most available research is outdated, and some studies have turned up conflicting results. Furthermore, many studies have used concentrated extracts of barley grass powder, which may not produce the same results as adding barley grass to your diet.
Therefore, more high-quality studies should be conducted to better examine how consuming barley grass may affect heart health in humans.
May promote weight loss: Barley grass is low in calories but high in fiber, making it a great addition to a healthy weight loss diet. Fiber moves through your body slowly, keeping you feeling fuller for longer to curb cravings and decrease hunger. In fact, several studies have found that increasing your intake of fiber could boost weight loss.
For example, one study in 252 women associated each gram of fiber consumed daily with 0.5 pounds (0.25 kg) of weight loss and 0.25% less body fat over 20 months. Similarly, a 6-month study in 345 adults with overweight or obesity showed that those who ate more fiber lost more weight and found it easier to stick to their prescribed diet.
Furthermore, one study in rats on a high fat diet showed that drinking barley grass juice decreased body weight and body mass index (BMI) more effectively than drinking a control. However, more research in humans is needed to evaluate the effects of barley grass on weight loss.
Although barley grass is generally safe to consume for most people, there are a few side effects and precautions that you may want to consider. First, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate the safety or effectiveness of barley grass supplements in the same way that it monitors drugs.
When purchasing supplements, be sure to buy from a reputable retailer and look for products that have undergone third-party testing and are free of fillers, additives, and artificial ingredients. Additionally, note that some barley grass products may contain high amounts of micronutrients like vitamin K or potassium.
Those taking blood thinners like warfarin should keep their vitamin K intake consistent to avoid interfering with these medications’ effects. Furthermore, people with kidney disease may be advised to limit their intake of potassium to help keep their blood potassium levels within the normal range.
Thus, if you’re taking medications or have any underlying health conditions, talk to a healthcare provider before using barley grass supplements. Finally, those who have celiac disease or sensitivity to gluten should exercise caution when purchasing barley grass products. Although gluten is only found in the seeds of the barley grain, there’s a risk of cross-contamination.
Barley grass is a common ingredient often featured in juices, supplements, and greens powders. It’s rich in several nutrients and may promote weight loss, enhance heart health, and support better blood sugar control, although more human studies are needed to confirm these benefits. Barley grass powder is widely available and works well in many different recipes, including shakes, smoothies, and juices.