Barley, or "Jao" in Hindi, is botanically known as Hordeum vulgare and belongs to the grass family. Barley was first cultivated in the near east and was the staple cereal of the Egyptians in the ancient times. Barley is a very good source of fiber, selenium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese.
The fiber present in barley lowers cholesterol by binding to bile acids and getting rid of them. Thereafter, the liver is forced to produce more bile acids, which results in the usage of more cholesterol. The fiber decreases the transit time of the body's waste products by providing bulk, thus prevents constipation, hemorrhoids, and colon cancer. In the large intestine, barley's insoluble fiber is fermented to butyric acid, propionic acid, and acetic acid. These short chain fatty acids are used by the liver and muscles for metabolism.
The cholesterol lowering property of barley can be attributed to propionic acid. The natural bowel flora thrives on insoluble fiber; so, when barley provides them with this type of fiber, they multiply and occupy the available space, thereby preventing pathogenic bacteria from surviving in the intestinal tract. An important role of fiber is to lower the blood sugar levels when there is very little or no production of the insulin in the body. Women consuming appropriate amounts of such fiber daily are known to be at a lesser risk of developing breast cancer.
Niacin is a type of B vitamin that is also found in barley. This vitamin prevents blood clot formation and LDL oxidation, thereby reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and heart attacks. Selenium, another constituent of barley, is an essential mineral in several pathways of metabolism like the antioxidant defense system, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA repair and synthesis, inhibition of the growth of malignant cells, and clearance of dead cells. The above grain also contains copper, which along with selenium decreases the symptoms of asthma and arthritis.
Barley is also used in beer making. Barley water is used for various medicinal purposes. It is a very common home remedy used since ancient times in the treatment of urinary tract infections. Gladiators in ancient times were also called as "hordearii," which means barley eaters, so why not make barley a part of our daily diet and become modern day gladiators!