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Are There Health Benefits to Drinking Barley Water?

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 22, 2020

Barley is a grain used to make beer and cereals. It’s also a substitute for rice in many recipes. Barley is one of the world’s first cultivated grains, originating as early as 10,000 years ago in parts of Eurasia.

Barley is rich in nutrients and an excellent source of fiber. For centuries, many cultures have mixed the grain with water, believing it to be a health elixir that can treat u rinary tract infections, d igestive pain, and k idney problems. Modern science supports some traditional claims, and research studies point to other potential health benefits of drinking barley water. 

Raw barley is widely available at grocery stores. You can also buy pre-made barley water, however, make sure to opt for a bottle with few added ingredients. Some products contain preservatives, sugars, and flavorings that can reduce its nutritional value.

Nutrition Information

A ¼ cup of boiled barley contains: 

  • Calories: 170
  • Protein: 5 grams
  • Fat: 0.5 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 37 grams
  • Fiber: 7 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams

Barley water is a good source of: 

Barley water is also a great source of magnesium, a mineral that regulates muscle and nerve function. Research shows it can also help maintain blood sugar and blood pressure levels. 

Potential Health Benefits of Barley Water

Barley water is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The health benefits that can come from drinking it include: 

Improved Kidney and Liver Health

Some studies suggest that the nutrient profile of barley water may contribute to kidney and liver health. It may also prevent kidney stones and urinary tract infections from forming, however, more research is needed to confirm these effects.

Reduced Risk of Chronic Disease

Barley water contains ferulic acid, an antioxidant that studies show can protect your cells from cancer-causing damage and prevent tumor growth. Additionally, barley’s mix of dietary fibers reduces high blood sugar levels as well, a risk factor for chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. It is best to drink this water unstrained, as removing the grains can lower its fiber content. 

Heart Health

Barley water contains tocols, antioxidants that lower your cholesterol and clear artery blockages. Studies show its soluble fiber and niacin contents also contribute to its cholesterol management benefits. Maintaining good cholesterol levels and healthy blood vessel function can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke

Weight Management

Research shows the fiber content in unstrained barley water improves your metabolism, which may help with weight loss as part of a healthy lifestyle. Because fiber takes longer for your body to digest, it can help you feel fuller and avoid overeating. 

Early research conducted with mice found that barley releases an appetite-suppressing hormone in the gut. Researchers believe this effect might help treat or prevent obesity and diabetes, however, more research is needed to confirm if this is true in people. 

Immune System Support

The high level of antioxidants in barley water may give your immune system a boost. These nutrients fight cell damage that occurs naturally with age, but may increase due to various environmental and lifestyle factors. This cell damage, called oxidation, is linked to a range of chronic diseases, including cancer. 

Studies show that barley’s antioxidant profile has a unique ability to stimulate and heighten your immune system response as well. This effect may encourage faster recovery and help keep you from getting sick. 

Potential Risks of Barley Water

Barley water is an excellent source of many nutrients. However, its nutrient profile can cause health risks for some people. Talk with your doctor before adding it to your diet to make sure it’s a safe option for you.

The health risks that barley water can cause include:

Digestive Discomfort

Unstrained barley water contains high levels of fiber. This can promote good digestion and gut health. However, if too much of it is consumed, its fiber content can cause stomach cramps, constipation, bloating, and gas. 

Unwanted Weight Gain

Barley water is high in calories per serving. Its calories can increase if you add fruit juices or sweeteners like honey to your barley water mix. Moderate the amount you drink to avoid consuming too many calories, as this can lead to unwanted weight gain.

Allergic Reaction

Barley is high in gluten, therefore, it should be avoided if you have a gluten intolerance or Celiac disease.

Medication Interactions

Because it can lower blood sugar levels, talk to your doctor before adding barley water to your diet if you are currently on medication to manage your blood sugar.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research and Healthcare: “Health Benefits of Barley.”

Britannica: “Barley.”

Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine: “The Efficiency of Barley (Hordeum vulgare) Bran in Ameliorating Blood and Treating Fatty Heart and Liver of Male Rats.”

Journal of Food and Drug Analysis: “Bioactive phytochemicals in barley.”

Lund University: “Barley helps improve blood sugar levels, reduce appetite.”

University of Manchester: “Allergy information for: Barley (Hordeum vulgare).”

Mayo Clinic: “Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet.”

National Institutes of Health: “Magnesium.”

Nutrition Journal: “Effects of indigestible carbohydrates in barley on glucose metabolism, appetite and voluntary food intake over 16 h in healthy adults.”

Oncology Reports: “Ferulic acid exerts antitumor activity and inhibits metastasis in breast cancer cells by regulating epithelial to mesenchymal transition.”

Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity: “Molecular Mechanism of Functional Ingredients in Barley to Combat Human Chronic Diseases.”

PLOS One: “Barley β-glucan improves metabolic condition via short-chain fatty acids produced by gut microbial fermentation in high fat diet fed mice.”

USDA FoodData Central: “Barley.”

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