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Barley and Diabetes

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 29 million people (nearly one in 10) in the United States have diabetes. One in four people with diabetes doesn’t know he or she has it. And another 86 million have pre-diabetes.

There are three types of diabetes:

Type 1 - autoimmune disease with no cure

Type 2 - often lifestyle related due to poor diet and lack of exercise

Gestational Diabetes - a condition some expectant mothers develop

In every case, diabetes is a serious disease that can lead to heart, kidney, and nerve damage if not properly treated. Treatment typically includes insulin and/or oral medication. Other options to managing diabetes involve diet and physical exercise.

That's where barley comes in. This ancient grain has a unique profile of nutrients that has been shown to help control blood glucose levels and offer protection against Type 2 diabetes.

Read on for more specifics about the health benefits of barley for Type 2 diabetes.


One of the biggest dietary components to diabetes management is fiber intake. Barley is a great source of dietary fiber and actually contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is effective in lowering blood cholesterol and can reduce the risk of heart disease. Soluble fiber is also beneficial in slowing the absorption of sugar and reducing the risk for developing type 2 or non-insulin-dependent diabetes.

The insoluble fiber found in barley may be beneficial in helping the body maintain regular bowel function. Insoluble fiber may also help lower the risk for certain cancers such as colon cancer.

Beta Glucans

Barley is a smart choice for those concerned about Type 2 diabetes because it's high in a specific type of soluble fiber called beta glucans. In fact, it has more beta glucan fiber than any other grain. Beta glucans have been shown to slow glucose absorption, helping maintain glycemic control ( keeping blood sugar levels steady).

 For More Information Regarding The Benefits Of Barley For Diabetics:

*BarleyFoods.org - Barley Fight Diabetes

*Prevention.com - 14 Fantastically Healthy Foods For Diabetics

*World's Healthiest Foods - Barley and Other Whole Grains Substantially Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

*DiabetesHealth.org - An Inside View of Barley Beta Glucan

*Livestrong.com - Barley and the Glycemic Index

*Whole Grains Council - Health Benefits of Barley

*HealthWithFood.org - Barley Beta Glucans in Diabetes Prevention

*Today's Dietician - Betting on Beta Glucans

Another benefit of beta glucans is the lowering of total and LDL cholesterol. One study found that consuming 3 grams of beta glucan a day (about one serving of whole barley) could lower cholesterol up to 8 percent.

Finally, as a soluble fiber, beta glucans become gel-like when digested, helping you feel fuller, longer -- meaning less overeating and eating less often. For Type 2 diabetics, who often suffer from being overweight, this is a weight-loss benefit.

According to Diabetes Health magazine, barley "has repeatedly established positive clinical results with regard to diabetes control. It not only boosts immune function by supporting macrophages and neutrophils, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and helps control obesity, but also attenuates postprandial glucose levels, improves insulin sensitivity, and promotes a feeling of satiety."

Low Glycemic Index

According to the American Diabetes Association, the glycemic index (GI) measures how a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose or blood sugar. Foods are ranked based on how they compare to a reference food — either glucose or white bread. A food with a high GI raises blood glucose more than a food with a medium or low GI. Glucose and white bread are given a GI of 100. A food is considered high GI at 70 or more. Low GI is 55 or less. Barley is a low GI food.

Individuals with diabetes experience fluctuations in their blood glucose levels after eating carb-rich foods. The higher the GI, the more blood sugar fluctuates. The lower the GI, the more steady the blood sugar levels. Therefore, it is extremely beneficial for people with diabetes to strive for a low GI diet. Barley has a GI of 25, compared to 58 for oatmeal and 55 for brown rice.


Magnesium is a mineral that acts as a co-factor (a substance essential for the activity of an enzyme) for more than 300 enzymes, including enzymes that are involved in the body's use of glucose and insulin secretion.

As a rich source of magnesium, barley can improve the function of a multitude of enzymes in the human body. Studies show that those with diabetes have lower levels of insulin than the general population. The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium for adults is 420 mg for men and 320 for women. On average, one cup of cooked whole grain barley contains 122 mg of magnesium.