05 Jun 2024

Barley grass health benefits, uses and side effects

author Ashley Owen
When we think about nutritious plants, grass is not necessarily the first one that springs to mind. It’s food for animals like sheep and cows, not people, right? Not so fast! Some types of grass can have an impressive array of positive effects on our health and wellbeing. And chief among them is barley grass. In this article, we discuss barley grass benefits and side effects, plus explore ways to incorporate it into your diet. A scoop of this vibrant green powder in your smoothie might just become your go-to method for upping your nutrient intake!

What is barley grass?

As you have probably already guessed, barley grass comes from the barley plant. Barley is one of the most popular cereal crops in the world. We consume it as a grain, plus use it to make everything from bread to beer. Barley grass, however, specifically refers to the leaf of the plant. It’s made using young shoots from plants which haven’t yet formed grains. That’s because at this stage, the leaves are bursting with nutrients that can support our wellbeing.

It's this impressive nutritional profile which has made barley grass such a hit with health food enthusiasts. Today, it’s a common ingredient at juice and smoothie bars, in addition to being available as a supplement and powder. Fresh barley grass is long, slender, and vibrant green – much like the grass you find on your lawn. However, while you can grow it yourself, it’s far more convenient and pleasant to consume barley grass in powder form.

Barley grass powder is fine in texture and rich green in colour, with a mild and slightly bitter vegetal taste. This makes it ideal for adding to all kinds of different drinks and dishes. We’ll talk more about how to include the powder in your diet later in the article. But first, let’s look at some of the exciting potential health benefits of barley grass. It might surprise you just how nutritious it is!

How barley grass benefits your health

Barley grass is overflowing with all kinds of key nutrients, enabling it to boost our wellbeing in various different ways.(1)

To begin with, barley grass is a rich source of numerous vitamins and minerals. These include vitamins A, C and K, several B vitamins, plus iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Each of these has a vital role to play in keeping us happy and healthy. For example, Vitamin A helps protect our eyesight, assists with cell growth, and supports the function of white blood cells. Meanwhile, vitamin K is crucial for blood clotting and building strong bones, and vitamin C enhances the immune system.

Turning to minerals, magnesium is involved in literally hundreds of biochemical reactions performed by enzymes in the body. As such, it’s necessary for everything from muscle contraction and energy production to nerve function. Likewise, iron is a key component of haemoglobin. This is a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen from the lungs all around the body, and carbon dioxide back to the lungs to be exhaled. Phosphorus, on the other hand, helps to build strong teeth and bones, plus filter out waste products from the kidneys.

What’s more, barley grass is a fantastic source of amino acids, including eight of the essential amino acids. These are the basic building blocks of protein, and we need them for countless functions like energy, growth, and repair. Our bodies can’t make essential amino acids, so we must obtain them from our food.

Many of us don’t get enough of all these different nutrients. Adding barley grass powder to your diet could therefore be a great way to ensure you’re getting more of what your body needs.

From antioxidants to anti-inflammatories: more benefits of barley grass

In addition to the nutrients discussed above, barley grass is packed with flavonoids and polyphenols.(1) These potent plant compounds act as antioxidants, helping to defend our cells against free radical damage. Also known as oxidative stress, this damage contributes to chronic conditions such as cancer, atherosclerosis, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Oxidative stress can additionally speed up ageing. Antioxidants like the vitamin C in barley grass might therefore boost skin health and help keep your complexion more youthful.

Moreover, barley grass has anti-inflammatory properties too. This is hugely beneficial because over time, chronic inflammation can damage healthy cells and organs. That increases the risk of a multitude of harmful health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, dementia, and cancer.

The fact that barley grass is rich in fibre further compounds these benefits. First of all, the insoluble fibre it contains could have a positive effect on blood glucose levels.(2) Studies suggest it might improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the amount that your blood sugar increases by after eating.

Fibre is also beneficial for the health of your digestive system. It nourishes the good bacteria in the gut and results in a more diverse gut microbiome. In turn, this has a positive influence on everything from your immune system to brain function.

Finally, the high fibre content of barley grass might additionally help with healthy weight management. Fibre promotes feelings of fullness, which can decrease hunger and therefore boost weight loss. Animal studies suggest that barley grass could assist with the treatment of obesity.(3) However, more research on humans is necessary to confirm this.


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