Barley vs Wheat

Barley and wheat are two of the major crops used for both human and animal consumption. While they may look similar at a glance, they are different in how they’re processed, used, nutrition, and health effects. Learn more about the differences between barley and wheat based on an article from Healthline


Both barley and wheat were some of the first domesticated crops and belong to the grasses family. The grains consist of three layers; the inner germ layer, the endosperm, and the outer layer or bran, which are packed with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. 

Processing and Uses

Wheat – Before wheat can be used, it needs to be milled. Whole wheat flour contains all parts of the grain, while milled flour contains just the endosperm. Milled flour is mainly used for breads, biscuits, cookies, pasta, noodles, semolina, bulgur, couscous, and breakfast cereals.

Barley – Barley does not need to be milled, however, it’s usually hulled to remove the outside layer. For food uses, barley is often pearled which removes the hull and bran. Barley is mainly used for animal feed or malted for alcoholic drinks, while a small amount is used for human consumption as well, such as in soups, stews, breakfast cereals, porridge, and baby foods. Barley can also be milled into flour and used in bread, noodles, and baked goods to boost their nutritional profile.

Health Effects

Both barley and wheat contain gluten, so people with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity shouldn’t consume either grain. Those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and a wheat allergy should also be cautious when consuming either barley or wheat.

Barley has an advantage over wheat in that it contains a higher amount of fiber beta-glucan. Beta-glucan has been found to help lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar control. Overall, including barley into your diet will offer additional health benefits that wheat alone doesn’t have.