Barley Flour: A Healthy Alternative

By: Amrita Ray, Ph.D. | Northern Crops Institute

Barley, one of the oldest cultivated grains, has been a staple in human diets for thousands of years. Barley can be grown in varied agro-climatic conditions such as arid, semi-arid and wet climates. Known for its versatility and rich nutritional profile, barley is more than just a cereal grain—it’s a powerhouse of health benefits. With enhanced interest in alternative healthy flours, barley is gaining popularity among many others. Barley is considered to possess pharmaceutical and nutraceutical properties; it is a rich in protein, vitamins and minerals along with fiber (β-glucan) and phenolic compounds. It is considered a good source of protein with amino acids such as lysine, threonine, methionine and tryptophan. Due to the rich nutrient composition, it has been explored for various disease management (diabetes and cardiovascular disease). Barley β-glucan has shown to reduce blood cholesterol and glycemic index, glucose and insulin responses in human. It is also a rich source of tocols, known for reducing serum LDL cholesterol due to their antioxidant action.

Barley is first abraded to develop pearled barley and further processed to grits, flakes and flour. They are utilized for various traditional dishes and also utilized for rice and soy substitute, especially in South and East Asian countries. In Western countries, they are used as breakfast cereals, soups, porridge and bakery flour blends. Milling of pearled barley produces flour that can easily be blended with wheat flour as it is similar to color and particle size distribution; blended flours have tremendous potential for nutrient rich product development. However, barley flour fails to form a strong gluten network as compared to wheat flour, mainly due to the substitution of gliadins with hordeins. Reports suggest that barley flour weakens the dough, decreasing mixing time and peak dough resistance. Although, an incorporation of barley flour with wheat flour has portrayed anti-staling effects on bread texture. Investigations have been ongoing to evaluate potential of blended flour and reports suggest controlled incorporation of barley flour in wheat flour products show favorable outcome. Barley flour incorporated wheat bread showed good overall acceptability in terms of appearance, flavor and texture; similar loaf volume and crumb softness for a longer period. Up to 30% barley flour incorporation is appraised for acceptable quality parameters in products like pan bread, flatbread and noodles. Whole barley flour products such as cookies, tortilla, muffins, brownie and extruded snack products are widely being explored. However, it is reflected that barley flour is still marginally exploited in baking industry and continues to be a marvel.


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