As cereal grains go, barley not only tastes terrific, it’s a winner when it comes to good nutrition. This centuries-old grain, originally domesticated near the Mediterranean, is packed with fibre, is naturally low in fat, and contains important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. But there’s more! Recent research has confirmed that Canadians looking to lower their blood cholesterol should be choosing food products that contain barley in one form or another.
This past summer, Health Canada officials accepted an application submitted by the Alberta Barley Commission for a health claim linking the consumption of barley beta-glucan to lowering blood cholesterol.Dr. Nancy Ames and her team at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Winnipeg, Manitoba, contributed to the scientific work backing up this claim and summarized all evidence for the petition to Health Canada.
The barley health claim is based on scientific data showing that the consumption of at least three grams of beta-glucan per day helps reduce cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease. Beta-glucan is a type of soluble fibre found in barley.
Suitable barley food products can now include labels with statements regarding the recognized health benefit. To use this claim, the food must contain at least one gram of beta- glucan from barley grain products per serving and consumers would need to choose three of such servings to obtain the minimum daily intake for lowering cholesterol. There are an array of products – dehulled or hulless barley, pearl barley, barley flakes, grits, meal, flour, and bran, as well as beta-glucan enriched milling “fractions”.