Barley was one of the first major grains to be cultivated by man, and remains the fourth most cultivated cereal grain in the world. Matured barley is commonly used in beer production, and as animal feed. Young barley shoots, however, are consumed almost exclusively as a health food, and for good reason: research suggests that these gluten-free shoots, which are called barley grass and are typically consumed in juiced for powdered form, contain a huge number of nutrients that are lost when the shoots enter the reproductive cycle.
Four reasons to love barley grass
1.) Reduces cholesterol -- A study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine in 2008 found that subjects who were fed barley grass products as part of a 21-day nutritional program showed noticeably lower levels of total and LDL cholesterol than the control group. This research was reinforced by a later 2010 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in which researchers found that consuming whole barley grain foods and barley grass juice reduced LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is the "bad" cholesterol that accumulates in the walls of our blood vessels, and can contribute to heart disease if left unchecked. Therefore, eating more LDL cholesterol-lowering foods like barley grass can directly boost our cardiovascular health.
2.) Rich in chlorophyll -- Like wheatgrass, another supergreen to which barley grass is often compared, barley grass is one of the world's finest sources of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a potent blood cleanser and builder, and helps us increase our hemoglobin levels so that our red blood cells can provide our cells with more oxygen. Since destructive bacteria cannot thrive in the presence of oxygen, barley grass can play an important role in shielding us from serious diseases like cancer. Moreover, barley grass contains a large number of antioxidants (including the extremely potent antioxidant, superoxide dismutase), which compound its disease-fighting properties.
3.) Boosts digestive health -- Barley grass contains a large number of important digestive enzymes such as cytochrome oxidase, lipase, protease and amylase. According to Dr. Gillian McKeith, author of the book 12 Natural Superfoods to Transform Your Health, these enzymes are the reason why long-term consumption of barley grass has been shown to aid celiac disease, indigestion, Crohn's disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and a host of other digestion-related issues. Additionally, barley grass is comprised of approximately 6 percent dietary fiber, which flushes the colon of toxins and creates an environment conducive to good health.
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