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Barley is 'in' when it comes to heart health

Nancy Ames

As cereal grains go, barley is a winner when it comes to good nutrition. This centuries-old grain is packed with fibre, is naturally low in fat, and contains important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Canadians looking to lower their blood cholesterol may soon be choosing food products that contain barley.

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.

Barley grain products include dehulled or hulless barley, pearl barley, barley flakes, grits, meal, flour, and bran, as well as beta-glucan enriched milling fractions.

Dr. Ames believes that the barley health claim gives credibility to barley as a healthy food option. There is real potential to increase consumer demand for barley food products, giving farmers incentive to grow more food-grade barley and opening up new market opportunities for both producers and processors.

This success shows how government and industry work together for the benefit of the agricultural sector and all Canadians.

"One of the benefits of the new health claim is to educate consumers about the link between diet and health," says Dr. Ames, "and help them include barley in their daily food choices."

Dr. Ames' research team analyzed many barley samples from Canadian processors to validate beta-glucan levels and check potential levels in various recipes and serving sizes. AAFC barley breeders and others have developed several barley varieties with a focus on maximizing beta-glucan content for food use.

Amount of Beta-glucan Found in Single Servings of Typical Barley Foods
Food Product Barley Type Serving Size Barley Variety with 4.0% beta-glucan (BG)* Barley Variety with 5.0% BG* Barley Variety with 7.0% BG* Barley Variety with 10% BG*
* Grams of Beta-glucan Per Serving
barley pilaf, cooked pearled barley 140 grams (g) 1.80 2.25 3.15 4.50
barley tabouli salad pearled barley 1/8 of recipe 1.20 1.55 2.17 3.10
barley pudding pearled barley 1/2 cup 0.90 1.16 1.63 2.33
barley and lentil soup pot barley 1/6 of recipe 1.20 1.55 2.17 3.10
ready-to-eat breakfast cereal barley 30 g 1.20 1.50 2.10 3.00
hot breakfast cereal, prepared (for example, barley porridge) flakes 250 milliliters (ml) 1.60 2.00 2.80 4.00
hearty barley granola bar flakes 1 bar 1.13 1.42 1.98 2.83
muffin (50% barley flour) flour 55 g 0.50 0.63 0.88 1.25
pasta (100% barley flour), dry flour 85 g 3.40 4.25 5.95 8.50
pasta (50% barley flour), dry flour 85 g 1.70 2.13 2.98 4.25
tortilla / flat bread flour 55 g 1.48 1.85 2.59 3.70
barley waffle flour 1 waffle 2.37 2.96 4.14 5.92
barley flour flour 1/2 cup 2.47 3.43 4.80 6.85
pearled barley, dry pearled barley 1/2 cup 4.96 6.20 8.68 12.40
barley bannock, waffles, tortilla chips, pilaf, pizza dough

Consumers can enjoy barley in a variety of delicious and nutritious foods to help reduce cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease.

For more information or to set up an interview, media should call 613-773-7972 or 1-866-345-7972 (toll free) or email us at

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