Barley is a very nutritious grain that is packed with fibre
(three times as much as oatmeal), and contains amino acids, B vitamins, copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus and selenium.Research also indicates that it helps protect against asthma in childhood, and it is believed to aid in regulating blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and prevent heart disease and certain types of cancer!
On the down side, like wheat and rye, barley contains gluten. Gluten is the protein that gives these cereals their chewy texture, but many experts believe that introducing gluten before 6 months of age will increase the risk of Coeliac (Celiac) disease – a serious condition in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues.
It is best to wait until your baby is at least 6 months of age before introducing barley – particularly if there is a family history of Coeliac disease, or if your baby is already diagnosed as allergic to wheat. And always discuss the introduction of any new foods with your child’s doctor or paediatrician.
Barley is available in various forms – some more nutritious than others…
- Hulled barley (dehulled barley or barley groats): has the highest nutritional value, as only the inedible outer hull has been removed, leaving the bran and germ whole. Chewier in texture and takes longer to cook than other types.
- Pot, or Scotch barley: undergoes an extra process in which it is polished, removing the outermost layer of the hull. Less nutritious than hulled barley but cooks more quickly.
- Pearl, or Pearled barley: the least nutritious form – but most widely stocked in shops. Polished, so the bran layer is removed, as well as some of the endosperm. Easier to cook and less chewy than hulled or pot barley.
- Barley flakes: the grain is flattened then sliced, looking similar to rolled oats. Varying nutritional value, depending on the type of barley (hulled or pearl) used.
- Barley grits: made by toasting and cracking barley grains. Nutritional value depends on the type of barley (hulled or pearled) used.
- Barley meal: a whole-grain flour that is a healthy substitute for wheat flour. Buy ‘whole barley’ products for maximum nutrition.
You may need to buy certain types of barley from a health-food shop – where it may be sold loose. Try to find a busy store as stock will be rotated more often and be fresher, and check that bulk containers have close-fitting covers, for hygiene reasons.
Store youruncooked barley in an airtight container – and hulled or pot barley should be kept in the fridge as it contains the oily germ, which may become rancid in warm conditions.
Some hints about cooking barley for your baby…
- 1 cup of uncooked barley will usually give 3 to 4 cups of cooked.
- Pre-packed barley will usually have cooking instructions on the packaging.
- In general, use 1 cup of barley to 3 cups of water (for 1 cup of Pearl barley use just 2 cups of water).
- Bring the water to a rolling boil in a medium sized pan, stir in the barleyand bring the mixture back to the boil.
- Lower the heat and simmer until cooked – about 40 minutes for Pearl barley, 1 hour for Pot barley, and 1 ½ hours for Hulled barley.
- To cook barley faster -and make it easier for your baby to digest and makethe nutrients easier for your baby’s body to absorb – soak it first: place the desired amount of barley in a bowl, cover with twice as much water (1 cup of barley to 2 cups of water), leave for several hoursor overnight, then drain and rinse.
- If you are not going to cook soaked and rinsed barley straight away, keep it in a covered container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
This information presented to you acts as a guide which contains researched information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.
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