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Barley


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By Iban Yarza

In the last twenty years, research aimed at confirming the best of barley in terms of cholesterol control and cardiovascular protection has multiplied. Among the three large groups of foods that contribute the most fiber to the diet (vegetables, fruits and cereals), the fiber in some cereals is the one that has been most strongly associated with the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.

CSIC researcher Luis Cistué and his department are investigating the varieties that can provide the greatest amount of beta-glucans - an important part of the soluble fiber in barley - as well as those that can grow in the most diverse conditions and be profitable. Cistué points out that barley is interesting from a nutritional point of view, but also from a consumer point of view, since its production is cheap.

Interestingly, beta-glucans are avoided by the brewing industry because they create cloudy beers and can also block breweries' filter equipment. In the cereal that is marketed in stores, on the other hand, beta-glucans are present both in whole grains and in what is known as "pearl" barley. Pearl barley is one from which the husk has been removed to achieve something similar to white rice, with the difference that in the case of pearl barley, hardly any fiber is lost (it still contains 15.6% compared to 17, 3% of the integral) and preserves a good part of its nutrients, which are detailed below.

Barley is a good source of energy, especially slow-assimilating carbohydrates. It contains at least 14 minerals of nutritional relevance, although there are several that stand out: a serving of 80 grams of pearl barley covers almost half of the daily needs for selenium - for antioxidant effects - and a fifth of those for phosphorus, magnesium and manganese. It also provides potassium, iron and zinc.

In addition, barley is rich in several vitamins of group B, in particular in B1, B3 and B6. Although it does not have as much protein as wheat, its contribution is not negligible (almost 10% protein).

Cooked around the world
Barley has a great culinary tradition in many cultures. Incorporating it into the daily diet is simple; On the one hand, part (or all) of the rice in a recipe can be substituted for grains of whole or pearl barley.

As a general rule, pearl barley does not need to be soaked, and it cooks in 30-40 minutes. The barley grain is soaked overnight and cooked for 40-50 minutes.

In central and eastern Europe, one of the classic sustenance dishes is kasha, cereal grains or semolina cooked in milk (in its sweet version) or with oil and seasoned with spices such as pepper or caraway in its version. salty.

Barley flour and semolina can easily be added to purees, porridge or as a replacement for flours from other cereals, such as wheat. Of course, barley is ideal for making an infinite range of flatbreads, where this cereal gives the best of itself (its poverty in gluten makes the loaves with barley flour somewhat dense, somewhat similar to rye).

The range of varieties
There are many ways to classify barley, but if we do it according to its use, we can broadly distinguish between beer barley, where a low amount of protein is of interest; the feed, in which the opposite is of interest, a complete feed for livestock; and that of consumption as food for humans, in which its components (fibers, minerals, starches) have all the nutritional advantages that the grain is capable of providing.

Iban Yarza


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