Barley Water and Weight Loss

barley groats in a metal shovel.
Barley grains release some nutrients into water. (Image: Zoryanchik/iStock/Getty Images)

Barley water is made by simmering barley and saving the cooking water. It may help you lose a few extra pounds, if you drink it right before each meal while following a calorie-restricted diet. It also has an advantage over plain water because it retains some of the grain’s nutrients, but it’s not a weight-loss panacea.

Barley Water for Weight Loss

Barley water can significantly reduce calories in your diet if it’s used to replace sweetened beverages. It could also help with weight loss if you drink it before meals, according to researchers from Virginia Tech, who studied the effect of drinking plain, bottled water on weight loss.

The researchers divided overweight adults into two groups. Both groups followed similar low-calorie diets, but only one group drank 2 cups of bottled water prior to each meal. After 12 weeks, the water-drinking group lost 44 percent more weight than the non-water group, according to Obesity in February 2010.

While drinking any beverage before a meal may help you eat less, the researchers also noted that the participants recorded their water intake. Keeping a diet journal raises awareness of food consumption and is associated with better weight loss results.

Calorie Count

One brand of barley water reports that a half cup has 18 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrates. This isn’t enough to ruin your diet, but when you're losing weight, every calorie counts. Also, if you drink a whole cup, you're getting 36 calories. Be sure to include the calories from barley water with your daily intake.

The barley grains are usually strained out of the water, but sometimes a portion is retained and blended with the water. While this adds nutrients, it also boosts calories. Just one-quarter cup of cooked pearled barley has 48 calories.

Nutrients in Barley Water

One cup of uncooked hulled barley supplies 79 percent of the daily value of thiamin, based on a 2,000-calorie daily diet. It also has 29 percent of the daily value of vitamin B-6 and 31 percent of riboflavin. Because these vitamins are water soluble, roughly 10 percent to 25 percent of the total amount of each vitamin in the whole grain will end up in your water.

Barley grains contain some water-soluble proteins, which will also find their way into the water. Protein is known to support weight loss by contributing to a feeling of fullness.

Barley is a rich source of fiber, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium. However, you'll only get these nutrients if some of the grains are blended in with the water.

Making Barley Water

You can make barley water by putting a cup of hulled or pearled barley into 8 cups of boiling water, simmering for 30 minutes, then straining the water into a pitcher. For extra flavor, simmer it with cinnamon sticks or chopped ginger. After the water is off the heat, add mint leaves and lemon or orange juice. If you use a sweetener such as honey or agave nectar, add their calories to your daily tally because they'll contribute to weight gain.

Thirty minutes may not be long enough to fully cook the grains, according to the Cook’s Thesaurus. If you have a second pot of boiling water ready, you can quickly transfer the grains into the pot, finish cooking the barley and enjoy it at your next meal.

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