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Is Pearl Barley More Nutritious Than Rice?

author image Karen Curley
Karen Curley has more than 18 years experience in health and nutrition, specializing in healthy food choices for families. She received USDA certification in food components, nutrient sources, food groups and infant/child nutrition, and holds a B.A. in English from the University of Massachusetts. Curley is also an avid gardener, home renovator, Collie breeder, dog groomer and dog trainer.
Is Pearl Barley More Nutritious Than Rice?
Pearled barley on a wood surface. Photo Credit: cheche22/iStock/Getty Images

Although all types of barley and rice have nutritional value, some varieties are richer in fiber, protein, folate and minerals. Although pearl barley is not a whole grain, it does have more fiber than white, brown and wild rice. Nutrients also vary among these three varieties of rice. When comparing the nutrition in pearl barley and rice, you must consider the various types of rice in the calculation.

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Calories and Fat

If you are counting calories, wild rice has the lowest with 166 in a cup. Brown rice has 218 calories per cup, while white rice has 242 calories. In comparison, pearl barley has 193 calories in a cup. The fat in these three rice varieties and pearl barley is under 1 gram, which makes them all heart-healthy foods. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your fat intake to about 15 grams per day.

Fiber and Carbohydrates

Adding fiber to your diet helps prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes and keeps your digestive system running smoothly, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Pearl barley wins in the fiber category with 6 grams of fiber in a cup, while both brown rice and wild rice have about 3 grams of fiber. White rice provides the least amount of fiber with only 1 gram per cup. Brown rice and pearl barley are neck in neck with about 45 grams of carbohydrates per cup. Wild rice adds about 53 grams of carbohydrates to your meal, and white rice has the least amount with 35 grams per cup. Your body needs carbohydrates for glucose production, which gives you energy, strengthening your metabolism and improving physical exertion.

Protein Scores

The Harvard School of Public Health recommends adding whole grains to your diet as a nutritious source of protein for ensuring you get all the amino acids your body needs to stay healthy. Wild rice comes out ahead, with about 7 grams of protein in a cup, while brown and white rice have about 4.5 grams of protein per serving. Pearl barley comes in last with 3.5 grams of protein in a cup. The daily recommended intake for protein is 56 grams.

Calcium and Iron

Brown rice and pearl barley offer about the same amount of calcium with 17 to 20 milligrams per cup. The calcium in white rice and wild rice is about 5 milligrams per servings. White rice offers the most iron with almost 3 milligrams of the 8 milligrams recommended daily allowance. Pearl barley provides about 2 milligrams of iron per serving, while wild and brown rice contain about 1 milligram. Your metabolism uses iron for building red blood cells and transporting oxygen.

Minerals and Folate

Brown rice offers your diet the most minerals with 86 milligrams of magnesium, 150 milligrams of phosphorus and 154 milligrams of potassium. Wild rice has the highest amount of potassium with 166 milligrams per cup. These minerals are essential for clotting blood, protecting your bones and maintaining heart rhythm. Wild rice beats out pearl barley, brown rice and white rice with 43 micrograms of folate, which is 13 percent of the daily recommended allowance of this vitamin. Your body uses folate for new cell growth.

Serving Suggestions

All varieties of rice and barley are nutritious additions to stews and soups. You can also serve them as side dishes to your main meal or make rice pudding for dessert. Substitute barley flour in your bread recipes for added fiber and nutrients.

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