Can Adding Barley to Your Diet Help Lower Your Cholesterol?

Barley is a whole grain that can be eaten alone or added to many foods. It is used mostly in the malting industry and for livestock feed. It was not usually used as a food source in humans in the past.

Now, barley is being used more in balanced diets because of its health benefits. Studies show many positive health effects of including barley in your diet. It improves digestion, and blood glucose levels in people with diabetes and heart conditions.

Recent studies also show that barley may be helpful in keeping your cholesterol levels in check.

This article will explain how barley can help lower cholesterol levels and how to make it part of a healthy diet. It will also discuss the right amount a person should eat.

A barley salad with carrots, pomegranate seeds, and fresh mint
 Anna Kurzaeva / Getty Images

Does Barley Reduce Cholesterol?

Barley contains vitamins, antioxidants, and an important soluble fiber called beta-glucan. This heart-healthy fiber helps lower cholesterol levels. It is also found in other grains, such as oats. Beta-glucan makes it harder for cholesterol and fat to get into the bloodstream.

One study looked at how barley beta-glucan lowers cholesterol. The researchers concluded that the beta-glucans helped reduce cholesterol by increasing bile acid synthesis.

Bile acids are formed from cholesterol. Through bile acid sythesis, the cholesterol is broken down and removed from the body.

The researchers also found that consuming 3 grams of beta-glucan daily helped reduce total cholesterol in participants.

In another study, eating foods with barley significantly reduced "bad" LDL and non-HDL (total cholesterol minus "good" cholesterol) by 7% each. Both LDL and non-HDL cholesterol can lead to cardiovascular disease.

HDL was not affected as much by barley intake in studies. HDL cholesterol is the "good" cholesterol because it helps to remove some of the other bad cholesterol.


Barley was not a key part of the human diet in the past. Recently, people are adding it into their diets because it contains a special type of fiber called beta-glucan. This fiber helps lower cholesterol levels by keeping it from entering the bloodstream.

How Much Barley Should You Consume?

You would need to consume at least 3 grams of beta-glucan to see lower cholesterol. About one cup of cooked pearled barley equals 2.5 grams of beta-glucan fiber. One-half cup of barley flakes equals about 2 grams of beta-glucan. This is the amount you would need to eat to see the same results in the studies. Always check food labels for beta-glucan content.

There are many ways you can include barley in your cholesterol-lowering diet. Barley can be eaten as a warm, breakfast cereal. It can also be used in salads and side dishes or added to main dishes.


Barley is a heart-healthy ingredient that can be added to your diet to help control your cholesterol levels. The FDA allowed a health claim to be placed on barley packages. It says that the soluble fiber in the food may help reduce your risk of heart disease.

Most of the studies about the effect of barley on cholesterol levels looked at people with mildly to moderately high cholesterol levels. It is hard to say if cholesterol levels can lower more in people with a healthy cholesterol range.

The vitamins and soluble fiber contained in this heart-healthy fiber can be a helpful addition to any healthy diet. However, if you have certain medical conditions, barley may aggravate them. These include irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease. Consult with your doctor for other heart-healthy fiber options.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. St. Michael's Hospital. Barley lowers not one but two types of 'bad cholesterol,' review suggests: Barley likely has similar cholesterol-lowering effects as oats. ScienceDaily.

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  4. Wang Y, Harding SV, Thandapilly SJ, Tosh SM, Jones PJ, Ames NP. Barleyβ-glucan reduces blood cholesterol levels via interrupting bile acid metabolism. British Journal of Nutrition. 2017;118(10):822-829. doi:10.1017/s0007114517002835

  5. National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). Bile acid synthesis disorders.

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By Jennifer Moll, PharmD
Jennifer Moll, MS, PharmD, is a pharmacist actively involved in educating patients about the importance of heart disease prevention.