Barley vs. Rice — What’s the Difference?
Barley has 3.4g more dietary fiber and is slightly higher in fats, whereas rice has 3.5g more net carbs and more protein. Enriched rice is 3.6 times richer in folate, 3 times richer in vitamin B5, and 2 times richer in vitamin B1. On the other hand, Barley is a better source of most minerals, such as iron, potassium, selenium, etc.
Table of contents
Barley comes in various forms, the most common of which are hulled barley (a whole grain), hulless barley, pearl barley, pot barley, and barley flour.
This article considers hulled barley, a whole-grain food. Hulled barley has only its hull removed, while the germ and bran layers are kept, making it the most nutritious variety. The downside of hulled barley is that it has a longer cooking time.
On the other hand, rice is another type of grain with different sizes, shapes, and colors. Classified by its kernel size, rice may be long-, medium-, and short-grain. Rice may also be white, brown, red, or black, depending on the degree of hulling.
This article considers long, white, regular, enriched rice. White rice is a refined grain that undergoes processing, where its hull, bran, and germ are removed. It is important to note that draining the rice and throwing away the boiled water is not recommended for enriched rice, as many enriched elements will be washed away.
In many recipes, barley and rice can be substituted for each other, couscous, farro, quinoa, and buckwheat.
This article will compare 100g of cooked hulled barley and enriched long-grain white rice.
Cooked barley and rice are nearly 70% water and 30% nutrients.
Barley is significantly richer in dietary fiber and slightly higher in fats, whereas rice is somewhat higher in net carbs and proteins. Both contain negligible amounts of fat.
White rice is slightly higher in calories than barley. White rice provides 130 calories per 100g serving, whereas barley provides 123.
Protein & Fat
Rice contains 2.7g of protein and 0.28g of fats, while barley contains 2.26g of protein and 0.44g of fats.
Barley and rice contain almost equal amounts of total carbs: 28g. However, barley contains 3.4g more dietary fiber, while rice contains 3.35g more net carbs.
Barley contains 24.42g of net carbs and 3.8g of dietary fiber, with varying insoluble and soluble fiber contents.
White rice contains 27.77g of net carbs and 0.4g of dietary fiber. Brown rice, on the other hand, contains 1.6g of dietary fiber.
Barley and rice contain mainly B-complex vitamins. Enriched rice is 3.6 times richer in vitamin B9 or folate, 2.9 times richer in vitamin B5, and 2 times richer in vitamin B1 or thiamine.
Barley is richer in vitamins B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), and B6.
Both barley and rice are absent in or contain insignificant amounts of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K, and vitamin B12, and vitamin C.
Hulled barley is the winner in this category. Barley is richer in iron, potassium, selenium, magnesium, zinc, copper, and phosphorus than white rice.
White rice is richer in manganese and lower in sodium. However, both are naturally very low in sodium and also have equal calcium content.
Barley has a low glycemic index of 28, whereas the glycemic index of barley flour is 70, which is considered high.
The glycemic index value of rice ranges from medium to high. The glycemic index of rice may be considered 60, whereas the glycemic index of brown rice is 66. Long-grain white rice has a glycemic index of 62, whereas instant and Basmati rice’s glycemic index is 60. Jasmine rice has a glycemic index of 89, and Arborio (short-grain) rice has a glycemic index of 69.
Glycemic Load & Insulin Index
The glycemic load of white rice is 26, which is considered high. Brown rice also has a high glycemic load of 32.
The glycemic load and insulin index of barley are yet to be calculated.
Calculating the PRAL value of food is one of the ways to look at the food’s acidity. The PRAL value shows how much base or acid the food produces in the organism.
The PRAL values of rice and barley are 1.7 and 0.4, respectively, making rice more acidic or acid-producing.
Weight Loss & Diets
Barley is better for high-fiber, low-carb, and low-calorie diets, whereas rice may be better for high-protein diets.
Barley’s high fiber content slows the stomach emptying and promotes satiety, meaning that you can eat less, and feel full for longer, thus can contribute to weight loss.
If associated with a healthy meal, rice may promote weight loss during a calorie-deficit diet, as the high carb content may contribute to feeling fuller for longer.
Vegans can consume rice and barley without any restrictions.
Rice milk is available as an alternative to dairy milk for vegans. Among other non-dairy milk, rice milk is sweeter and is usually found fortified with vitamins and minerals.
Alternative milk for vegans is barley milk which has many benefits as it reduces bloating, ingestion, and gas.
Due to their high carbohydrate content, both barley and rice are disqualified from the keto list.
As long as the carbohydrate content is low to negligible, we can consume it in keto diets.
Consumption of barley in moderate amounts regularly in people with mild hypercholesterolemia has been shown to reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels. Thus, decreasing the risk of heart disease (1).
The results regarding white rice consumption and the risk of heart disease are inconsistent. According to some studies, white rice consumption in moderate amounts does not correlate with developing cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, or stroke. However, other studies find positive associations between rice consumption and the risk of metabolic syndrome, which includes hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, and obesity (2, 3, 4).
In an animal study, long-term consumption of barley has led to decreased blood sugar levels, which is explained by barley's high fiber content, leading to reduced glucose absorption (5).
White rice consumption may be positively correlated with diabetes development risk. It is recommended to substitute white rice with brown rice to reduce the risk (6, 7).
Barley is rich in both soluble and insoluble fibers, relieving constipation symptoms. In comparison, white rice, low in dietary fiber, benefits those with diarrhea.
Dietary fiber may also protect against duodenal ulcers, GERD, hemorrhoids, colon cancer, diverticulosis, and IBS development (8).
Both white and brown rice are considered tolerable for most people with IBS. Conversely, barley is high in poorly absorbed carbs called FODMAPs and may worsen the symptoms. During IBD (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis), only white rice is safe to consume.
People with celiac disease or NCGS (gluten intolerance) should exclude barley from their diet as it is one of the main gluten sources, and opt for naturally gluten-free rice.
Even though rice is high in arsenic, some studies find no associations between rice consumption and cancer development risk (9).
On the other hand, barley grass has beneficial effects on cancers leading to cell death, even though this is not the hulled barley grain (10).
Rice is a major source of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and chromium, with disturbing levels of only arsenic. The germ layer in brown rice retains inorganic arsenic; thus, it is higher in arsenic than white rice (11).
According to the WHO, long-term exposure to arsenic is positively associated with bladder and lung cancers and skin lesions. Moreover, it is also linked to heart disease, diabetes, adverse pregnancy outcomes, neurocognitive defects in children, etc. (12).
Fat Type Comparison
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sugar|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in price|
|Lower in Glycemic Index|
|Rich in minerals|
|Lower in Cholesterol||Equal|
|Rich in vitamins||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Glycemic Index diet|
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Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.
- Barley - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170285/nutrients
- Rice - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168878/nutrients
All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.