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Rice vs Barley - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Rice
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Barley

Introduction

Barley is a type of grain that is cultivated in Eurasia as early as 10 000 years ago. It has become part of the food cycle of humans since they have settled and became an agricultural civilization.
In this text, we are taking into consideration hulled barley. Hulled barley is whole grain food. It undergoes a process of removal of its inedible cover, without the removal of the bran. There are different types of barley, like the pearly which is less nutritious because it has lost its bran. Thus, it is better to consume hulled barley. The downside of hulled barley is that it takes more time to get cooked.

On the other hand, rice is another type of grain that has different sizes, shapes, and colors. In this article, we are taking into consideration long, white, regular, enriched rice. Rice takes a much shorter duration to cook and it has different types of processes. It is important to note that, in the case of enriched rice, draining the rice and throwing away the boiled water is not recommended. With the drained water, a lot of the enriched elements are washed away.
Rice was harvested nearly 9000 years ago in China. Nowadays, rice is the 3rd highest agricultural product harvested, after sugarcane and maize. This data shows how much the world depends on rice. Nowadays it is distributed among the culinary cultures around the world, from Asian cuisine, Arab cuisine, Eurasian, Mexican, etc…

Nutritional data comparison

In this part of the article, we are going to compare the nutritional data of barley and rice, based on 100g of each. The barley taken into consideration is the hulled barley and the rice taken into consideration is long, white, enriched rice. 

Glycemic index

Barley has a lower glycemic index compared to rice. Barley is classified as low glycemic food, with a glycemic index of 28. Whereas, rice is classified as a medium glycemic index food, with a glycemic index of 60.

Calories

Barley has almost 3 times more calories compared to rice. Barley has 354 calories whereas rice has 130 calories. This difference is significant.

Carbohydrates

Barley has higher carbohydrates than rice. However, this difference has a silver lining to it. Barley has 73g of carbohydrates which is 24% of the daily value. However, 17.3g of these are fibers that satisfy 68% of the daily value. This is a very important aspect of hulled barley. On the other hand, rice has far fewer carbohydrates compared to barley, however, it has nearly no fibers.

Fats

They have nearly negligible fat content, however, barley has 2g of fat. This can also be considered negligible. 

Protein

Barely is richer in protein compared to rice. Barley has 12.48g of protein. Whereas rice has 2.69g of protein. Although barley is rich in protein it is not rich in essential amino acids.

Mineral 

Barely has an overall better mineral profile. It is richer in all types of minerals compared to rice. Barley is richer in magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, phosphorus, selenium, magnesium, and zinc. 

It is important to note that both barley and rice are low in sodium.

Vitamins

Barley has a higher vitamin score compared to rice. Barley is richer in vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B6, whereas, rice is richer in folate.

Weight loss and diets

Even though barley is higher in calories compared to rice, due to its high fiber content, it promotes a feeling of fullness. This means that you can eat less, and feel fuller, thus can contribute to weight loss. 

Rice, if associated with a healthy meal promotes weight loss if on a calorie deficit or promotes a balanced healthy meal. This works by feeling fuller while eating rice compared to eating the actual meal. In Asian cuisines, rice is highly consumed but associated with healthy meals, it promotes good health. 

Vegan

Vegans can consume rice and barley without any restriction.
Rice milk is available as an alternative to dairy milk for vegans. Rice milk among other non-dairy milk is sweeter and usually is found fortified with vitamins and minerals.

Alternative milk for vegans is barley milk which has many benefits as it reduces bloating, ingestion, and gas. 

Keto

Due to their high carbohydrate content, both barley and rice are disqualified from the keto list. Cauliflower rice can take over as an alternative to rice or barley in cooking keto foods. 

As long as the carbohydrate content is low to negligible it can be consumed in keto diets. 

The rice diet

The rice diet is a calorie deficit diet to lose weight. At first, the daily calories are 800 (which is also called the detox period).
Then the calorie count becomes 1000 per day until desired weight is reached. Grains, fruits, and vegetables can be consumed in this diet.
However, experts say that this diet is not as recommended, it focuses on high carbohydrate intake with a medium glycemic index. In addition to that, protein fat, and other vitamins are not being consumed and might end up putting the person into a malnutrition state if this is done over a long period (weeks). Therefore, the rice diet is not a long-term diet. 

It is important to note that the minimal calorie intake in normal balanced diets is 1600.
For people who are active during their daily life, work, study, workout and they want to lose weight, this diet is not as recommended in the long term. This diet has shown to be effective in hypertensive patients because it is also considered a low-fat low-sodium diet. However, now there are medications to treat hypertension.

Barley diet

Some people have tried the barley diet that focuses mostly on barley porridges and they claim to have lost up to 4 kg in 7 days.
However, again as mentioned in the rice diet these diets are highly restrictive and may lead to malnutrition states. 

Baby food

Barely is recommended for babies because it is high in fibers, minerals, and vitamins. It is very versatile and can be made into soup or a blended consistent food mixed with other nutritive foods like fruits. 

Rice, on the other hand, is considered to be filling for babies. It will make the baby feel full faster however, this might lead to the baby not eating the full meal which leads to missing out on the complete nutrients.  It is safe to give your baby rice, however, keep it in moderate to low serving sizes.

Health impact

Cardiovascular health

Consumption of barley on a moderate and regular basis in men and women who have mild hypercholesterolemia has been shown to reduce LDL levels. Thus, decreasing risks of cardiovascular diseases. (1)

It is important to note that consumption of white rice in moderate amounts does not correlate with developing cardiovascular diseases. (2)

Diabetes

Long-term consumption of barley has led to decreased blood glucose levels. This is mostly explained by reduced absorption of glucose due to the high fiber content of barley. (3)

Gut microflora

Barley consumption has a positive effect on gut microflora, which, in turn, has many positive aspects on overall health. (4)

Cancer

Rice consumption has shown no association with the development of cancer. (5)

On the other hand, barley grass has beneficial effects on cancer cell reduction since it has apoptotic effects on cancer cells. Even though this is not the hulled barley grain itself, it's important to mention this. (6)

Downsides

Cardiovascular health

This paper indicates that there was no association with cardiovascular disease development with the consumption of rice. However, It also indicates that there is a risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Which in turn, if uncontrolled, may lead to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hypertension. One of the risk factors of metabolic syndrome is obesity. (7)

Diabetes

Based on research on high consumption of white rice, a positive correlation is observed with the development of type 2 diabetes. (8)

Gluten intolerance and celiac disease

Barley contains gluten which is the direct cause of inflammatory responses in celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Thus, barley should not be consumed for people who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. (9)

Rice on the other hand can be consumed because it does not contain any gluten. 

In summary

Barley is richer in fibers, proteins, B complex vitamins, magnesium, potassium, iron. It has a lower glycemic index, is higher in carbohydrates, and is almost 3 times higher in calories. Compared to barley, rice is richer in folate. Overall, barley has a better nutritive profile compared to rice. 

Reference

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15531664/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25527760/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4311281/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4616929/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26219234/ 
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5449973/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29467837/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22422873/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16313685/
Article author photo Jack  Yacoubian
Profession: Haigazian Medical University
Last updated: April 9, 2021

Infographic

Rice vs Barley infographic
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Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Rice
1
:
7
Barley
Contains less Sodium -91.7%
Contains more Iron +200%
Contains more Calcium +230%
Contains more Potassium +1191.4%
Contains more Magnesium +1008.3%
Contains more Copper +621.7%
Contains more Zinc +465.3%
Contains more Phosphorus +514%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 45% 3% 4% 9% 24% 14% 19% 1%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 135% 10% 40% 95% 166% 76% 114% 2%
Contains less Sodium -91.7%
Contains more Iron +200%
Contains more Calcium +230%
Contains more Potassium +1191.4%
Contains more Magnesium +1008.3%
Contains more Copper +621.7%
Contains more Zinc +465.3%
Contains more Phosphorus +514%

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Rice
2
:
7
Barley
Contains more Vitamin B5 +38.3%
Contains more Folate +205.3%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin E +1325%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +296.3%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +2092.3%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +211.9%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +241.9%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 0% 0% 1% 0% 41% 3% 28% 24% 22% 0% 0% 44%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 0% 2% 12% 0% 162% 66% 87% 17% 74% 0% 6% 15%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +38.3%
Contains more Folate +205.3%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin E +1325%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +296.3%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +2092.3%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +211.9%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +241.9%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
13
Rice
36
Barley
Mineral Summary Score
14
Rice
80
Barley

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
16%
Rice
75%
Barley
Carbohydrates
28%
Rice
73%
Barley
Fats
1%
Rice
11%
Barley

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Rice Barley
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Rich in minerals ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Rice Barley
Low Calories diet ok
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low glycemic index diet ok

People also compare

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Sugar?
Rice
Rice is lower in Sugar (difference - 0.75g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Rice
Rice contains less Sodium (difference - 11mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Rice
Rice is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.405g)
Which food is cheaper?
Rice
Rice is cheaper (difference - $0.5)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Barley
Barley is lower in glycemic index (difference - 32)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Barley
Barley is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Barley
Barley is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Rice Barley Opinion
Calories 130 354 Barley
Protein 2.69 12.48 Barley
Fats 0.28 2.3 Barley
Vitamin C 0 0
Carbs 28.17 73.48 Barley
Cholesterol 0 0
Vitamin D 0 0
Iron 1.2 3.6 Barley
Calcium 10 33 Barley
Potassium 35 452 Barley
Magnesium 12 133 Barley
Sugar 0.05 0.8 Rice
Fiber 0.4 17.3 Barley
Copper 0.069 0.498 Barley
Zinc 0.49 2.77 Barley
Starch
Phosphorus 43 264 Barley
Sodium 1 12 Rice
Vitamin A 0 22 Barley
Vitamin E 0.04 0.57 Barley
Vitamin D 0 0
Vitamin B1 0.163 0.646 Barley
Vitamin B2 0.013 0.285 Barley
Vitamin B3 1.476 4.604 Barley
Vitamin B5 0.39 0.282 Rice
Vitamin B6 0.093 0.318 Barley
Vitamin B12 0 0
Vitamin K 0 2.2 Barley
Folate 58 19 Rice
Trans Fat
Saturated Fat 0.077 0.482 Rice
Monounsaturated Fat 0.088 0.295 Barley
Polyunsaturated fat 0.076 1.108 Barley
Tryptophan 0.031 0.208 Barley
Threonine 0.096 0.424 Barley
Isoleucine 0.116 0.456 Barley
Leucine 0.222 0.848 Barley
Lysine 0.097 0.465 Barley
Methionine 0.063 0.24 Barley
Phenylalanine 0.144 0.7 Barley
Valine 0.164 0.612 Barley
Histidine 0.063 0.281 Barley
Fructose

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Rice - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168878/nutrients
  2. Barley - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170283/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.