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Rye vs. Barley — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan by Arpi Gasparyan | Last updated on November 02, 2022
Medically reviewed by Igor Bussel Article author photo Igor Bussel
Rye
vs
Barley

Summary

Even though rye and barley have similar nutritional values, barley is comparably richer in calories, proteins, fats, and dietary fiber, whereas rye is richer in net carbs.

Both grains are great vitamin B and mineral sources, barley being notably richer in vitamin B1 and rye being notably richer in vitamin B5. Barley is richer in iron, magnesium, zinc, and copper, whereas rye is richer in phosphorus.

The high content of dietary fiber, phytochemicals, and iron shows beneficial effects on health, while the presence of gluten proteins can adversely affect some individuals' health.

Introduction

Rye and barley are cereal grains from the same grass family, sharing similar characteristics and nutritional values. Rye, barley, and wheat are the only naturally gluten-containing foods.

This article will compare the nutritional values of rye and barley, their effects on health, and possible risks.

Classification

Barley (Hordeum vulgare) belongs to the Hordeum genus, and rye (Secale cereale) belongs to the Secale genus. Barley and rye are part of the Pooideae subfamily and Poaceae family, also known as grasses. This family includes cereal grasses such as wheat, oats, and maize.

Use

Rye and barley have similar uses in the kitchen; they can be eaten as such or added to salads, soups, and stews. Rye and barley can be used in flour, bread, whiskey, gin, and beer production.

Nutrition

The nutritional values in this article are presented for 100g grain rye and hulled (whole-grain) barley.

Macronutrients and Calories

Barley and rye are nutrient-dense grains, and as they belong to the same family, they are similar in nutritional value. However, barley is comparably richer in calories, proteins, fats, and dietary fiber, whereas rye is richer in net carbs.

The grains have an average serving size of one cup: ~169g for rye and ~184g for barley.

Calories

Rye and barley are high-calorie grains.

A 100g of rye provides 338 calories, whereas a 100g of barley provides 354 calories.

Protein

The grains are great protein sources. When compared, hulled barley is richer in proteins. Hulled barley contains 14.48g of proteins, pearled barley contains 9.91g, whereas rye contains 10.34g of proteins (1).

Fats

Barley and rye are low-fat foods that contain mainly unsaturated fatty acids and no cholesterol.

Carbohydrates

Carbs are the primary source of calories in rye and barley. One cup of either rye or barley may fully cover the daily carb and dietary fiber need.

Rye is richer in net carbs, whereas barley is richer in dietary fiber.

A 100g of rye contains 75.86g of carbs, 15.1g of which is dietary fiber, whereas hulled barley contains 73.48g of carbs, 17.3g of which is dietary fiber, and pearled barley contains 77.7g of carbs, 15.6g of which is dietary fiber (1).

Vitamins

Barley and rye provide a good amount of vitamin B complex.

Barley is two times richer in vitamin B1 (100g covers over 50% of the daily need) and somewhat richer in vitamins A, B2, B3, and B6 (2).

Rye is over five times richer in vitamin B5 (100g covers ~30% of the daily need) and somewhat richer in vitamin B9 (folate) and vitamins E and K (3).

Barley and rye are absent in vitamins B12, C, and D.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Rye
5
:
5
Barley
Contains more Vitamin E +49.1%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +416.3%
Contains more Folate +100%
Contains more Vitamin K +168.2%
Contains more Vitamin A +100%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +104.4%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +13.5%
Equal in Vitamin B3 - 4.604
Equal in Vitamin B6 - 0.318
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 1% 17% 0% 0% 79% 58% 81% 88% 68% 29% 0% 17% 15%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 2% 12% 0% 0% 162% 66% 87% 17% 74% 15% 0% 0% 6%
Contains more Vitamin E +49.1%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +416.3%
Contains more Folate +100%
Contains more Vitamin K +168.2%
Contains more Vitamin A +100%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +104.4%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +13.5%
Equal in Vitamin B3 - 4.604
Equal in Vitamin B6 - 0.318

Minerals

Barley is richer in calcium, iron, selenium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, and copper, whereas rye is richer in phosphorus, manganese, and potassium.

Barley and rye contain 3.6mg and 2.63mg of iron, respectively. The recommended daily iron intake is 8mg for men and 18mg for women (2).

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Rye
4
:
6
Barley
Contains more Phosphorus +25.8%
Contains more Potassium +12.8%
Contains less Sodium -83.3%
Contains more Manganese +32.6%
Contains more Calcium +37.5%
Contains more Iron +36.9%
Contains more Magnesium +20.9%
Contains more Copper +35.7%
Contains more Selenium +171.2%
Equal in Zinc - 2.77
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 8% 99% 79% 143% 45% 1% 73% 123% 337% 76%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 10% 135% 95% 114% 40% 2% 76% 166% 254% 206%
Contains more Phosphorus +25.8%
Contains more Potassium +12.8%
Contains less Sodium -83.3%
Contains more Manganese +32.6%
Contains more Calcium +37.5%
Contains more Iron +36.9%
Contains more Magnesium +20.9%
Contains more Copper +35.7%
Contains more Selenium +171.2%
Equal in Zinc - 2.77

Glycemic Index

Rye and barley have low glycemic index (GI) values of 34 and 28, respectively.

Rye bread has a medium GI value of 60, whereas barley bread has a medium GI value of 68.

Barley flour has a high GI value of 70.

Insulin Index

Barley is calculated to have an insulin index value of 46.

Rye bread has a calculated insulin index value of 73.

Acidity

Rye has a pH value of 5.9, and barley has a pH value of 5.2 (4).

The PRAL (potential renal acid load) value shows how much acid the organism produces from consumed food. The PRAL value of barley and rye is 2.5 and 3.5, respectively, which makes them both acid-producing.

Diets

Rye and barley are great for a low-fat diet, as it consists of foods low in fats, moderate in proteins, and moderate or high in carbs. These grains are also great for high-fiber, anti-inflammatory, and Mediterranean diets.

However, barley and rye and avoided during low-carb diets such as the keto and Atkins diets. Consumption of grains during a high-protein diet is also avoided, as the diet limits carb intake.

Health Impact

Whole grain rye and barley are considered superfoods - nutrient-dense foods with health-promoting properties. They are great sources of B vitamins, iron, zinc, proteins, dietary fiber, and antioxidants.

Dietary Fiber on Health

Rye and barley contain varying amounts of insoluble and soluble fibers.

Insoluble fiber speeds up stomach emptying, decreases intestinal transit time, and increases stool bulk, promoting digestive regularity and having beneficial effects on constipation (5, 6).

According to a study, increased long-term intake of insoluble dietary fiber can reduce the risk of gallbladder removal surgery (7).

Barley is rich in soluble fiber called beta-glucan; rye also contains some amounts of this fiber. Long-term intake of foods rich in beta-glucan beneficially affects immunity, blood glucose control, diabetes, atherosclerosis, heart disease, liver disease, obesity, skin disorders, and colon cancer (8, 9,10). Rye arabinoxylans are also associated with a lowered risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity (11).

Phytochemicals on Health

Whole-grain rye and barley are rich in phytochemicals such as phenolics, flavonoids, and anthocyanins. It is well known that phytochemicals promote health, protect against oxidative stress and inflammation, and reduce the risk of metabolic disorders, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer (12, 13).

Gluten on Health

Just like wheat, barley and rye contain gluten proteins.

Consumption of barley and rye should be avoided for people with gluten-related disorders such as Coeliac disease, gluten sensitivity, dermatitis herpetiformis, and gluten ataxia, as it will likely trigger the disease (14).

Several studies recommend a low-gluten or gluten-free diet (GFD) for people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, suggesting it may slow down the progression of the disease; however, other studies find no associations between the diet and Hashimoto’s disease and don’t recommend a GFD (15, 16, 17, 18).

Type 1 diabetes

Current evidence suggests a gluten-free diet for people with type 1 diabetes (with or without Coeliac disease).

A study on animal models shows gluten intake might trigger the development of type 1 diabetes (19).

Several studies suggest GFD may beneficially affect glycemic control in type 1 diabetes (19, 20).

A gluten-free diet for people with type 1 diabetes with Coeliac disease may protect against the development of diabetes-related complications (21).

Iron on Health

Rye and especially barley are rich in iron; they may prevent microcytic anemia and restore the iron supply when needed. Microcytic anemia is caused by iron deficiency, which can be physiological or caused by several diets, chronic blood loss, pathological absorption, and various chronic diseases (22, 23).

B Complex Vitamin on Health

As previously mentioned, rye and barley are rich in B complex vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and folate.

The body needs B complex vitamins for energy metabolism, DNA synthesis and repair, methylation, adequate immune and brain functions, and synthesis of numerous neurochemicals and signaling molecules (24, 25).

Cancer

Consumption of whole grains is associated with a decreased risk of colorectal, esophageal, stomach, and breast cancers (13, 26, 27, 28).

Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: November 02, 2022
Medically reviewed by Igor Bussel

Infographic

Rye vs Barley infographic
Infographic link

Macronutrient Comparison

Macronutrient breakdown side-by-side comparison
Rye
2
:
3
Barley
Contains more Water +12.3%
Contains more Protein +20.7%
Contains more Fats +41.1%
Contains more Other +46.5%
Equal in Carbs - 73.48
10% 76% 11%
Protein: 10.34 g
Fats: 1.63 g
Carbs: 75.86 g
Water: 10.6 g
Other: 1.57 g
12% 2% 73% 9% 2%
Protein: 12.48 g
Fats: 2.3 g
Carbs: 73.48 g
Water: 9.44 g
Other: 2.3 g
Contains more Water +12.3%
Contains more Protein +20.7%
Contains more Fats +41.1%
Contains more Other +46.5%
Equal in Carbs - 73.48

Fat Type Comparison

Fat type breakdown side-by-side comparison
Rye
1
:
2
Barley
Contains less Saturated Fat -59.1%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +41.8%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +44.5%
17% 18% 65%
Saturated Fat: 0.197 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.208 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.767 g
26% 16% 59%
Saturated Fat: 0.482 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.295 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 1.108 g
Contains less Saturated Fat -59.1%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +41.8%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +44.5%

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the rightmost column. It displays the amounts side by side, giving a clearer understanding of the difference.
Rye Barley
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Glycemic Index ok
Rich in minerals ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Rye Barley Opinion
Net carbs 60.76g 56.18g Rye
Protein 10.34g 12.48g Barley
Fats 1.63g 2.3g Barley
Carbs 75.86g 73.48g Rye
Calories 338kcal 354kcal Barley
Fructose 0.11g Rye
Sugar 0.98g 0.8g Barley
Fiber 15.1g 17.3g Barley
Calcium 24mg 33mg Barley
Iron 2.63mg 3.6mg Barley
Magnesium 110mg 133mg Barley
Phosphorus 332mg 264mg Rye
Potassium 510mg 452mg Rye
Sodium 2mg 12mg Rye
Zinc 2.65mg 2.77mg Barley
Copper 0.367mg 0.498mg Barley
Manganese 2.577mg 1.943mg Rye
Selenium 13.9µg 37.7µg Barley
Vitamin A 11IU 22IU Barley
Vitamin A RAE 1µg 1µg
Vitamin E 0.85mg 0.57mg Rye
Vitamin B1 0.316mg 0.646mg Barley
Vitamin B2 0.251mg 0.285mg Barley
Vitamin B3 4.27mg 4.604mg Barley
Vitamin B5 1.456mg 0.282mg Rye
Vitamin B6 0.294mg 0.318mg Barley
Folate 38µg 19µg Rye
Choline 30.4mg Rye
Vitamin K 5.9µg 2.2µg Rye
Tryptophan 0.108mg 0.208mg Barley
Threonine 0.289mg 0.424mg Barley
Isoleucine 0.208mg 0.456mg Barley
Leucine 0.563mg 0.848mg Barley
Lysine 0.286mg 0.465mg Barley
Methionine 0.153mg 0.24mg Barley
Phenylalanine 0.435mg 0.7mg Barley
Valine 0.317mg 0.612mg Barley
Histidine 0.189mg 0.281mg Barley
Saturated Fat 0.197g 0.482g Rye
Monounsaturated Fat 0.208g 0.295g Barley
Polyunsaturated fat 0.767g 1.108g Barley

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Rye Barley
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low Glycemic Index diet ok

Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score

The summary scores indicate the extent to which this food can fulfill your daily vitamin and mineral requirements if you consume 3 servings, consisting of 100 grams of each (an approximation of 3 serving sizes).
Vitamins Daily Need Coverage Score
35%
Rye
34%
Barley
Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
98%
Rye
110%
Barley

Comparison summary

Which food contains less Sodium?
Rye
Rye contains less Sodium (difference - 10mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Rye
Rye is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.285g)
Which food is cheaper?
Rye
Rye is cheaper (difference - $1.1)
Which food is lower in Sugar?
Barley
Barley is lower in Sugar (difference - 0.18g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Barley
Barley is lower in glycemic index (difference - 6)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Barley
Barley is relatively richer in minerals
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

References

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.

  1. Rye - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168884/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.