Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pearled Barley vs. Hulled Barley and a Whole Grain Primer

Yesterday I wrote about a beef, barley and mushroom soup I made using hulled barley and a reader asked the difference between "hulled" barley and "pearled" barley.

Simply put, hulled barley (right in photo) is a whole grain, meaning the three parts of the seed—bran, germ and endosperm—are intact, providing optimum nutrition. Hulled barley, as its name suggests, has had its inedible, outermost layer—the hull—removed. (All grains grown for human consumption must have their hull removed, if they have one.)

Pearled barley (left in photo) is not a whole grain, since it has been polished (aka "pearled"), processing that removes the nutritious bran layer, making it an incomplete food.

This concept of whole vs. incomplete holds for other grains and grain products. White rice, for example, is rice that has had its bran and germ—and with them essential vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fats, proteins and fiber—removed.

White wheat flour, the main ingredient in so much of our bread, cookies, cakes, muffins, pizza dough, etc., comes from wheat that has been stripped of its bran, germ and, by association, most of its nutrients.

Many believe that these processed grains play an outsized role in our modern diseases (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc.), since the endosperm's starches throw the body's insulin regulation mechanism completely out of whack.

The bran and germ are removed for several reasons, including shelf life, cooking time and appearance. (The germ contains some oil, which can go rancid; whole grains take longer to cook; and white is bright.)

The bottom line? Choose hulled barley over pearled, brown rice over white and whole wheat bread over white. They taste better, are rich in nutrients and may help you lose a couple pounds.


The Bag Lady said...

Rob, have you tried baking with white wholewheat flour? King Arthur Flour has it. Great for bread, although I do use about 25% white bread flour with it to get a better rise and crumb.

Chef Rob said...

Bag Lady,

Yes, I have used the white whole wheat four (from Bob's Red Mill). I haven't made bread with it, but for cookies and cakes I'll use it (100 percent) instead of white flour.

Anonymous said...

I was so glad to find this article. I have a korean bag of barley and I had no idea which it was until I saw the side by side picture above. (it's pearled, unfortunately)

Josefina said...

The bran and germ do contain minerals and vitamins but historically, grains were generally consumed refined. Besides nutrients, the bran and germ also contain potent toxins that aren't well neutralized when cooked, fermented or sprouted. In a healthy person, consuming foods high in starches is only beneficial, provided a full range of essential nutrients are eaten along side it.

Anonymous said...

Bran is a insoluble fiber therefore it provides no nutritive value. Even soluble fiber provides a negligible amount of actual nutrition to the body. There is a lot more to the argument of whole grains versus processed, and the affect carbohydrates have in the body in terms of insulin, cholesterol, and inflammation. Furthermore there is increasing evidence that shows whole grains increase levels of LDL cholesterol. I encourage everyone reading this to read a book and educate yourselves. Don't rely on blogs where literally anyone can present their opinion on nutrition and what they think they know as though it was factual. Don't take my word for it, Human kinetics is a reputable publisher for nutritional information, or even look at a book called the carb night solution.

Indiheart said...

True, however if eating starchy foods, it's best to consume them with fibre to slow the glycemic load so the blood sugar spike isn't quickly turned to fat which is the body's protocol protecting you from diabetes unless the pancreases is abused with constant excessive work load. My suggestion is If you choose to eat high GI foods, eat them with fat and fibre for slow burning energy.