It seems that we can barely open the newspaper or turn on the news without being bombarded by the latest ‘superfood’ to be discovered. Cast your mind back only five years. Was kale, chia or wheatgrass in your vocabulary and making regular appearances in your kitchen? Probably not. Whilst there are health benefits associated with each of these, they are also very much on trend at the moment – a trend that will no doubt pass at some point. Today, we’re taking a look back – way, way back – to the origin of the original superfood – barley.
If it’s good enough for the gladiators of ancient Rome…
Barley is the oldest grain that people been known to cultivate – it has been known by Pre-Christian cultures as ‘The Holy Grain’. It was a staple in the diet of the ancient gladiators in Rome and its Legionnaires , and is referenced in the bible that ‘It was with five barley loaves and two fishes that our Lord fed the five thousand’ (John 6: 9-10).
Over the years, barley has been used as a staple food source for many cultures, as well as an ingredient in beverages and as component in various health foods and natural remedies. To this day, Tibetans use roasted and crushed barley mixed with Yak milk to make a basic food called Tsampa. Western countries tend to use barley these days as an ingredient in breakfast cereals, pearled and added to soups or as a flour for breads and baking. Traditional barley packs an impressive nutritional punch as a good source of fibre, selenium, magnesium, niacin and vitamin B1. Barley milks and barley waters have long been used as traditional remedies for a wide range of ailments.
Roasted barley was used as a coffee substitute in Italy during the First and Second World Wars. Even to this day, Italians drink Orzo, a coffee made from barley.
BARLEYmax®™ – The New Generation of Superfood
Scientists at Australia’s preeminent research organisation, CSIRO, were working on two separate barley-focussed projects back in the late 1990s, one investigating plant hormones and the other dietary fibre and health. There was an exchange of information and material and a new project started to optimise the nutritional profile of some of the types of barley used in the plant hormone project.
Fast forward to 2007 and the successful completion of the project resulted in BARLEYmax®™ wholegrain with much increased levels of total dietary fibre and prebiotics compared to the original barley type from the mid-1990s. When it comes to being a superfood, BARLEYmax®™ ticks all the boxes. How so you ask? Well, BARLEYmax®™ supports good gut health due to its high fibre content. In fact, this supergrain contains twice the fibre, and staggeringly, four times the resistant starch of any other commercial grain. When it comes to supporting good gut health, you’ll struggle to find another source as rich in fibre – and more importantly, the right types and combination of fibre. With the additional properties of being high in protein and beta-glucan, and low in GI, eating BARLEYmax®™ also helps to reduce your risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes. It’s safe to say that BARLEYmax®™ is truly leading the charge of the next generation of superfoods to become staples in Aussie (and global) supermarkets and pantries.
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