Ardent Mills flour, a flour and ingredient company, held a two-day conference at its Denver headquarters on Feb. 23-24. The focus of the event was to help key barley industry entities share knowledge and insights regarding the grain.
“In a world filled with oats and wheat, Ardent Mills brought together leaders from across the full spectrum of the barley industry to explore the significance of this ‘unsung hero’ of the grain world for human health and diet,” said Laura Wooster, business development at Ardent Mills. “All attendees came prepared to share their knowledge, explore new culinary applications and outline opportunities.”
Corrie Whisner of Arizona State University spoke about the correlation between gut health and barley.
“When it comes to gut health and satiety, barley is an underappreciated player,” Ms. Whisner said. “Barley ranks high for fiber content and we are learning it has a significant impact on the development of ‘good bacteria’ in the gut microbiome.”
According to the Idaho Barley Commission (IBC), soluble fiber from barley, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. Whole grain barley and dry milled barley products, such as pearled barley kernels, flakes, grits and flour, provide at least 0.75 grams of soluble fiber per serving and contains key components that have been shown to provide specific nutritional benefits for human health. These include beta-glucan fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, protein, vitamins and minerals. Like other whole grains, barley is an important source of complex carbohydrates that helps fuel the body, and barley is free of saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.
“We are excited to see barley get more culinary and consumer attention,” said Kelly Olson, IBC commissioner. “The IBC sees this powerhouse grain has the potential to be the next ‘super grain’ in terms of great nutrition, versatility, affordability and sustainable growing. It’s time more people know about it and use it.”
Barley is grown in the Northwest regions of the United States and Canada and is an original American Indian food known for its heartiness and high nutrition. Available in beige, blue, black and purple varietals, barley may be used like brown rice or quinoa, IBC said.
“Barley is not just another beige grain,” said David Sheluga, director for consumer insights at Ardent Mills. “More people are learning about this overlooked and underappreciated grain for culinary applications. Barley tends to be known for beer or spirit production and as animal feed. But, barley is ripe for adoption in a food culture where people are looking for the next great thing, whether that’s a vegetable, some global inspiration or a grain. Our research found that consumers and influencers are most attracted by the ruggedness of scenic lands where barley is grown and the pioneering people who grow barley.”