Is Barley Low FODMAP?

Medically Reviewed by Onikepe Adegbola, MD PhD, Dipl IBLM

Is barley low FODMAP?

The answer to that question is a little bit complicated. Like other gluten-containing grains such as wheat and rye, barley contains high levels of fructans, which are a type of carbohydrate that can be problematic for people who have digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, some people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) find that they can tolerate barley better than other grains like wheat or rye. Barley is a good source of fiber, and it contains some essential vitamins and minerals like thiamin, niacin, and magnesium. It can be a healthy addition to your diet, but if you have IBS or are on the low FODMAP diet, it is important to stick to the recommended low FODMAP serving sizes of barley per meal.

What is the low FODMAP Diet?

The low FODMAP diet is a dietary approach to managing IBS symptoms. The acronym FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. These are all types of carbohydrates that can be poorly absorbed in the small intestine. When they are poorly absorbed, they can cause problems like gas, bloating, and diarrhea. 

The low FODMAP diet was developed by researchers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. The diet has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms for up to 70% of people with IBS.  

Is barley low FODMAP?

According to the Monash app, 1/8 cup of barley (28g) is the low FODMAP safe serving. Larger serving sizes should be avoided as they contain high FODMAP amounts of fructans and galactooligosaccharides (GOS).

Pearled barley

Pearled barley is barley that has had the bran and germ removed. This process also removes dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, zinc, and B vitamins. 

According to the Monash app,1/8 cup of pearled barley (28g) is low FODMAP. Larger serving sizes should be avoided as they contain high FODMAP amounts of fructans and galactooligosaccharides (GOS).

Pearl barley can be sprouted to make it easier to digest and increase its nutrient content. To sprout pearl barley, soak the barley in water overnight. The next day, drain the water and rinse the barley. Place the barley in a colander and cover it with a cloth to keep out light. Rinse the barley twice per day for two days or until you see small sprouts growing from the grains. According to the Monash app, 1/2 cup (100g) of sprouted pearl barley grains is low FODMAP.

To cook sprouted barley, add one cup of dry grain to three cups of boiling water. Simmer on low heat for 45 minutes, then drain.

Barley Flour

Barley flour contains gluten. According to the Monash app, barley flour and products made with barley flour are high FODMAP as they have high levels of GOS and fructans.

Barley malt

Barley malt is made by germinating barley grains in water, then drying and roasting them. During the germination process, enzymes are activated that convert starches into sugars. Roasting stops the enzymatic activity and gives barley malt its characteristic flavor. Barley malt extract is a sweetener made from roasted barley malt often used in baking. It is also high in maltose, a type of sugar that can be difficult for some people to digest.

Barley malt has not been tested for FODMAPs by Monash. However, a study in the journal Food Chemistry showed that barley and wheat malts had slightly elevated fructan levels, suggesting they may not be safe on the low FODMAP diet. If you do try barley malt, you should try it in small amounts and monitor your tolerance.

Barley on the low FODMAP diet

If you want to try incorporating barley into your low FODMAP diet, here are a few tips:

  • Consider using sprouted pearled barley as it has a larger FODMAP safe serving size.
  • Start with a small portion size and see how you tolerate it. If you experience any symptoms like bloating, gas, or diarrhea after eating barley, stop eating it and speak to your doctor or a registered dietitian for advice.

Here are some low FODMAP recipes incorporating barley: 

  • Barley Risotto with Roasted Vegetables
  • Curried Barley Pilaf
  • Winter Harvest Salad with Maple Vinaigrette and Toasted Barley

You can also substitute barley 1:1 for rice in these recipes, but adjust the low FODMAP serving sizes accordingly.

Summary

Hopefully, this blog post has answered some of your questions about barley and whether or not it is a low FODMAP food. Stay tuned for more posts about FODMAP-friendly foods, and be sure to check out our other blog posts for more information on how to manage your digestive health.

Join our free low FODMAP course for beginners if you're looking for more information on following the low FODMAP diet. FODMAP 101 is the easiest way to learn about the low FODMAP diet, which can improve and even eliminate symptoms of IBS and SIBO. The program includes weekly food guides, a master meal plan with recipes, cooking videos, and more. Join here.

 

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