Pearl or pearled barley is the basic barley grain that is left when the fibrous outer casing has been removed, as well as the bran or rough skin layer. Although the grain can be eaten with the bran layer intact, it takes much longer to cook and is less digestible than pearl barley. It is mainly used as an ingredient of stews and soups, though can be substituted in many dishes for rice or bulgur wheat.
Pearl barley is not as rich in fibre as whole grain hulled barley, which still retains the bran layer, but it nevertheless has a lot more than rice, amaranth or quinoa. Pearl barley contains vitamins A and K, and some of the B complex vitamins, notably niacin, and is rich in minerals, especially phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Some varieties contain more of the amino acid lysine, which is important for absorbing calcium and helps to build muscle protein.
As part of a healthy diet, pearl barley can help to lower cholesterol and control blood sugar levels. It is also considered beneficial in recovery from sports injuries and surgery, as well as being involved in the production of enzymes, antibodies and hormones.