Difference between Barley and Wheat

By: | Updated: Oct-17, 2023
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If you are looking to diversify your menu, you could start with learning more about grains. Changing one type of cereal for another can spruce up and refresh your meal plan and would be a nice change. So, how much of your current daily cereal intake is wheat and what other grains are you eating or should you be eating? Barley keeps coming up in food articles all over the Internet. Let’s see what the differences between the two are.

Summary Table

Barley Wheat
Latin name Hordeum vulgare Latin name Triticum
There are three types of barley: two-row, six-row and hull-less There are six types of wheat: hard red winter, hard red spring, soft red winter, hard white, soft white wheat and durum
Thrives in warm seasons Thrives in cooler seasons
Harvested in spring Harvested at the beginning of winter
The fourth most cultivated grain The most cultivated grain
When ready for harvest it has a golden brown hue When ready for harvest it has a yellow-white hue
Cooks easily like rice Must be milled, ground, cracked or pre-boiled before consumption
Best used for brewing and animal feed Best used for food and animal feed
Has a rich, nutty flavor Weaker in taste
100 grams has 352 calories 100 grams has 327 calories

History of Growing Barley and Wheat

Humans began cultivating and domesticating wild plants about 12,000 years ago. This was the beginning of agriculture, and it started with barley and wheat. Agriculture and the planting of these cereal grains were the foundation of today’s human society. Today, barley and wheat continue to be essential grains for human and animal diets.



Barley is a major cereal grain. Hordeum vulgare, by its Latin name, is a member of the grass family and one of the first grains cultivated by man. It now ranks fourth in quantity and area of cultivation. There are three categories of barley: two-row, six-row and hull-less barley. As far as appearance goes, the harvested grains are pale brown in color. Each grain has a bran husk that covers the germ inside.

According to a 2013 ranking, Russia, Germany and France were the world’s top barley producers. Barley is an important grain in the food industry, especially in the production of alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. It is also used as animal feed. Half the barley production in the US becomes animal feed, while a quarter goes into alcoholic beverage production. Barley is the best suited grain for malting. Therefore, it is a key ingredient in beer and whiskey. As far as nonalcoholic beverages go, barley makes a great coffee substitute. Hulled barley has a rich, nutty flavor.

Barley comes in the form of flour, flakes, grits, or as a whole grain. 100 grams of barley has 352 calories and is a rich source of nutrients such as manganese, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus. It is also rich in proteins, fiber and vitamins. Including barley in the diet can help prevent heart conditions, cancer, inflammation and indigestion. Regular consumption of barley can also lower cholesterol levels and is recommended for people suffering from type 2 diabetes. People suffering from celiac disease or from gluten allergies or intolerance should stay away from barley, however, as it contains gluten.


Wheat is a cereal grain. Triticum, by its Latin name, is the most cultivated cereal worldwide. The plant has a long stalk with clusters of kernels enclosed by spikes. The germ, the endosperm and the bran make up the grain. The harvested grains are golden in color. There are six types of wheat: hard red winter, hard red spring, soft red winter, hard white, soft white wheat and durum wheat.

According to a 2013 ranking, the world’s top wheat producers were China, India and the United States. Wheat fuels the pastry industry and has a lot of other great uses. Wheat stalks have a variety of uses such as animal bedding and construction material.

There would be no puff pastries without white wheat. It is great for cakes, cookies, muffins and pancakes and many other delicate treats. Otherwise, ground into semolina, cracked or germinated and dried to create malt, wheat finds it way in other delicious recipes. 100 grams of wheat holds 327 calories and is a great source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. People suffering from celiac disease, gluten allergies or intolerance should stay away from barley as it contains gluten.

The fruit of barley and wheat

Not many people realize that the grains are the fruits of the barley and wheat plants. The fruits develop on a “spike” or “head,” arranged in vertical rows that look like ears of corn. Each grain has three layers:

  • Inner germ layer: is the core of the fruit and contains the most nutrients
  • Endosperm: found outside the germ layer and it contains carbs and proteins
  • Bran: the outer layer of the fruit that contains fiber, B vitamins, and trace minerals

Barley vs Wheat

So what is the difference between barley and wheat?

As far as appearance goes, barley has a long beard (the bristly material protecting the kernels) while wheat has a shorter one. When it is ready for harvesting, wheat is golden brown in hue, whereas barley is yellow-white.

Although used in more foods, wheat must be milled and turned into flour, ground into semolina, or broken or pre-boiled to turn it into bulgur. By comparison, barley can be more easily cooked and served. Its preparation is as simple as that of rice. Even so, taste is on the side of barley, making it the preferred ingredient for malting. Weaker in taste, wheat does not make for a great brew.

Wheat crops cover more land area than barley, which is merely the fourth grain in this respect. Wheat has a higher commercial value and we use it in a wider array of foods. On the other hand, the brewing industry prefers barley as an ingredient and so do animal breeders for animal feed.

What are the health benefits of barley?

1. Barley is high in nutrients

Barley contains many important nutrients such as B vitamins (B1 [thiamine], B2 [riboflavin], B3 [niacin], B5 [pantothenic acid], vitamin B6 [pyridoxine], B7 [biotin], B9 [folic acid] and B12), calcium (calcium carbonate), copper (copper citrate), iron (ferrous sulfate), magnesium (magnesium oxide), manganese (manganese citrate), phosphorus (phosphorus citrate), potassium (potassium citrate), selenium (selenium citrate), and zinc (zinc oxide).

2. Barley is high in fiber

The complex composition of enzymes and organic acids in Barley also make it a great source of fiber for your digestive system. For those who suffer from indigestion or bloating, drinking barley water can help with digestion and can reduce gas buildup.

3. Barley is high in B vitamins

The B vitamins in Barley help to give you energy and improve your mood. They also help in forming red blood cells and keep your skin smooth and soft. It is also great for those who have problems with stomach disorders such as ulcers or inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, as well as those who have been diagnosed with celiac disease or Crohn’s disease.

In addition, they are helpful for those who suffer from fatigue due to anemia or any other reason related to low hemoglobin levels in their blood, which may lead to anemia. This type of food can also be helpful for those who have been diagnosed with diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy or Alzheimer’s disease, as well as those who suffer from some other health problems.

Barley is higher in dietary fiber than any other grain. Dietary fiber has many health benefits, including preventing constipation, reducing the cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.

However, you should eat barley in moderation because it does contain some carbs. When choosing the type of cereal grain to eat in moderation, choose barley. This grain is very low in calories when compared to other grains like wheat or corn. One cup of barley has about 160 calories whereas one cup of wheat has around 310 calories.

What are the health benefits of wheat?

Wheat is a popular cereal grain for human diet. It is nutritious and contains many vitamins and minerals. It also contains anti-oxidants, which help protect our body from diseases. Wheat is considered to be the most complete source of energy for humans. Here are some of the health benefits of wheat:

1. Wheat Is High in Vitamin B

Wheat contains more than 30% of vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, in its composition. Vitamin B2 plays an important role in metabolism and tissue repair.

Vitamin B2 helps your body to produce energy from food by converting sugars into energy molecules known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

ATP is an important molecule that acts as a fuel for your body’s cells. When you consume vitamin B2, it increases the amount of ATP in your body’s cells, which leads to improved energy levels and healthier metabolism.

Vitamin B2 can also be converted into energy through other pathways, such as using amino acids or fat molecules that are present in food we eat; however, this process requires more energy than when vitamin B2 is used directly.

2. Wheat Is High in Fiber

Wheat has high fiber content, which makes it an excellent food for weight loss. It has been found that when people who eat a lot of wheat lose weight, they do not gain back the weight they lost.

This is because wheat is a low-calorie food that fills you up and prevents you from overeating carbohydrates. It also keeps your digestive system healthy and keeps you regular by helping to reduce constipation and bloating.

3. Wheat Is High in Antioxidants

Antioxidants are chemicals that protect your body from the damage caused by free radicals and oxidants. Free radicals are atoms or molecules that have one or more unpaired electrons in their outer shell, which causes them to be unstable.

When free radicals combine with other molecules, they cause damage to cells and tissues, resulting in cell death or tissue injury, such as inflammation and oxidation of DNA (DNA damage).

Antioxidants neutralize free radicals so they do not damage cells or tissues; therefore, they help protect your body from disease and aging. Wheat contains antioxidants called phenolic compounds, which act as antioxidants by reducing oxidative stress on cells or tissues caused by free radicals.

Is Barley Better Than Wheat?

This question has puzzled scientists for years. But, now it is time to answer this question once and for all.

The reasons why people choose barley seeds over wheat seeds?

1) Barley has more protein than wheat seeds do. A 3-ounce serving of the white variety contains 8 grams of protein compared to 5 grams in a serving of wheat bran cereal (Beverage Digest). One ounce also provides 14 percent of the recommended daily value for manganese (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). Protein helps you build muscle mass and provides energy to power your body through the day. In fact, a well-balanced diet that includes both plant and animal proteins can help you lose weight by keeping your appetite under control (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). To ensure that you get enough protein each day, be sure to eat a variety of foods, including meat, poultry, fish, beans and dairy products.

2) Barley seeds are easier to digest than whole grain wheat. Wheat is hard to digest and can cause bloating and gas in some people. A fiber called raffinose forms during the cooking process in the gut of people who eat wheat (Journal of Nutrition).

3) Barley has more dietary fiber than wheat does. One ounce of the white variety contains 2 grams of fiber compared to 1 gram in a serving of wheat bran cereal (Beverage Digest). Fiber helps you feel full and helps you control your weight by keeping your appetite under control (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). To ensure that you get enough fiber each day, be sure to eat a variety of foods, including fruit, vegetables and whole grains.

Are Barley and Wheat Gluten-Free?

Barley and wheat contain gluten. If you have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, you should avoid to eat barley or wheat. The glutens in wheat are called glutenins and gliadins, while barley contains hordeins.

What About Wheat Allergy?

While it’s possible to have an allergy to barley, this is a rare condition. Having a true wheat allergy is also rare, though it is more common than a barley allergy.

Wheat allergy is caused by the immune system reacting to specific proteins in wheat (and barley). While some of the same proteins are found in barley, many people who have a wheat allergy are not allergic to barley.

Those with a wheat allergy may also be allergic to other grains, such as Amaranth and other grains.

If you have a wheat allergy, it’s best to avoid wheat completely. It’s a good idea to talk with your doctor about alternatives that would be a better choice for your diet.

The bottom line

Barley and wheat are two types of cereal grains that are very popular around the world. Both barley and wheat have high nutritional value. They are high in fiber, protein, and other nutrients that we need to stay healthy.

There is no huge difference in terms of nutritional content between wheat and barley. The key difference is that Barley contains cholesterol-lowering beta-glucan

Barley and wheat can be bitter when eaten raw. Barley and wheat can be used in baking or for preparing cookies, pancakes or muffins. It can also be used in recipes that call for wheat flour (such as cake), oatmeal (such as cookies) or tortillas (tortillas are often made with wheat flour).

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