Applied Nutrition Science

What is Barley+?

Barley+ is a new range of whole grain muesli and muesli bar products. Barley+ is special because it has a kind of superior, non-genetically engineered whole grain called BARLEYmax™ as its key ingredient.

BARLEYmax™ was developed by Australia’s CSIRO as part of their research into grains with higher fibre content and enhanced nutritional benefits. Scientists saw the potential to help combat a range of health problems in a barley cultivar with more of the specific types of dietary fibre needed for good gut nutrition.

We can group fibre types into 3 families – resistant starch which acts a little like fibre as it escapes breakdown in the small intestine, soluble and insoluble fibre.The first two play particularly important roles as prebiotics and it is these that often fall seriously short in our diets, especially resistant starch.

The important known health benefits of prebiotic fibre and other fibre types

Until recently, we really thought of fibre as one entity, being the ‘roughage’ type or insoluble fibre and we primarily thought the importance of fibre was to keep us regular. Of course, this is crucial for good health – if you’ve ever suffered from constipation you’ll understand just how crucial that is! You can feel lethargic, bloated and uncomfortable, experience abdominal pains, bad breath, lack of appetite and even your concentration and brain power can be affected. Luckily, Barley+ is packed with this kind of fibre (Figure 1).

More of the important fibre types together in one whole grain

Figure 1: BARLEYmax™ has more resistant starch, soluble fibre and insoluble fibre in the one whole grain compared with other grains like wheat, oats and rye.

However, we now know fibre has other effects. Soluble fibre types form a gel in the intestines, slowing down the attack of our digestive enzymes that break down the carbohydrates (starch and sugars) in our food. This in turn slows down their absorption and thus blunts the rise in blood sugar levels after eating. These types of fibre are therefore hugely beneficial for blood sugar control.

Soluble fibre types are also highly effective at lowering blood cholesterol levels, especially LDL-cholesterol, the type that is associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

The most recent and exciting research is that resistant starch and some soluble fibre types are premium fuel for the good gut microflora that live primarily in the large intestine. These nutrients also have prebiotic effects and Barley+ is also naturally loaded with these good prebiotic fibre types (Figure 1).

Prebiotics and probiotics

You may be more familiar with the term probiotics, so let’s clarify the difference. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that we consume, either as supplements or present in fermented foods like yogurt, cheese, kefir, miso, sauerkraut or kimchi. In contrast, dietary prebiotics are ‘food’ for the good bacteria already living in your gut. Arguably, prebiotics are more important as they encourage the growth of the good bacteria already there in your gut. As they grow stronger they push out the bad guys, making your gut stronger and healthier. Probiotics on the other hand may not survive the journey to your large intestine and if they do, may not be able to compete against those bugs already there to make it their home.

Less than one third of Australians eat the recommended intakes of whole grains.

The importance of whole grains

We know that whole grain intake is linked to reduced risk of a range of chronic lifestyle related diseases. One of the main reasons for this is that whole grains are one of the key food sources of the various fibre types discussed here, but especially prebiotics.

Unfortunately, Australians are falling short on our intake of whole grains. Less than one third of us eat the recommended amounts. For 2-8 year old children, the recommended intake of grain (cereal) foods is 4 serves a day, which increases to 7 serves a day for older adolescents and reverts to 4-6 serves a day for adults, with at least two-thirds to come from whole grains, but the more the better!  One 50 gram serve of Barley+ Muesli provides valuable resistant starch and adds nearly 2 serves of whole grains to your daily intake. Barley+ can help Australians meet their recommended intakes of whole grain foods.

Reboot with Barley+ in a way that’s right for your gut

As all the good prebiotic and other fibre types in Barley+ pass undigested into your large intestine, and as your good gut bacteria use these prebiotics as their own food to build up more of their own good kind, they produce some of their own ‘wind’ or ‘gas’ .

We’ve all been conditioned to think this ‘wind’ is a bad thing, but it can be an indication that the good gut bugs are fighting back. The trick is to introduce this good prebiotic fibre back into your diet slowly, to give the good gut bugs time to adapt to all the good stuff you’re feeding them.

Follow our step-by-step guide on the following pages, to reboot your gut in a way that’s right for you.