Skip to main content
ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Aberdeen, Idaho » Small Grains and Potato Germplasm Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #308526

Title: Barley and oats: underutilized nutrition sources

item Liu, Keshun

Submitted to: The World of Food Ingredients
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/23/2014
Publication Date: 11/3/2014
Citation: Liu, K. 2014. Barley and oats: underutilized nutrition sources. The World of Food Ingredients. October/November 2014:110-113.

Interpretive Summary: Barley and oats are ancient crops, providing energy and protein to human and animals for thousands of years. They are tolerant to drought, alkali, salt and cold conditions and adaptable to wide regions and climates. In term of world annual production, barley ranks the 4th, after corn, rice and wheat, while oats rank 6th, proceeded by the first 4 crops, sorghum and millet. Yet, barley and oats have not been widely used as human food compared to some other grains (wheat, rice and corn). In recent years, there is renewed interest in using barley and oats as functional foods. This interest comes mainly from the discovery of the health benefits of beta-glucan naturally present in the two under-utilized crops. In this short communication, several key aspects relating to barley and oats are discussed, including constraints for food uses, recent technological advancement in processing barley and oats into various functional food ingredients, and its role in expanding barley and oat utilization as food. The ultimate objectives are improving public health and increasing the number of world food ingredients.

Technical Abstract: Barley and oats are two unique ancient crops. Their grains contain beta-glucan in substantial amounts, which can lower cholesterol levels and reduce glycemic response. Yet, food uses of barley and oats are rather limited due to lack of palatability of whole grain food or functionality of milled flour. Many researchers have worked on processing barley or oats into value-added fractions enriched with nutrients, some with commercial success. At USDA-ARS, we have developed improved methods (some are patent pending) to fractionate barley and oats, and recover many fractions enriched with protein, beta-glucan, starch, fiber, or oil, simultaneously. All these efforts have offered the food industry a new opportunity to use barley and oats as functional ingredients and improve public health.