Borth barley and wheat can be easily found in every supermarket nowadays. They are, in fact, two of the most popular and widespread crops on the market, along with rye and oats.
And here comes the common question: What are the similarities and differences between barley and wheat? Which one to choose or should you include both in your diet?
This article gives you the answer and guides you through their nutritional value, general characteristics, and health benefits.
Let’s get started!
Wheat vs. barley
Wheat is a cereal typically ground into flour and used for the preparation of pastries, pasta, bread, cakes, etc. While wheat is mostly used in the form of flour (either whole grain or refined), sometimes the whole wheat berries can be added to different dishes. This makes wheat a very versatile food! There are 6 different types of wheat  :
- Hard red winter (mainly used for all-purpose flour and bread)
- Hard red spring (for bagels, croissants, baked goods)
- Soft red winter (cookies, crackers, pretzels)
- Soft white (cakes, pastries, and flatbreads)
- Hard white (noodles, tortillas, flatbreads)
- Durum (pasta and couscous; higher in protein than other wheat varieties)
Barley is visually very similar to wheat. Yet the barley berries are typically used whole (also called barley pearls) or in flakes instead of ground into flour. The usual cooking method is to boil the barley and then serve it in different dishes. Just as wheat, barley is very versatile when it comes to dish preparation.
Barley vs. wheat nutrition
100 grams barley contain  :
- 28.09g carbs
- 0.44g fat
- 2.25g protein
100 grams of whole durum wheat contain  :
- 71.1g carbs
- 2.47g fats
- 13.7g protein
This way, we can estimate that wheat is significantly richer in protein and carbs.
Wheat also wins the comparison in terms of fiber: Whole wheat berries contain about 8.3g of fiber while barley contains 3.8g fiber per 100 grams of product. That being said, both of these grains are considered fiber-rich when eaten in their whole-grain form.
Both barley and wheat contain noticeable amounts of the following vitamins and minerals:
- B vitamins
- Beta carotene
- Vitamin E
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that whole wheat also contains healthy compounds like antioxidants, phytochemicals, and healthy fats. 
Sometimes, refined flours and grains are fortified with vitamins and minerals to recover their nutrient values. However, some substances like antioxidants and phytochemicals cannot be added back or replaced to make the product healthier. For that reason, products made from refined grains (like all-purpose flour) should be consumed in moderation and whole grains intake is encouraged.
Talking about whole grains, let’s look into their glycemic index (GI). This index measures how quickly a specific food increases the blood sugar levels in the body. High glycemic index foods are thought to increase the risk of various chronic health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. 
The GI of unrefined barley is 25.  And the index for whole wheat kernels is 30. This way, both of these whole grains don’t cause sharp spikes and fluctuation in blood sugar levels and are safe even for diabetes patients. 
How much gluten in wheat vs. barley
Both wheat and barley contain gluten (a type of protein found in some grains). Generally, gluten accounts for 70-75% of the total protein content of wheat.  The gluten percentage in barley is less, compared to wheat, but gluten is still present. 
Barley vs. wheat: which is better
Both whole grain wheat and barley are associated with various health benefits when integrated into a balanced and diverse diet, which also includes lean protein, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, antioxidants, and other whole grains.
Evidence suggests that balanced consumption of wheat berries or whole grain wheat products could be linked to the following health benefits   :
- Improved cholesterol profile
- Lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart and colon diseases
- Slow food transit in the upper gastrointestinal tract
- Improved stool consistency and constipation relief
Research pieces suggest that barley intake could have the following health-promoting effects     :
- Increase in HDL (good) cholesterol and lower related risk of stroke
- Lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower related heart disease risk
- Promote gut health
- Blood glucose and insulin management
- Immunomodulatory effect
- Improve management of metabolic syndrome
- Anti-inflammatory effect
With that in mind, don’t limit your diet to only one or two types of whole grains. The Whole Grains Council recommends including a variety of whole grains into your daily menu: oats, barley, wheat, bulgur, rye, and more!