Home / friendly / plants / seeds / Is Barley Keto-Friendly?

Is Barley Keto-Friendly?

Barley on a kitchen counter

Barley, a versatile and nutritious grain, is a common ingredient in a variety of dishes, from soups and stews to bread and beverages.

While it boasts a host of health benefits, the question arises: 'Is Barley Keto-Friendly?' We'll delve deep into this topic, examining the carbohydrate content of barley, its implications on a ketogenic diet, ways to avoid it in your meal plans, and exploring some keto-compatible alternatives.This article aims to provide an informative guide for those on a keto diet, offering practical tips and insights to make informed dietary choices.


  • Barley is not keto-friendly due to its high carbohydrate content, posing challenges to maintaining ketosis.
  • Despite being nutritionally rich, the consumption of barley can disrupt a ketogenic diet.
  • Learn more about the difficulties of staying in ketosis while consuming barley and discover keto-compatible alternatives.

Is Barley Keto-Friendly?

Let's tackle the burning question head-on - is barley keto-friendly? The short answer is, alas, no, barley doesn't fit into the ketogenic diet. Let's dive into why.

Barley, while exceptionally nutritious, is fundamentally high in carbohydrates, which is where the keto-compatibility issue arises. If we take a closer look at its nutritional profile, barley stands out for its carb content, providing a substantial 56.18g net carbs per 100g. Such an amount significantly overshadows the daily carb intake recommended for individuals on a strict ketogenic diet, which typically falls within the 20-50g range.

This high carbohydrate density means that barley, even in small portions, can potentially push your daily carb intake over the limit, disrupting the state of ketosis crucial for a successful keto diet.

Let's remember that the keto diet thrives on a low-carb, high-fat dietary pattern. The goal is to induce a metabolic state called ketosis, where your body is efficiently burning fat for energy instead of relying on carbohydrates. It's this shift in metabolism that paves the way for the potential health benefits associated with a ketogenic lifestyle.

Considering these factors, it becomes clear why a high-carb food like barley doesn't fit the bill for keto. While it's a valuable source of nutrients in a standard diet, the carb content of barley disqualifies it from the keto menu.

Can Barley be Incorporated into a Strict Keto Diet?

By now, you're probably wondering if there's a way to sneak barley into a strict keto diet. Could smaller portions, perhaps, do the trick? Unfortunately, even in small servings, barley remains a tough sell for the keto lifestyle.

Remember the numbers that we discussed earlier? With 56.18g net carbs per 100g, barley carries a hefty carb load that's hard to fit within the stringent carbohydrate limits of a keto diet. Even a tiny serving can take up most, if not all, of your daily carb allowance, leaving little room for other kinds of foods. If the goal is to maintain ketosis, incorporating barley becomes a real challenge.

But here's the thing - keto isn't about depriving yourself. Instead, it's about becoming more aware of what you eat and making informed decisions that align with your dietary goals. That's where the role of tracking your nutrient intake becomes paramount.

To stay within your daily carb limit, a tracking tool, app, or food diary can be beneficial. These tools can help you understand the nutritional composition of your meals and ensure you're not unintentionally going overboard with carbs. By paying close attention to these details, you can make more informed choices about what to include in your meals and what to avoid.

Of course, the easiest way to ensure you stay within your carb limit is by opting for low-carb foods and avoiding high-carb ones like barley. But don't worry, there's a world of delicious, low-carb alternatives out there waiting to be explored, which we'll delve into further down.

Delving into the Carbohydrate Content of Barley

Diving deeper into the carbohydrate content of barley, we need to consider some key nutritional facts. As previously mentioned, barley contains a significant 56.18g net carbs per 100g. But what does this mean in terms of actual servings of barley?

For instance, a standard serving of boiled barley, which is about half a cup (or roughly 100g), would contain over 56g net carbs. Now, remember that net carbs are what matter for a ketogenic diet. It's the total amount of carbohydrates minus the dietary fiber, which your body can't digest and use for energy.

Thus, in the context of a keto diet, it's the net carbs that count towards your daily carb intake, not the total carbs. Considering the strict carb limit of 20-50g per day in a typical keto diet, you can see how even a modest serving of barley can take up your entire carb allowance.

It's also important to note that the carbohydrate content can vary slightly depending on the type of barley. For example, pearled barley tends to have a higher carb content than hulled barley. However, the difference isn't significant enough to make barley a viable option for a keto diet.

In the grand scheme of things, barley is a high-carb food, and it would be challenging to fit it into a ketogenic lifestyle without compromising the state of ketosis.

Nutritional Snapshot of Barley

A 100g sample of barley presents a comprehensive nutritional profile, rich in both macro and micronutrients. Beginning with macronutrients, barley contains 73.48g of carbohydrates, 2.3g of total fats, and 12.48g of protein. The notable fiber content of 17.3g promotes digestive health and provides satiety.

Delving into micronutrients, the mineral content is impressive with 452.0mg of potassium, essential for nerve and muscle cell functioning, and 133.0mg of magnesium, crucial for maintaining a healthy heartbeat. It also contains 264.0mg of bone-strengthening phosphorus and 2.77mg of immunity-boosting zinc.

Barley also has a wide array of vitamins, including 0.32mg of Vitamin B-6, beneficial for brain development and function. It contains a variety of B-vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate that play an essential role in energy production.

It's also worth noting the presence of essential amino acids such as leucine, lysine, and methionine, which contribute to muscle development and repair. The fatty acids profile of barley shows it has a good balance of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats.

Despite its rich nutritional profile, it's important to remember that barley is high in net carbs (56.18g per 100g), which may impact its compatibility with some diet plans, particularly low-carb or ketogenic diets.

Nutrient NameAmount and Unit per 100g
Net Carbs 56.18g
Carbohydrate, by difference 73.48g
Fiber, total dietary 17.3g
Total fats 2.3g
Protein 12.48g
Sodium, Na 12.0mg
Potassium, K 452.0mg
Magnesium, Mg 133.0mg
Calcium, Ca 33.0mg
Vitamin A 1.0ug
Vitamin B-6 0.32mg
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) 0.57mg
Vitamin K1 2.2ug
Copper, Cu 0.5mg
Iron, Fe 3.6mg
Phosphorus, P 264.0mg
Selenium, Se 37.7ug
Zinc, Zn 2.77mg
Beta-carotene 13.0ug
Lutein + zeaxanthin 160.0ug
Manganese, Mn 1.94mg
Thiamin 0.65mg
Riboflavin 0.28mg
Niacin 4.6mg
Pantothenic acid 0.28mg
Folate, total 19.0ug
Calories 354.0kcal
Water 9.44g
Tryptophan 0.21g
Threonine 0.42g
Isoleucine 0.46g
Leucine 0.85g
Lysine 0.46g
Methionine 0.24g
Cystine 0.28g
Phenylalanine 0.7g
Tyrosine 0.36g
Valine 0.61g
Arginine 0.62g
Histidine 0.28g
Alanine 0.49g
Aspartic acid 0.78g
Glutamic acid 3.26g
Glycine 0.45g
Proline 1.48g
Serine 0.53g
Fatty acids, total saturated 0.48g
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated 0.3g
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated 1.11g
Nutritional data is sourced from the US Department of Agriculture's FoodData Central system. Please see Cast Iron Keto's editorial and research standards for more information.

Health Implications of Barley on a Keto Diet

Discussing the health implications of barley within a ketogenic lifestyle requires a balanced perspective. On one hand, barley's high carbohydrate content poses a significant challenge for maintaining ketosis. On the other hand, barley is a nutritious grain that brings several health benefits in a non-keto context.

Staying in ketosis with barley in your diet would be a tall order due to its substantial carb content. Even a small portion could potentially push your daily carb intake over the keto limit, thereby disrupting ketosis. Once out of ketosis, the body reverts to using carbs for energy instead of fats, which is counterproductive for anyone following a keto diet.

But let's not overlook the value of barley outside the keto world. Despite its keto-unfriendliness, barley is packed with essential nutrients. It is an excellent source of dietary fiber, which aids digestive health and can help maintain steady blood sugar levels. Barley also contains a range of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, magnesium, and selenium.

Moreover, barley is rich in antioxidants, which are compounds that help protect your cells from damage by free radicals. It's also high in something called beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber that's been linked to numerous health benefits, such as improved heart health and enhanced immune function.

Avoiding Barley in Your Keto Meal Plan

Cutting barley out of your keto meal plan may seem daunting, especially if you're used to incorporating it into your meals. But with a little bit of planning and creativity, you can navigate around it quite successfully.

One effective way to avoid barley is to familiarize yourself with meals and products that commonly contain it. Barley is often found in soups, stews, bread, and even certain beverages. Always check food labels when shopping and look out for barley in the ingredients list.

Another useful tactic is meal planning. By planning out your meals ahead of time, you can ensure they align with your keto goals. There are countless delicious, low-carb recipes out there that can replace your favourite barley-containing dishes, so you won't feel like you're missing out.

And what about barley cravings? They can happen, especially if you're a fan of this grain. Instead of giving in, try to find a low-carb food that provides a similar satisfaction. For instance, cauliflower rice can be an excellent substitute for barley in risottos or salads.

Above all, remember the ultimate goal - maintaining a state of ketosis. Keeping your diet low in carbs is key to achieving this. And while it might require some adjustments and sacrifices, like saying goodbye to barley, the potential health benefits of a ketogenic lifestyle can make it worth the effort.

Keto-Compatible Alternatives for Barley

Given barley's high carbohydrate content, you might be wondering what alternatives you can turn to on a ketogenic diet. Fortunately, there are several low-carb substitutes that can stand in for barley in various dishes, without compromising your ketosis.

One popular barley substitute is cauliflower rice. This veggie-based alternative is not only low in carbs but also rich in essential nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. You can use cauliflower rice in many dishes where you'd typically use barley, such as stews, salads, or as a side dish.

For instance, in a barley risotto recipe, substitute the same quantity of barley with an equal amount of cauliflower rice. You'll get a similar consistency while drastically reducing your carb intake.

Another excellent alternative is shirataki rice, made from the fiber of the konjac plant. It's virtually zero-carb, making it a great fit for a keto diet. You can use shirataki rice in the same way you'd use barley in dishes like soups or stuffings.

Then there's broccoli rice, a nutrient-dense, low-carb alternative to barley. It’s perfect for grain-free salads and can also be used as a filling in wraps or as a base for dishes that need a bit of bulk.

To give you a sense of the difference, here are the net carbs for each alternative per 100g serving:

- Barley: 56.18g

- Cauliflower rice: 2.9g

- Shirataki rice: <1g

- Broccoli rice: 4g

As you can see, these alternatives offer a significant reduction in net carbs compared to barley, making them more compatible with a keto diet.

Concluding Thoughts on Barley and Keto

In navigating the complex dietary landscape of a ketogenic lifestyle, barley's place becomes clear. While it holds nutritional benefits in a non-keto context, its high carbohydrate content makes it ill-suited to a strict keto diet. Its high net carb content of 56.18g per 100g far surpasses the typical daily carb limit in a ketogenic diet, making it challenging to maintain ketosis with barley in your meals.

However, this doesn't mean you need to compromise on taste or miss out on your favorite dishes. Keto-friendly alternatives like cauliflower rice, shirataki rice, and broccoli rice offer creative ways to keep your meals exciting and within your carb limit. These substitutes not only provide a similar texture and versatility but also come with their own set of nutritional benefits.

Another aspect to remember is individual variation. Everyone's body responds differently to diets and food types. Monitoring how your body reacts to different foods, tracking your nutrient intake, and maintaining a food diary can provide valuable insights into what works best for you.

As a unique idea, you could experiment with combining different low-carb substitutes in your meals for added variety, texture, and flavor. For instance, a mix of cauliflower and broccoli rice can bring a fresh twist to your usual risotto or salad.

In conclusion, while barley brings many nutritional benefits to the table, it doesn't quite fit into the carb restrictions of a ketogenic diet. By exploring alternatives and planning your meals, you can uphold the keto way of eating while enjoying a range of delicious and nutritious dishes.

Explore our Is It Keto Knowledge Hub.

Is Corn Keto-Friendly
Are Chickpeas Keto-Friendly
Is Oats Keto-Friendly
Is Millet Keto-Friendly
Are Seeds Keto Friendly

Cast Iron Keto's Editorial and Research Standards

Certain rare or exotic food items may not have nutritional profiles in the FoodData Central database. If an exact match is not found in the FoodData Central database, then, the Cast Iron Keto team utilizes a three-prong approach to provide readers with the closest relevant nutritional data, where possible.

First, in the event that nutritional profiles for a rare or exotic food item is not available in the FoodData Central database, we investigate alternative names for that particular food item and use that data, when possible. Second, in cases where no alternate names exist, Cast Iron Keto will use nutritional data for a close relative or similar food item. Finally, if no close relatives or similar items exist, we refrain from publishing nutrient data tables.

When making dietary or health decisions based on FoodData Central's data, we suggest readers consult with a nutritionist or other health experts, particularly if the food in question has a significant role in your diet or if you are using the food item to treat any health disorder(s).

Furthermore, it is important to note that even if a close relative or similar item is used to approximate the nutritional data, different food items can have varying levels of nutrients due to factors such as soil quality, farming practices, and regional differences.


The information on this website is only intended to be general summary information for public use, designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. This information does not replace written law or regulations, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have questions about a medical condition or are seeking to evaluate the health merits of certain food items for the treatment of any medical condition, you should seek the advice of a doctor or other qualified health professionals.

The views expressed at, or through, Cast Iron Keto are for informational purposes only. Cast Iron Keto cannot guarantee the validity of the information found here. While we use reasonable efforts to include accurate and up-to-date information, we make no warranties as to the accuracy of the content and assume no liability or responsibility for any errors or omissions in the content. All liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this website are hereby expressly disclaimed. The content on this posting is provided "as is;" no representations are made that the content is error-free.

Frequently Asked Questions

Due to its high carbohydrate content, barley is generally not a good fit for a ketogenic diet, as it can make it difficult to maintain ketosis.

Yes, there are several keto-friendly substitutes for barley such as cauliflower rice, shirataki rice, and broccoli rice. These alternatives provide similar texture and can be used effectively in different recipes.

Both hulled and pearl barley have high carb contents, making them less suitable for a ketogenic diet. Hulled barley has a slightly higher fiber content than pearl barley, but the difference isn't enough to make it keto-friendly.