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Barley, flaxseed and rice bran: Why they’re good sources of nutraceuticals


Nutraceuticals have long been the focus of scientific studies and the subject of debate. They are often considered to be more food than medicine. On the other hand, these naturally occurring substances have nutritional and medicinal properties that can help in the prevention and treatment of various diseases. Researchers from Sant Longowal Institute of Engineering and Technology in India believe that the addition of nutraceuticals to food products could lead to the development of safe functional foods that can promote overall health; hence, they isolated substances known to be beneficial to human health from crops and tested their safety as potential food additives. In their study published in in the Journal of Food Processing and Preservation, they characterized nutraceuticals extracted from barley flour, flaxseed, and rice bran oil to show that these plant components are safe to use as nutraceutical ingredients.

Nutraceuticals from crops are not tainted by pesticides or bacteria

For their study, the researchers used barley flour, flaxseed, and rice bran oil as sources. They isolated beta-glucan fibers from a six-rowed, hull-less barley variety, a lignan concentrate from flaxseed, and a gamma oryzanol concentrate from rice bran oil. These nutraceuticals can offer tremendous health and medicinal benefits. For instance, the soluble dietary fiber beta-glucan helps improve blood cholesterol levels and support heart health. Meanwhile, the lignans from flaxseed are converted by intestinal bacteria into chemicals that contribute to the prevention of hormone-related cancers, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease. Gamma oryzanol from rice bran oil is a mixture of natural antioxidants and is known to reduce high cholesterol levels and alleviate symptoms of menopause and aging.

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Using various analytical methods, the researchers reported that the variety of hull-less barley they chose contained high amounts of beta-glucan, while the lignan concentrate from flaxseed had a high secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG) content and the gamma oryzanol concentrate had four major components, namely, cycloartenyl ferulate (CAF), 24?methylenecycloartanyl ferulate (24-MCF), campesteryl ferulate, and B?sitosteryl ferulate.

According to studies, SDG metabolites can protect against heart disease and metabolic syndrome by decreasing blood cholesterol and glucose levels, lowering blood pressure, and reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. They can also reduce the risk of cancer by preventing angiogenesis and cancer metastasis. On the other hand, CAF has been shown to treat allergic inflammation; 24-MCF is known to have anti-cancer and cholesterol-lowering activities; campesteryl ferulate is toxic to cancer cells; B-sitosteryl ferulate has potent antioxidant activity.

The researchers also confirmed through chromatographic and spectrometric analyses that the raw materials were not contaminated by any pesticide and that, of the three isolates, the gamma oryzanol concentrate had the lowest total plate count, yeast and mold count, and coliform count.

Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that these nutraceuticals are safe to incorporate into food products in order to develop functional foods that can promote overall health.

The health benefits of rice bran oil, flaxseed, and barley

Rice bran oil is a vegetable oil extracted from the germ and husk of rice kernels. In terms of composition, rice bran oil is similar to peanut oil, which contains safe and balanced levels of diverse fatty acids. Because of this, rice bran oil is considered healthier than other cooking oils. Rice bran oil helps lower cholesterol, improves skin health, promotes weight loss, prevents certain types of cancer, and protects heart health.

Flaxseeds are rich in micronutrients like healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, and are good sources of dietary fiber which promote gut health. Flaxseeds come from flax, one of the oldest fiber crops on the planet, and are marketed today in the form of seeds, oil, capsules or tablets, and flour. Flaxseeds are known to prevent diabetes, high cholesterol, cancer, constipation, and other health problems.

Barley (whole grain) is another excellent source of dietary fiber — both soluble and insoluble. Dietary fiber keeps the gut healthy by maintaining a balance between good and bad intestinal bacteria. Barley has a low glycemic index, which makes it effective in managing blood glucose levels. Consuming barley also helps with constipation, hypertension, arthritis, skin problems, anemia, obesity, asthma, heart disease, kidney problems, and diabetes.

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