Difference Between Wheat and Barley

Wheat and barley are often confused with each other. Why is that so? The origin of both was at least 10,000 years ago in the Middle East region, is one of the first plants to be cultivated for consumption.


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They are both also used in processing drinks as well as nutritional dishes, that became a necessary substance for intake in daily life. They are also an integral part of animal feeding.

The two are loaded with the needed nutrients for completing one’s daily diet, but it is also noted that not all can consume them. Both being the gluten type of protein, the individuals who are gluten intolerant would not be able to consume them.

Wheat vs Barley

The difference between wheat and barley is that they are processed differently before consumption. These processes are also what causes the difference in nutritional values and the health issues related to the two grains.

Wheat vs Barley

The processing of wheat includes milling and grounding that removes the first two fibre-rich layer of wheat. Thus the whole wheat flour lacks fibre content. While barley only undergoes hulling and in rare cases pearling that stores the fibre of the grain.


Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonWheatBarley
CharacteristicsGolden-brown during harvestYellow-white hue during harvest
ProcessingThe main processing includes milling, that removes the first two layers, leaving only the inner germ for being grounded to flour.Hulling that removes only the first layers and in rare cases, pearling(removing first two layers)
UsageUsed to produce a range of bakery products from biscuits to cakesMainly used for animal feeding and also malted for alcoholic drinks like beer
Nutritional valuesDuring milling, most of the fibre is lost but still rich in nutrients like folate, manganese, phosphorus.Rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals
Health problemsWheat allergy is a commonly observed health problem caused due to intolerance to wheatNo such allergies are recorded for the consumption of barley


What is Wheat?

Wheat is a cereal of the grasses family Poaceae, the scientific name being Triticum.

it is one of the largest cultivated grains in the world and has the six varieties being: hard red, winter, hard shelling, soft red winter, hard white soft white wheat and durum wheat.

They are thrived in the cooler seasons and harvested during the beginning of the winter season.

Usually, they are milled and grounded to give wheat flour. The raw wheat flour is the grind of only the inner germ of the endosperm. This is used for bakery products.

Sometimes the hull is also mixed with the flour after processing that helps the whole wheat flour to regain the lost nutrients.

It can also be cracked or pre-boiled for other products like semolina, malt etc.


What is Barley?

Barley is also a cereal grain of the family Poaceae and the scientific name being Hordeum Vulgare. It is the fourth largest cultivated grain including a large area for the cultivation.

Along with wheat, this was one of the first barley to be used for plantations. They are of three types: two-row, six-row and hull-less barley. 

It is usually hulled to remove the outer skin, also called as hull, of barley. Therefore, it is rich in nutrients like manganese, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus along with proteins, fibres and vitamins.

Sometimes it can also undergo the process of pearling.

The cereal is rich in fibre is also the reason why it is included in weight-loss diets. It is also said to be useful for decreases cholesterol levels and therefore recommended by doctors to the ones suffering from type 2 diabetes.


Main Differences Between Wheat and Barley

  1. The main difference lies in the way the two grains are processed before it is ready for consumption. While wheat has to undergo several processes like milling, grounding etc before it can be cooked, barley, on the other hand, does not need any of these. It can simply be boiled like rice and consumed directly.
  2. Even during harvest wheat is known to have a golden-brown hue while barley has a yellow-white hue. Also, wheat is thrived during the cooler season and harvested in the winter season, on the other hand, barley thrives through warm seasons and is harvested in the summer season.
  3. Although they are used majorly as cereal grains, wheat is majorly used as whole wheat flour in the baking industries for biscuits, cakes etc. It is also ground and used as Seminole. But barley is malted to be used in alcoholic drinks, they are the major ingredients in drinks like whiskey and beer. Barley is also used for animal feeding.
  4. Due to the difference in processing, the nutritional values provided by the two grains are also vastly different. Wheat, after undergoing through milling usually loses all its fibre but is rich with the mineral nutrients like phosphorus, folate etc. Since in hulling, only the hard outer is removed, all the fibre rich nutrients are conserved in the cereal barley.
  5. There are a few who are allergic to the nutrients present in wheat and this is known as wheat allergy. But this characteristic is not seen in those who consume barley.
Difference Between Wheat and Barley


  1. https://apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/abs/10.1094/PDIS.1997.81.12.1340
  2. https://academic.oup.com/nar/article-abstract/7/7/1869/2381007
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