Barley water is a drink made from water that has been cooked with barley. Sometimes the barley grains are strained out. Sometimes they are simply stirred in and mixed with a sweetener or fruit juice to make a drink that’s similar to lemonade. Barley water is consumed in some cultures for health benefits.

Barley water is often flavored with lemon rind or lemon juice. The drink claims to help aid weight loss, flush toxins, keep your digestion regular, and more. Some of the health claims about barley water aren’t yet supported by medical research. Keep reading to find out if drinking barley water for health benefits is something you should consider.

Lowers cholesterol

Drinking barley water or barley tea can affect your cholesterol levels. Chemicals in barley, called tocols, have been found to suppress LDL cholesterol and contribute to better overall cardiovascular health. The antioxidants in barley water also scavenge free radicals, which can cut down on the oxidative stress your heart feels from being exposed to toxins. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also studied and reported on the benefits of barley betafiber for heart disease and cholesterol.

Controls blood sugar

Barley water has been tested for its ability to control blood sugar. Drinking unsweetened barley water can give you the benefit of controlling blood sugar spikes. People with diabetes may be particularly interested in the ability of barley water to lower blood sugar after eating. Barley water’s antioxidants help improve diabetes outcomes, too.

Promotes weight loss

The fiber content in unstrained barley water can help your digestion become more regular. It can also make you feel fuller for longer. Barley water hydrates you and contains lots of calories, but very little fat. These factors can make drinking barley water an effective strategy to stave off hunger and keep you from snacking in between meals. Combined with a healthy diet and exercise, barley water can aid in weight loss because it digests slowly and keeps you fuller for longer.

Rich in vitamins and antioxidants

Whether your barley water is made with pearl barley or hulled barley, it’s rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Folate (a B vitamin), iron, copper, and manganese are all found in large amounts in barley water. The antioxidants in barley water contribute to its many other health benefits, because they enable healthy cell growth while getting rid of the free radicals that cause oxidative stress on your organs.

Improves digestion

Cereal grains like barley contain high amounts of digestive fiber. Your body needs digestive fiber to move food through your stomach and out of your bowels. When you drink unstrained barley water, you’re adding a hydration component to this high fiber concentration. This means that your body’s ability to process toxins and get rid of water weight is supercharged. The Mayo Clinic recommends barley as a source of soluble fiber.

May reduce risk of cancer

Emerging cancer research points to the importance of diet and lifestyle choices to lower your risk of cancer. The fiber in barley can help protect your colon by expelling toxins that aren’t being removed during regular digestion. Beyond the fiber it contains, barley also has ferulic acid which may actually keep tumors from growing. And one study found that colon cancer cells were stopped from reproducing by the antioxidants found in barley.

Supports the immune system

In addition to the free-radical fighting properties of barley, and the vitamins and minerals in barley, barley water can support your immune system in another important way. When you flavor barley water with citrus (like lemon rind or orange peel), you’re giving your drink a supercharge of vitamin C that makes it even more beneficial for your health.

Just because barley water has many health benefits doesn’t mean that you should consume it in high amounts. Some barley water recipes contain high concentrations of artificial sugars or sweeteners. Always read the ingredients before you drink barley water that’s been processed or packaged. Drinking a lot of barley water when you aren’t used to drinking it can cause constipation or loose stools due to its dense fiber content. And the calorie count of one serving of barley water is equivalent to a full meal, so be careful not to drink too much in one sitting. It is also a gluten-containing grain so it should be avoided for those with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

Unstrained barley water is a delicious, simple, and refreshing way to get a hearty dose of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. While too much barley water can put a strain on your digestive system, drinking it a few times a week can help you lose weight and avoid diabetes and heart disease.