Pearl Barley Vs. Rice: Which Is More Nutritious?

When you're considering which carb option is healthier — pearl barley or rice — the answer isn't as black and white as you might hope. It all comes down to the type of rice that you're comparing against your pearl barley.

Pearl barley, in a fourth-cup serving, contains 200 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, 44 grams of carbs (16 percent of the recommended daily value), 6 grams of fiber (21 percent of the recommended daily value), 5 grams of protein, 2 milligrams of iron (10 percent of the recommended daily value), and 221 milligrams of potassium (4 percent of the recommended daily value).

According to Women's Health, the same amount of brown rice, which many consider to be the "healthy" rice option, contains only 60 calories, less than 0.5 grams of fat, and around 12 grams of carbs. The bad news? While brown rice is lower than pearl barley in calories and carbs, it also contains barely any protein or fiber. White rice, the most processed rice option, is much the same: It's low in calories but also low in any of the "good stuff," like fiber and protein.

What about other types of rice?

While white and brown rice might be the varieties you're most familiar with, there are other rice options out there.

According to Women's Health, red rice and black rice — while lesser-known than white and brown rice — are actually the healthiest rice varieties. Per the USDA, in a quarter-cup serving of black rice, you'll get 160 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 34 grams of carbs, 1 gram of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and a whole lot of antioxidants, many of the same antioxidants that you'll find in the superfood blueberries (via Women's Health). In one fourth of a cup of red rice, you'll get nearly the same, only more fiber, at 5 grams (via the USDA).

When looking at these specific rice varieties compared to pearl barley, you'll get fewer calories if you go with black or red rice, but you'll also get more fat, not as much fiber, and not as much protein. The right choice for your nutrition will depend on your needs.