When you think about gladiators and the Roman Army, probably the last thing you associate with them is a plant based diet. But recent discoveries have affirmed that not only did the roman army march on grains, but also that Gladiators ate a plant based diet.
In a study carried by the Medical university of Vienna, Austria and the university of Bern in Switzerland on gladiators bones they discovered that not only was their diet grain-based and mostly meat free but also that they consumed a plant-ashes drink. The scientists believe that the drink was used to fortify the body after physical exertion and promote bone healing, much in same way that modern athletes take magnesium and calcium following physical exertion. Contemporary reports referred to Gladiators as “hordearii” which literally translates as “barley men”. The study also indicates that their diet was also rich in beans and wheat with very little sign of any meat or dairy products. Likewise there is historical evidence that the Roman army relied heavily on gains as opposed to meat or dairy as these could be transported easily and unlike meats did not spoil. Barely was probably the main grain used throughout the early days of the roman empire, later being replaced by wheat as it became more widely cultivated and more easily available. In his book: The logistics of the Roman Army at war: 264 BC - AD 235, Jonathan Roth writes: “Grain represented approximately 60-75% of the Roman rations weight, and an equal percentage of the calories consumed”.
Barley is a member of the grass family, is self-pollinating and is originally from the Eurasia but varieties have been found as far a field as Tibet. Barley has played an important part in the human diet for the last 10,000 years (evidence indicates that it has been cultivated for over 13,000 years). Many ancient civilisations relied on it as food for both human and animals, as well as making alcoholic drinks. Throughout this time it has also featured prominently as a medicinal ingredient, especially in it’s pre-sprouted from. In this form is contains a wide range of nutrients from tocotrienols, beta-glucans, vitamins (A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folic acid and vitamin E), minerals such as (potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and manganese) as well as all 8 essential amino acids (linoleic acid - Omega 6, and linolenic acid - Omega 3). All of this while having a low glycemic index and a long chain carbohydrate that takes up to 4 hours to break down, providing a slow steady release of energy. Now that’s what we call a superfood!
The benefits of the Niacin in Barley
Anther great benefit of barley is that it is also a good source of niacin (vitamin B3). This vitamin provides a wide range of health benefits when it comes to cardiovascular risk factors. It has been shown to help reduce Lipoprotein(a) (also called Lp(a) or LPA) which is a more damaging form of LDL cholesterol and easily attaches itself to blood vessel walls. Niacin intake has also been linked to good mental health and as a treatment for mental health problems. Dr. Andrew Saul has published studies in which successful results were obtained by treating schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders with high doses of the vitamin. This has lead to the conclusion that most psychotic disorders should be treated as a vitamin deficiently. Which, like many of the chronic diseases that people suffer are now being linked to a nutrient deficiency, there is now growing evidence that our mental health can be affected in the same way. Further studies have also identified that niacin can be used for arthritis, child learning and behavioural disorders as well as other conditions.
Barely water has been gaining in popularity over recent years as people have began to understand the benefits of this nutrient rich grain. In particular it has been used as natural treatment for UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections). Follow our simple recipe below:
Although we are surrounded by junk and fast food, eating healthy has never been easier.
If you want to know more about the importance of nutrition and the correct foods to eat contact the GrassRoots Health Nutritionist.
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About the GrassRoots Health Blog
The Grassroots Health blog is written by Dean and Joanne. Joanne's passion is vegan raw food, nutrition and wellbeing while Dean likes to explore the real science behind health.
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