Are you in a rice, pasta, and potato rut? Pull yourself out of it with barley! It is easy, delicious, and super nutritious. In fact, barley has great protective effects against heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity and even gallstones. Ancient Greek and Roman athletes ate barley for strength. They were on to something! It’s time to go out of your comfort zone and try some powerful barley.
Barley is highest in fiber of all the whole grains, with almost 14 grams of fiber per cup, compared to oatmeal with 4 grams per cup. The fiber in barley not only helps move waste through the colon faster to decrease colon cancer, but it also provides sustenance for disease-protecting bacteria in the large intestine. Besides crowding out disease-causing bacteria, the byproduct of the good bacteria leads to improved lipid profiles, helping to protect us against heart disease. Insoluble fiber in barley reduces the secretion of bile acids contributing to gallstone formation, increases insulin sensitivity and lowers blood fats.
In addition to its fiber, barley is also a good source of niacin, a B vitamin that provides additional protection against cardiovascular risk factors. Selenium in barley provides even more cancer protection. Barley is also a great source of molybdenum, manganese, as well as a good source of copper, thiamin, chromium, and phosphorus.
Barley offers exceptional benefits in promoting healthy blood sugar control. The Agricultural Research Service found barley was much more effective in reducing both glucose and insulin responses than were oats. Barley is also high in magnesium, a mineral that helps keep blood sugar stable. Whole grains improve insulin sensitivity by lowering the glycemic index of foods you eat. This fact is particularly true of barley.
It’s not surprising that eating barley promotes weight loss with its ability to improve insulin sensitivity. Excess insulin encourages the body to make and store fat rather than burn it, while producing hunger hormones to make you hungry. Barley has more protein than corn, brown rice, millet, sorghum or rye, and is higher in fiber and lower in carbohydrates than almost all other whole grains. Barley may help you feel full longer, and thereby help you control your weight. Barley, including pearled barley, may even encourage the reduction of visceral fat and waist circumference.
Many studies find eating whole grains has been linked to protection against atherosclerosis, ischemic stroke, diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity, and premature death. Researchers recommend at least three whole grains per day. As health-promoting as barley is, it certainly earns a chance to be part of your whole grain food intake.
Shopping and preparing Barley:
Try hulled barley for more nutrients, since only the inedible outer layer is removed. In pearled barley, the outermost hull, the grain’s bran layer, and even parts of its inner endosperm layer may be removed during the pearling process. As you move from regular to medium to fine to baby pearl barley, there are increasing losses of nutrients. Hulless or pot/scotch barley falls in between hulled and pearl barley. It’s been polished to remove its outer hull, but the hulling process is not continued so that a large amount of the remaining grain is left intact. Barley also comes in flakes and grits which are made from hulled, hulless, or pearl barley.
Use a rice cooker to prepare barley in a snap. Seriously, it’s so easy to add the water or stock and barley (usually 1 part barley to 3 parts water) to the cooker, turn it on, and walk away. Use cooked barley as a base to make popular rice/grain bowls for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. In fact, barley is a great substitute for rice in almost all recipes. It’s wonderful in soups and is also a grain that holds up in salads. I even add barley to my green salad.
Take May’s Healthy Challenge and make this grain a part of your diet on a regular basis. You’ll love it! It won’t take long before barley is part of your life. Your body will benefit along with your taste buds!