6 top reasons to love barley

It’s September and that means it’s time to celebrate Whole Grains Month. And there’s no better time to be adventurous in your whole grain eating. Including barley is a super way to start. All too often, it’s used only in soups but considering its wonderfully chewy texture, surprising versatility and nutritional perks, it’s under-utilized.

Barley’s flavour combined with mushrooms and onions in a pilaf makes for delectable comfort food. Served cold with chopped herbs and veggies, it yields a palate pleasing salad or make it a star performer in a risotto.

The most nutritious barley is the hulled variety but it’s one that’s not readily available in the supermarket. Next on the scale comes pot barley that is less polished and slightly higher in nutritional value than pearled barley, the common type. But all three are superstar versions of the grain.

Here are 6 top reasons you should include barley on your menu on a regular basis.

Barley is chock full of variety of nutrients including fibre

This fibre-filled ancient grain supplies trace minerals such as zinc, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and iron, plus some B vitamins. It’s also packed with a variety of antioxidants.

Barley has potent blood cholesterol lowering power

Barley’s soluble fibre has been given all the credit for its blood cholesterol lowering potential but according to research by University of Wisconsin scientist Dr. Charles Elson, there’s more to the grain than meets the eye. Compounds known as tocotrienols (a form of vitamin E), also found in a host of other grains, suppress the production of cholesterol as well. When barley with the tocotrienols removed was fed to laboratory animals, cholesterol levels were significantly higher than when the whole grain was provided.

Barley has a low glycemic index (GI)

Barley, with its GI of 28, ranks as the grain with the lowest  reading. Besides having anti-inflammatory effects, low GI options as opposed to those with high readings, offer a host of health benefits including a reduced risk of increased risk of including obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease, certain cancers and eye conditions such as macular degeneration.

Barley acts as a prebiotic

Prebiotics are specific carbohydrates, resistant to human digestion, which both stimulate and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. Don’t just count on yogurt with added probiotics. Be a welcoming host and if you want these microbes to make your gut their home, feed them well.

• Barley increases satiety

Research shows that barley suppresses the release of a variety of hormones linked to ramping up your caloric intake. This includes ghrelin, a.k.a. the hunger hormone.

Barley offers major blood sugar regulating perks

Besides helping to slow down the rise in blood sugar at a meal, barley can have an impact on other meals, even those on another day. In some studies, barley consumed at evening meal actually improved blood sugar readings and measures of inflammation at breakfast the next day.
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Are you a barley fan? What’s your favourite barley dish? Please share in the comment section below.

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Categories: Superfoods, Whole Foods

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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