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The Benefits of Barley

January 20, 2011

Surely you’ve heard the recommendations to eat more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. But many people tell me that besides brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, and oats, they don’t know what other whole grains they can eat. And even if they’ve seen the abundance of whole grain options available, they’re afraid to try them because they’ve never cooked or tasted them before. If you’re stuck in the brown rice rut, it’s time to try some new whole grains. One that I like to recommend is barley.

health benefits of barley

What Is Barley: Barley is a cereal grain that has a slightly nutty flavor and chewy mouthfeel. It is a good source of fiber, B vitamins, iron, selenium, and protein.

Purchasing Barley: There are a few different types of barley, which can lead to confusion in the grocery aisle. Here’s the rundown so you know what to get.

  • Pearled Barley: The hull (outermost covering of the grain) and the bran (the outer shell of the grain, which contains the fiber) are both removed, making this type of barley more of a refined grain.
  • Hulled Barley: Only the hull of the barley is removed, leaving the bran, the germ, and the endosperm (meaning all the nutrients) intact. This is the type of barley you want to buy.
  • Hulless Barley: The hull is still loosely attached to the barley. Cooking time is longer and the grain may be chewier.

Nutrition Facts: 1/4 cup dry hulled barley contains 140 calories, 5 g protein, 35 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium

Cooking Barley: Barley is cooked very similar to rice (although it takes a bit longer), so if you’ve never cooked it before, you won’t have to worry about a whole new method. Before you cook barley, it is best to rinse it in water. I recommend cooking all grains according to the package directions, but generally the barley:water conversion is 1 part barley: 2 1/2 parts water. Simmer for about one hour. My favorite barley recipe is a variation on one of my mother’s classics – Mushroom Onion Barley.

Have you ever tried barley before? Tell me what you think of it!

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