Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Benefits of Barley

Barley isn’t just for soup anymore. This grain makes an excellent choice as the starring ingredient in main courses, side dishes, breakfast fare and more. In addition to its versatility, barley is a nutritious food that’s high in fiber and low in fat. It’s no wonder this centuries-old grain is enjoying new-found interest among connoisseurs of good food and good health.

Barley Helps Fight Heart Disease
Eating barley as part of a healthy diet may help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol. Barley is a rich source of fiber including both soluble and insoluble fiber. Researchers have identified a type of soluble fiber, beta-glucan, as the primary component in barley that is responsible for lowering cholesterol.

Clinical studies show that eating whole grain barley or dry milled barley products such as pearl barley, barley flakes and barley flour that provide at least 3 grams of beta-glucan soluble fiber per day is effective in lowering total and LDL cholesterol.

Studies also show that increasing daily consumption of this soluble fiber results in even greater total and LDL cholesterol reduction.

Benefits Beyond Cholesterol Reduction
As a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, barley offers additional health benefits beyond cholesterol reduction. For example, soluble fiber helps maintain blood sugar levels which may be beneficial in preventing or managing type 2 diabetes. Insoluble fiber helps promote regularity and protect against constipation. Also, eating fiber-rich foods may help increase satiety or a feeling of fullness. This is important for maintaining a healthy weight and protecting against obesity.

1 cup pearl barley
3 cups water
1⁄2 cup chopped pitted dates
1⁄2 cup chopped dried apricots
3 tablespoons orange marmalade
3⁄4 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1⁄2 cup slivered and toasted almonds

In medium saucepan with lid bring water to a boil.
Add barley and return to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. Set aside. Spray large skillet with non-stick cooking spray; add dates, apricots and marmalade. Cook over medium heat, stirring, for 3 minutes. Blend in cumin, salt and pepper. Cook 2 minutes longer. Stir in cooked barley and almonds. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until warmed through.

Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: calories 436, protein 10g, carbohydrates 82g, fiber 13g (including 2.5g beta-glucan soluble fiber), fat 10g, cholesterol 0, sodium 306mg.