Is barley part of your diet?
Barley is a low glycemic grain with a very high nutritional value. For this reason, Dr. Nicholas Perricone lists it as number three on his list of super foods. Much, but not all, of the nutrition is in the hull making unhulled barley the preferred form. Scotch barley being partially hulled is next and pearl barley with most of the hull removed from polishing has the least nutritional value. Even the pearl barley, however, provides exceptional benefits in the diet.
Barley is an extremely good source of dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble. One cup of barley provides 13.6 grams of fiber while one cup of oatmeal provides only 3.98 grams. Soluble fiber helps metabolize fats, cholesterol and carbohydrates. The bulk from the fiber content helps decrease the transit time for fecal matter in the intestines. It also provides food for the good bacteria in the large intestine.
In addition to the fiber benefits, barley is a good source for selenium, tryptophan, copper, manganese and phosporus while providing a chewy texture and a nut-like flavor when used as a breakfast cereal, side dish or as an addition to soups and stews.
Several studies confirm the ability of barley to lower blood pressure so that the FDA will now allow foods containing barley to carry a qualified health claim that they reduce the risk of coronary heart disease when combined with a low cholesterol and low saturated fat diet
Barley has also been shown to reduce cancer risk, because it contains phytonutrients called lignans that can be metabolized in the colon into enterolactones which seem to reduce pre-menopausal breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.
Since most Americans are unfamiliar with barley and products containing barley are scarce how can someone increase consumption of barley? The most familiar use is in soups and stews to add texture and substance. It can also be used in whole grain form to substitute for rice in many recipes. Barley flakes and grits can be cooked like oatmeal for a delicious hot cereal. Finally barley flour can be substituted for some of the flour in bread or desert recipes.