Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Benefits of Barley

If you have been anywhere near the cereal aisle of your local store lately, you are probably aware that eating oats can help lower your cholesterol. The Quaker Oats company and Cheerios have made this a big part of their marketing campaigns ("Cheerios can reduce your cholesterol" shouts out at you from the Cheerios box. "Unleash the power of the oat" says the Quaker Oats box.) But, something you might not know, is that barley contains the same cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber that oats do (beta-glucan). Recent studies have shown that people who regularly eat barley have the same reductions in LDL ("bad") cholesterol, triglycerides, and total cholesterol that oat eaters do.

Barley is a little different than most whole grains because barley contains fiber throughout its entire kernel. (The fiber in most other whole grains is concentrated in the outer bran layer of the grain). So even the processed varieties of barley retain some of the healthy fiber found in whole barley.

Many different forms of barley can be found on your supermarket's shelves. These include whole, pearled, flakes,"quick", grits, and flour. Pearled barley is the most common type of barley. It goes through a "pearling" process in which the hull and bran parts of the grain are removed. Some of the nutrients are lost in the process, but it cooks faster. Whole barley (sometimes called "hulled" or "hull-less" barley) has had the inedible hull removed but retains many more nutrients than pearled barley. The downside is, of course, that it takes much longer to cook.

How to use it?
Barley is a great addition to soups and stews, or it can be used instead of rice in a side dish.
My favorite time saving tip is to cook a big batch of barley and freeze it. It can then be added to soups or casseroles as needed.

No comments:

Post a Comment