Barley: Natural Weight-Loss Food

When barley is baked in casseroles, stuffed into vegetables, or served in place of rice, this flavorful, fiber-packed, Middle Eastern grain curbs your appetite for higher-calorie fare -- the bulking ability of fiber fills you up and reduces the likelihood that you'll overindulge at the table.

Learn about barley, a very versatile grain that's low in fat and cholesterol free.


Health Benefits

You may have heard about oat bran and its cholesterol-lowering ability. Research suggests that barley may have a similar effect on cholesterol, too. Barley contains the same cholesterol-fighting soluble fiber, beta-glucan, found in oat bran and dry beans. Farmers are jumping on the bandwagon and are growing varieties -- such as hulless and waxy barley -- that are super-high in beta-glucan. The soluble fiber pectin fights cholesterol, too.

Barley is rich in insoluble fiber as well. The whole, hulled form contains more of it than whole wheat. As insoluble fiber absorbs water, it adds bulk and speeds intestinal contents through your body, which may reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancers since contact between harmful substances and your intestinal wall is limited. And there's another bonus -- insoluble fiber may help keep digestive disorders, like constipation and hemorrhoid flare-ups, at bay.


Selection and Storage

Whole, hulled barley -- brown, unpearled -- is the most nutritious. It has twice the fiber and more than twice the vitamins and minerals of pearled. It's available in health-food stores.

Scotch barley, or pot barley, is refined less than the pearled type, so more of the bran's goodness remains. Pearled barley is the easiest variety to find. While nutritionally inferior to the other two types, it boasts decent fiber and iron, and it is certainly not devoid of nutrients. Store pearled and Scotch barley in airtight containers in a cool, dark location for up to one year; nine months for all other varieties.


Preparation and Serving Tips

To cook: Add one cup of pearled barley to three cups of boiling water (or one cup of whole barley to four cups of boiling water). Simmer, covered, for 45 to 55 minutes (1 hour to 1 hour 40 minutes for whole barley).

As barley cooks, the starch in it swells and absorbs water, making it soft and bulky. This makes it the perfect thickener for soups, stews, and traditional Scotch broth soup. Barley can be successfully substituted for rice in almost any recipe. It has more flavor than white rice though it isn't as strong as brown rice -- the perfect compromise.


Because barley is such a versatile grain, it's a great staple to keep in your cabinet. It can be used in soups, stews, cereal, or baked goods. It can be used as a side dish or in a salad. Take advantage of the weight-loss benefits of this low-in-fat and cholesterol-free food.

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