This little known grain packs a punch of health benefits.

If you’ve only encountered barley in mushroom- barley soup, get ready to make friends with this underappreciated cereal grain. Whether pearled, hulled, or quick cooking, it can help transform your diet. In fact, think of barley as your new white rice.

Unlike white rice, which has a sky-high GL, barley’s is low, thanks to its significant stash of soluble fiber. In fact, eating barley instead of white rice slashes the effect on your blood sugar by almost 70 percent. Add it to soups, use it instead of Arborio rice (the worst rice offender of all) in risotto, and serve it as a nutty, flavorful side dish. The possibilities are endless.

Because its insoluble fiber slows the rate at which food leaves the stomach, barley also helps you feel full on fewer calories.

Health Bonus
Because it contains the same kind of cholesterol-lowering fiber found in oats, barley has FDA-approved bragging rights for its ability to lower cholesterol and cut the risk of heart disease.

Glycemic Load: Low

While barley is a natural for soups, think outside the stockpot. Broaden your barley horizons and experiment.

  • Instead of rice pilaf, make barley pilaf to serve with any main dish.
  • Add barley to casseroles and use it in place of rice in rice salads.
  • Serve barley and diced apples with rosemary baked chicken.
  • Add cooked, chilled barley to a bean salad for a fantastic lunch.
  • Try corn and barley relish. Add canned or frozen corn to cooked barley along with olive oil; wine vinegar; chopped fresh basil; salt; pepper; and chopped tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions.

Perfect Portion: 1/2 cup
This is a good amount for a side dish. For main dishes you can have 3/4 cup and still keep the GL in the “low” category.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest