Guest blogger, Carol Harrison is a food and nutrition consultant and registered dietitian from Toronto. You can follow Carol on Twitter @GreatMealIdeas.

We all know barley as the delicious, chewy grain you add to soup. Don’t you just love those nutty grains of barley? Well, you can expect to hear more about this ancient grain as it finally gets the health spotlight it deserves after playing the forgotten cousin to the likes of quinoa and other grains.

Don’t get me wrong, quinoa is highly nutritious, but would you have guessed that, despite the hype, there is no research to date showing any health benefits?

Barley, on the other hand, has solid science to back up its health benefits. And as a dietitian with a family history of diabetes and heart disease, I have a personal and professional interest in finding ways to enjoy deliciously-good-for-you food like barley.

To enjoy these often-overlooked benefits, add pearl or pot barley, barley flakes or even whole barley flour to your favourite meals.

Barley’s big-time benefits:

Heart health

Compared to other cereal grains, barley is the richest source of heart-healthy beta-glucan,1 a fibre that scoops up and eliminates cholesterol compounds from the gut.2 In fact, a ½ cup (125 mL) of cooked pearl barley provides an impressive 60 per cent of the heart-healthy fibre shown to help lower cholesterol.3

 Diabetes prevention and treatment

Barley has a low glycemic index (GI). According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, eating foods with a low GI may help lower the risk for type 2 diabetes. And for folks living with diabetes, eating lower-GI foods helps to control blood sugars.

Weight control

The fibre in barley absorbs water in the gut and slows down digestion. That curbs hunger, which can help with weight control.
Sold on the benefits of barley? Terrific! And I never even got to talk about all the vitamins, minerals or antioxidants.

What you can do

Go root that barley out of your pantry and put it in a jar on your counter. If you see it, you’ll use it. Then pat yourself on the back for supporting Canadian farmers who grow loads of barley. (And did you know you can cook barley just like rice using a rice cooker?)
Lastly, I’ve got to share with you my Wild Rice Barley and Fruit Salad go-to recipe for potlucks. You will just love it! Wild Rice, Barley and Fruit Salad. If you want to make it a meal, just add a can of chickpeas.
So tell me, are you surprised by the health benefits of barley? Do you have a fave way to enjoy barley? I’d love to hear it.

Carol Harrison

AbuMweis SS, et al. Eur J Clin Nutr 2010;64:1472-1480.
Lia A, et al. Am J Clin Nutr 1995;62:1245-1251.
Bureau of Nutritional Sciences, Food Directorate. Summary of Health Canada’s Assessment of a Health Claim about barley and blood cholesterol lowering. 2012. Health Canada. Available from: Accessed July 7, 2014.
Canadian Diabetes Association. The Glycemic Index. Available from: Accessed July 7, 2014.