You already know that whole grains are beneficial for staying healthy and for helping to keep you satisfied beginning on Phase 2 of your weight-loss journey. But if you’re always eating the same ones, you could easily end up getting bored. Your best bet is to switch up your grains often, trying those you haven’t had before. Barley is an often overlooked but versatile and delicious grain that is a particularly rich source of dietary fiber (the soluble fiber known as beta-glucan), as well as protein and B vitamins if you buy the unrefined hulled variety.
The two most common types of barley are refined pearl barley and unrefined hulled barley. As with refined flour, pearl barley loses its outer hull and bran layer when milled, exposing the pearl-colored balls that give “pearl barley” its name. Unfortunately, this process also removes much of the grain’s nutritional content. “Hulled” barley, on the other hand, has only the outer hull removed and therefore still has its nutritious bran layer intact, making it an excellent source of dietary fiber. It’s also rich in iron and thiamin, as well as some essential trace minerals. While pearl barley is readily available at most grocery stores, you may have to look in health-food or specialty-food stores to locate the more nutritious hulled barley. Scotch barley, also known as pot barley, is also available in many supermarkets; it too is a less refined version than pearl, with part of the bran layer remaining after milling. You can also find barley flakes and barley flour in some markets.
Barley should be stored in an airtight container to keep it dry. It can be refrigerated or frozen for up to six months. When buying barley in bulk, it should have a fresh smell.
Barley can be added to soups, stews, risottos, salads, and even baked goods. It’s cooked much like rice; cooking times will vary according to the variety. Hulled barley requires about 45 minutes to an hour to cook in boiling water. For best results, follow the instructions on the package or your recipe. Remember: Barley is not gluten free.