Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Barley Salad and a Brief Rant about Glycemic Indexes

There really is a grain (pun intended) of truth, in some - and I mean some - of the low-carb diets, like the South Beach Diet.  However, only because they advise against processed grains, not because they suggest refraining from all grains.  Processed grains - sweets, snacks, breads, white rice, and white pasta - keep me hungry, make me feel tired and gross, make me gain weight, and worst of all, make me crave more processed grains!

But whole grains - brown rice, millet, whole wheat berries, quinoa, 100% whole wheat pasta, and the subject of today's post, barley - keep me full, give me a calm, happy energy, and let me be my proper weight.  Simple as that.  So why would I give them up in favor of meat and cheese, which are scientifically known to cause heart disease and, in the case of processed meat, diabetes?  I wouldn't.

Barley, in particular, has a very low glycemic index, which means it won't make your blood sugar go all crazy, which means you won't go all crazy.  It's basically like eating a vegetable.  And the health benefits are tremendous.  I won't go into all that here; you can easily search "barley health benefits" and see for yourself.  See why low-carb diets don't make sense?

Now - if you live in a city like Atlanta, you can easily find barley in most any grocery store.  You can buy a huge container of hulled barley for about two bucks at the farmers market (another myth about a healthy diet is that it costs more - not so).  But if you live in a small town, like the one where I grew up, it can be harder to find whole grains.  And many companies put the words "Whole Grain" on their packaged products to trick you.  So don't be fooled.  If the ingredients contain more than one or two things, it isn't whole grain.  Simple.  But you have options.

If you order shoes or clothes or books online, then why wouldn't you order food?  It's easy to order non-perishable food online for pretty cheap.  Order enough of it and it'll last you for a long, long time.

What to do with it once you get it?  Steam it like you would rice (2 cups water to 1 cup hulled barley) until it's soft but still has a bite.  Make a stir fry, add a little soy sauce, or make a really good salad like I made this morning.

My salad contained:
cooked barley
ume plums
golden raisins
shoyu-roasted pumpkin seeds
black chickpeas
lime juice
olive oil
fresh ground pink peppercorns

You can use whatever vegetables, herbs, nuts/seeds, dried fruit, and citrus juice (or vinegar) you have at home.  The important thing is that you include crunchy vegetables, one fresh herb, one type of crunchy nut or seed, and citrus juice or vinegar for a little tang.  I like to add the ume plums because they give salads a tangy burst of flavor, and raisins because of their chewy texture and sweet taste, which contrasts nicely with the salty salad.

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