Friday, February 28, 2014

Barley: Love it? Or leave it?

Aside from being Healthy Heart Month, 
February is also the month that the 
I must admit, I'm not what you would call a big fan of Barley. I do have a bag at the bottom of my pantry. Its been there for awhile.
One day, I thought of making some Barley Soup. I don't know what I was thinking - I really can't stand the slimy feeling that barley leaves on your tongue when it's in soup. So the bag just sits there.
Have you ever done that? 
Bought something with good intentions of make a certain recipe, 
but when you got home and unpacked the groceries thought
'What was I thinking?'
For Barley's sake, there are some noteworthy qualities. 
One cool fact is that Barley is the root of of the English measurement system. Yup - back in 1324, Edward II of England standardized the inch to equal 3 grains of barley, dry and round, placed end to end, lengthwise.
"I now pronounce that three grains of
barley equals 1 inch!"
One reason why a bag of organic hulless barley even made it to my pantry is because its got some great nutritional qualities - and I'm not talking about how it's fermented to make beer! Seriously, Barley has some great qualities - it has more fiber than any other grain (17-30% vs 3.5% in rice and 10% in oats), and it's high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Look for hulled barley or hulless barley because pearl barley is stripped of its bran layer which contains most of the fiber, vitamins and minerals. You can really see the difference here - the pearl barley looks anemic.

Pearl Barley
The hulled and hulless varieties have been shown to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, help control spikes in blood sugar, and strengthen the immune system due to it containing beta-glucans - which is just a fancy name for a type of sugar found in the cell wall. Beta-glucans are found in yeast, algae, and oats, too. One of the more fascinating qualities of beta-glucans is its immunoprotective qualities that have shown to benefit cancer patients undergoing radiation and chemotherapy.

Each time I write about a new grain, I make a commitment to try a new recipe. Like with oats - I tried, and fell in love with the spicy oat crusted chicken. I changed the recipe - instead of egging it, I coated the chicken with honey and dijon mustard before drenching it in the seasoned oats. It was a huge hit - mini-man, girlfriend and side-kick loved it. This time, I'm thinking with more snow on the way with temperature dropping to single digits, the Thai Barley Stir Fry seems like a nice hot meal to make after a long Sunday Run!

Speaking of running, I got a race coming up in Washington DC on 3/15/2014. I hope I can place in the top 10 in my age group. This is the last year I'm in this age category, so I best go out with a bang! I've been working out at the track one night a week - you bet it's cold (and dark) - running hills on my faithful treadmill, and running long runs on Sundays. It's been a tough winter for runners, but I hope my consistency, strength training, and hard work will pay off this spring.
Have you been keeping up with your training this winter?
Do you have a favorite barley recipe?
Have you ever tried barley flakes, 
I wonder if it's that much different than rolled oats?
Stay warm! 
Only a couple more weeks until spring!
Train Smart Today!
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