Whole grains like barley and oatmeal are excellent choices for snacks and breakfast to help lower cholesterol, prevent type 2 diabetes, protect against heart disease and cancer, and help keep you regular. Depending on what you're looking for in your diet, they certainly stack up differently, but in most cases, barley beats oatmeal to the nutrition punch.
Besides helping make you feel full, fiber keeps you regular and helps maintain the health of your GI (gastrointestinal) tract. A 1 cup serving of oatmeal racks up nearly 4 grams of fiber, on par with many fruits. A cup of barley serves up 13 grams of fiber. Hulled barley, or barley that has only been stripped of the hull on the outside, is the most nutrient and fiber rich, as opposed to pearl barley, where the fibrous hull has been stripped away and the barley has been further polished. Pearl barley has only about 3 grams of fiber. This is the most likely type of barley to find in a regular grocery store. In a specialty store, hulled barley is likely available, and worth the while.
Barley packs a protein punch, delivering 12 grams per serving. Oatmeal delivers just half that per serving. If protein is your target, then barley is the clear choice. The excellent combination of fiber, protein and carbohydrates make barley a great post-workout snack as well.
The caloric content is the one place where oatmeal wins out, if you are a calorie counter. The 200 to 270 calories in 1 cup of barley may not be as attractive to you as the 150 found in a cup of oatmeal. Pearled barley contains 200 calories, while the whole grain, hulled barley is higher in nutrients and fiber, and in calories as well.
Fuel Your Meal
Use barley to make meals healthier than other grains can do, and fill you up with fewer calories.
Oatmeal is a go-to breakfast for many people, thanks to its quick cooking and comfort food style. For an even better choice, don't overlook barley, because it's an even better option. Most people think of barley as a dinnertime side dish, but it can be just as delicious in the morning. Place 4 cups of water for every cup of hulled barley in your crock pot. Add cinnamon and dried fruit and cook overnight. After eight hours, your breakfast is ready with no morning-rush fuss.
Turn your lunch style salad into a meal with a little barley. Toss 1/2 cup barley over your salad for a filling, fibrous addition. A little barley can take brothy soups to a more filling level as well. Heat tomato or vegetable soup and add 1/4 cup cooked hulled barley.
Replace rice and other starchy sides with barley, or make it your main meal. Cook barley and let cool. Scoop cooked barley into plastic wrap, and roll into a log. Chill and unwrap. Slice and grill or saute, then top with grilled meat or fish and roasted vegetables, marinara sauce or salsa.