Thursday, October 2, 2008

Barley Instead of Rice?

At Whole Foods this week I checked out the bulk bins and noticed something interesting: Oranic hulled barley, the whole grain version, was only 85 cents a pound, whereas all varieties of organic brown rice were over $1 a pound.

We like eating barley at least as much as we like rice. I wondered why it is so much cheaper, and whether it is nutritionally sound to replace all the rice in our diets (we eat it pretty often) with barley.

Well, one reason it's cheaper may be that it is more work to cook: You have to soak hulled barley and cook it for 90 minutes, whereas I usually cook brown rice only about 45 minutes. Hulled barley is the whole grain version; in bags in regular grocery stores, you usually see pearled barley, which is not whole grain.

But hey, I'm home a lot, and I have a slow cooker. How does it stack up nutritionally?

1 Cup Hulled Barley (raw)
23 grams protein
32 grams dietary fiber

1 Cup Long-grained Brown Rice (raw)
15 grams protein
6 grams fiber

Holy cow! I sure hope we like this hulled barley because as you can see it has 50% more protein than the brown rice we usually eat. A lot of people would also like that fiber profile. I feel like we get enough fiber around here, so that doens't excite me as much.

Even pearled barley, which I know we love, is more nutrious than brown rice:
20 grams protein
31 grams fiber

I wouldn't go so far as to say I will never buy rice again, but I think we are going to go through a lot more barley this winter.

Update: OMG I snuck some out of the slow cooker after a few yours and it is yummy yummy yummy. I cooked it in beef broth with some carrots and mustard greens. This is going to be perfect for a chilly day dinner.

Update II: By the time we ate our dinner, the barley stew had gotten a bit glutteny for my taste. Getting toward cereal as opposed to rice. But it still tasted good. I'd say yes, we will be eating a lot more barley around here, but next time I will put it in the slow cooker only about four hours.


CB said...

Great info, thanks! I completely forgot how much I love barley (and awesome idea about the slow cooker).