Barley lowers cholesterol

Everyone knows oatmeal is a cholesterol-lowering food. But frankly, oatmeal leaves me cold. The consistency kind of grosses me out, and it reminds me of poor, sad Oliver Twist holding out his porridge bowl.  And that is no way to start every day.

So I reverted back to my 1/2 bagel-with-smidge-of-cream-cheese-and-lox daily breakfast. True, the momentary culinary delight gives way to guilt over skipping the holy grail of cholesterol-lowering foods. But I’ve made peace with that.

Or I had – until I realized my next 6 month cholesterol check is not so far away. And with no daily oatmeal, kind-of-sort-of daily Metamucil and far too many Wendy’s runs, I’m likely to see poor results.

So I set out to see what other food I could start eating that would lower my cholesterol. A food that would not make me sad.

And happily, I found barley. I’d heard of it, of course – but never eaten it. And certainly never cooked it. In that wow-karma, the universe will provide way that sometimes happens, I opened the NYT Dining section last week and found Melissa Clark ‘s article, “Mushrooms and Barley, A Spring Jump Start.”  Which was exactly what the, ahem, doctor was calling for.

Though the recipe itself is called a ‘salad’ (and you know I am not salad-girl), the picture showed NO salad greens so I decided to try it. I bought the ingredients but even then waited a few days because the recipe said it would take a daunting 90 minutes…which it DOES. But it’s not difficult – just a ton of chopping.  So if you don’t like to chop – and/or your knives aren’t sharp – this is not the recipe for you. But if that sounds OK to you, forge ahead because this is tasty…and pretty easy.

My tips about this recipe:

  • I used parsnip instead of celery root because I couldn’t find celery root and had never cooked parsnip. Turns out parsnip is a cinch to cook with, and imparts a slightly sweet taste that was great in this dish.
  • As I did not find the ‘special’ mushrooms the recipe called for, I just used pre-sliced baby bella and white mushrooms. Totally fine – am sure would be better with special mushrooms, but ‘typical’ mushrooms were great in this dish.
  • You MUST toast the pearl barley. I’d never done before and it’s simple – and fills the house with a delicious nutty aroma.
  • The recipe explains why you should cook the barley in a virtual vat of  boiling water – I did, and it did not stick!
  • I used champagne vinegar rather than cider vinegar.
  • I wish I’d tasted it BEFORE I added the vinaigrette – my son despises vinegar of any sort, and had I served it to him sans vinaigrette he probably would have liked it – because he liked the barley (!)
  • I served this as a main dish – it took 90 minutes so that was all I was cooking!  But in my view, it’s more of a side. Probably would be good with an actual green salad.  Gak.

So fabulous…now I know how to toast and cook barley, and am free to play around with other add-ins and non-vinaigrette versions of this recipe. But the question remains: is it worth finding and fiddling with barley recipes?

And the answer is YES – because barley reduces cholesterol.

This Lower Cholesterol: Eat More Barley article, on the website of the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Seattle, a “leading authority in natural medicine” explains the clincial study that proves barley lowers cholesterol. It’s well written and a great explanation of how oatmeal – and barley – lower cholesterol:

“One study showed that for every 1 gram of soluble fiber consumed per day, total and LDL cholesterol decreased by 1.55 mg/dl. This means that consuming a diet high in soluble fiber can have a clinically important effect on serum cholesterol levels.”

This study is also well explained in WebMD’s Barley Helps Lower Cholesterol article. And you can find out more / all about barley and its nutritional values at the Barley Foods site:




So far 2012 has not been a banner year for me lo-co wise.  For weeks now, I’ve been out of lo-co control.  The good habits I’d built have flown the coop in the face of these events:

  • On Jan 2 my boss called to say that as of February 1st, I had to go on a ‘temporary leave’ while funding issues got resolved. The stress begins.
  • In mid-Jan I had LASIK, and though I can’t complain (it went incredibly well) it has not been an easy journey:
    1. I felt forced into it because the only contact lens that fits my apparently oh-so-oddly-shaped eye was discontinued.
    2. That huge bill arrived right as my job ended, which was, um, NOT the plan.
    3. The stress persists: every morning I’m a little afraid to open my eyes. Every morning. (Yes, I get this is irrational. Can’t seem to stop it though. Sigh.)
  • I finally worked up the courage to meet with an Integrated Health Medicine ‘doctor’ and it went to hell in a handbasket in under a minute.
    1. He stated – without a look at any medical info – that my problem is not cholesterol but inflammation, and that I should: a) find something else to blog about, and b) have him do a TON of blood tests to get at the root cause of said inflammation.
    2. His credibility fell further (I know – not possible, right?) when I asked whether his dog was always in his office because I’m allergic to dogs. His reply? Allergies aren’t real – that my issue was due to an immunosuppressant deficiency that he could fix as well. I sneezed my way out of there as fast as I could.
  • Then last week we visited 6 colleges. And while we had a great deal of fun family time, this was peppered with continual reminders that college is, oh, $50k+ per year.  Not to mention the screaming matches about where to park – which is NOT the way to introduce your kid to your alma mater.  I’m just saying.

The result of all this has been an acute, long-lasting and embarrassing case of  STRESS EATING. I’ve stopped preparing dinner. And have eaten at Wendy’s so often in the past several weeks, that to count – which I will not do – I’d need to use toes.

It’s bad enough that I’m not cooking – and eating at Wendy’s.  What’s even more suprising (and yet, I’m doing it) is that I’ve somehow managed to give up the good lo-co habits that TAKE NO EFFORT.

  • In recent weeks I’ve stopped taking my daily Centrum Cardio vitamin (I ran out…which is true, but how dog-ate-my-homework of me, right?)
  • And I’ve stopped taking Metamucil.  Which is LAME because the giant orange container sits right out on my counter – next to the coffee machine.  And somehow, I manage not to notice it so I keep forgetting to mix and chug.

So far in 2012 I’ve been feeling totally out of control. Actually worse: control-less.

Want to see what control-less looks like?

It looks like this. Yes, that’s candy. And no, I did not buy just a few of those oh-my-goodness-these-are-back-I-must-eat-them-right-now Russell Stover Marshmallow Eggs.

In fact, I’d already bought a few. Like 6 at a time.  On previous visits. For example, in preparation for our college trip. Those other times, I bought them like a normal person – put them in a hand cart and brought them to the register with other items.

But not this time.  This time, without even a hint of shame, I removed the entire CASE from the shelf and carried it up to the cash register.  A case. All the while lying to myself that it wasn’t THAT BAD because it was only 1/2 full.  That I was just taking the case to the register because I didn’t have a hand-cart and it was easier to grab the case.

Oh, the lies.

What’s worse is that Easter isn’t until April. You may remember from, “The Siren Call of Girl Scout Cookies & Easter Candy” that I find these marshmallow eggs along with Thin Mints – which are sure to be just around the corner – completely irresistible.

So I’m at risk for further candy-case purchases.

Luckily this new low seems to have sprung me from my hamburger and sugar-induced coma. Yesterday I bought a new pack of Centrum Cardio vitamins… and also managed to pluck that Metamucil container from its hiding place right out in the open.

I swallowed a vitamin (along with my Fish Oil pills which I, luckily – and for no apparent reason- did not stop taking) then chugged a glass of Metamucil.

Then I did it again today.

I’m hoping I can get back to ‘normal’ before all the marshmallow eggs are gone from that case. If I ration myself to one-egg-a-day, I’ll have 5 days to get it done.  Wish me luck.