By Jane Dummer RD

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. The shocking fact is that, in Canada, about 90 per cent of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.

Building upon my Barley Balance post last October, I want to share with you the important attributes of barley that make it a smart carbohydrate choice for people concerned about type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. Barley is a whole grain that is high in fibre, particularly beta-glucan soluble fibre, and has a low glycemic index rating.

Research shows that barley beta-glucan soluble fibre promotes healthy blood sugar by slowing glucose absorption and maintaining glycemic control (1). Choosing lower-glycemic-index foods as part of a balanced diet, increasing physical activity and decreasing stress can improve blood sugar control and will assist in the prevention of the “lifestyle disease” known as type 2 diabetes.

Unlike many grains that contain fibre only in the outer bran layer, barley contains fibre throughout the entire kernel. So whether you’re eating the whole barley grain or barley flour, you’re getting lots of beta-glucan soluble fibre, which has a positive impact on your blood glucose levels.

Here are three delicious Go Barley suggestions to keep you on track with your healthy lifestyle.

Black Bean Barley Salad

The yummy combination of barley, black beans, veggies and cheese provides protein and lots of fibre to keep you feeling full. The glycemic index ranking of this salad is moderate to low, which is a great choice to keep your blood sugars balanced.

My meal planning tip:

The barley bean mixture can be put together the day before, making meal preparation a snap. Add warm slices of grilled chicken breast or a skewer of grilled shrimp for extra protein.

Savoury Butternut Squash Barley Pilaf

Butternut squash is a fall favourite, and it has never tasted as good as it does when simmered with barley and herbs in this colourful side dish. It has a moderate to low glycemic index rating and is a good source of antioxidants, making it a healthy choice whether or not you need to check your blood sugar daily!

My meal planning tip:

This pilaf goes great with turkey, chicken and pork. Briefly blanching the squash makes it easier to peel and cut into pieces. Make extra pilaf and freeze it.

Thai Spice Chicken

Barley kernels cook in the sauce, absorbing the aromatic flavours of lemon grass, curry and coconut. The many delicious flavours of this dish complement its low glycemic index rating. Start with a little spice and increase the amount according to how much heat you can handle!

My meal planning tip:

Thai red curry paste is available in the Asian section of your grocery store. This is a great combination for the slow cooker.

Stay on track with your healthy lifestyle and let me know which barley recipe is your favourite!


1) Thondre PS, Henry CJ. High-molecular-weight barley beta-glucan in chapatis (unleavened Indian flatbread) lowers glycemic index. Nutr Res. 2009; 29(7):480-6.