By Jane Dummer RD

For years, I’ve advised people to “go nuts” for their health, but how about the awesome combination of nuts and barley for heart health and well being?

Yes, it’s a great match—barley is one of Canada’s top heart-healthy foods. Just half a cup (125 ml) of cooked pearled barley supplies 60 per cent of the daily amount of beta-glucans shown to lower cholesterol (1). So let’s get cooking with almonds and pecans plus barley for the sake of your health and heart.

Nuts for Almonds and Barley

I’m nuts about this Zucchini, Bean and Almond Salad. Delicious, colourful and heart-healthy, this great summer salad has one cup of barley, zucchini, peppers, green onions, kidney beans and ½ cup of toasted slivered almonds. Did you know that, ounce for ounce, almonds are one of the most nutrient-dense tree nuts on earth (2)? When you eat almonds, you load up on important vitamins and minerals plus fibre. Almonds’ heart-smart benefits are just the beginning; add in the barley, vegetables and beans, and this recipe has “heart-healthy” written all over it. That’s something you can crunch on!

Pecans and Barley in a Nut Shell

Wild Rice, Barley and Fruit Salad is one of my favourite Go Barley recipes. It has one cup of toasted chopped pecans and one cup of barley to make it an amazing heart-warming combination for your health. Research shows that eating just a handful of pecans each day may help inhibit oxidation of lipids (fat in your blood), helping reduce your risk of coronary heart disease (3). Pecans are also packed with vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, and barley has antioxidants to combat oxidative stress, too—what a dynamic duo!
Who doesn’t like a piece of homemade bread with a cuppa tea mid-afternoon? I always prefer mine with nuts—the bread that is! The nutty flavour of this Cranberry Orange Loaf comes from the 1/3 cup of chopped pecans and one cup of whole barley flour. One slice has 145 calories and two grams of fibre, and the pecans make it an extra-heart-healthy snack. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration agrees:“Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pecans, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”(4)

More Nuts to Crack?

How nuts should you go? Remember that nuts are nutrient-dense but also calorie-dense! Show your heart some love with a tasty barley dish, then pump up the crunch with small amounts of almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews or your other favourite nut.

1)Adolph J, Fitzpatrick K. Barley and Cardiovascular Disease. Go Barley Technical Sheet. Cited July 28 2014 Tech Sheet
2)California Almonds – Almond Board of California. Cited July 28 2014
3)Haddad, et al. A Pecan Enriched Diet Increases Y-Tocopherol/Cholesterol and Decreases Thiobarbituric Acid Reactive Substances in Plasma of Adults. Nutrition Research. August 2006. 26:397-402.
4)I Love Pecans – Health Professionals Educators Nutritional Research. Cited July 28 2014 I love pecans