With the current news about inorganic arsenic found in rice and rice products, many of you may be looking for healthy alternatives that combine nutrition and flavor. If so, I’d suggest you try barley. Barley is a grain that has a nutty flavor similar to brown rice. It is a great source of fiber and protein, low in fat and cholesterol free. It also provides many vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. In addition, barley has a low Glycemic Index (GI), which means that it is digested slowly, thus not causing a spike in blood sugar levels. But beware! Barley contains gluten, so if you have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, you should discuss it with your health care provider before introducing it into your diet. For a whole grain alternative to brown rice, look for minimally processed varieties such as hulled or hulless barley. Pearl barley undergoes more processing, so it loses some of its nutritional content and is not considered to be a whole grain.

The good news is that it is as versatile as rice. You can use barley in soups, stir fries, salads, or pilafs. Following is a simple recipe to get you started.

In a pressure cooker, put 2 cups of barley and enough water or chicken broth (for more flavor) to cover the grains. Close the pan and cook it for 20 minutes (start counting only after it starts making noise). After 20 minutes, turn off the heat, but don’t open the pan. Wait until the pressure goes off on its own. This way the grains will soak up the remaining water. Add extra virgin olive oil and chopped parsley and then serve.