Low Glycemic Foods:
Barley Risotto with Asparagus & Shiitakes

There are few grains that get a good ranking on the low glycemic foods list, but barley is one of them. Not only does it come in at 22 on the low glycemic food chart list, but it also possesses lots of healthy nutrients.

Barley is a great source of fiber, and a cup of cooked pearl barley is only 193 calories, so it's good for your waistline too. Barley's vitamins and minerals include thiamine (vitamin B1), niacin (vitamin B3), iron, zinc, magnesium, selenium, copper and phosphorus.

Barley is not only a low glycemic food in itself, but a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown that eating barley at one meal has the effect of lowering insulin sensitivity at the following meal by 30 percent. Another study performed by researchers at the University of Connecticut found that barley was significant in lowering "bad" LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while not significantly affecting "good" HDL cholesterol.

Asparagus is another nutritious part of this low glycemic recipe, chock full of free-radical fighting antioxidants. It is a great source of fiber, folate (vitamin B9), chromium and the vitamins A, C, E and K. It also possesses a compound called inulin, which is an ideal food source for the highly beneficial bacteria in our gut, aiding digestion.

Shiitake mushrooms add a little extra flavor to the risotto, while contributing to the support of a healthy immune system.

Barley Risotto with Asparagus & Shiitakes

Yield 4
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes


5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, halved
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups pearl barley
1 cup dry white wine
1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup (2 oz.) grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Start heating the broth over low heat in a small saucepan. In the meantime, heat 1 tablespoon oil with 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy saucepan over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
  3. Add the barley and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 3 minutes. Add the broth, a ladleful at a time, stirring occasionally and waiting until it is absorbed before adding more.
  4. Add the asparagus with the last 1/2 cup of broth and cook until tender. Stir in the mushrooms. It should take 30 to 35 minutes for all the broth to be absorbed.
  5. Remove from heat, season with the salt and pepper, and stir in the Parmesan, reserving some to sprinkle over the top. Spoon into individual bowls and sprinkle with reserved Parmesan.

Photo: Xymox

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