Salad Greens with Barley & Chickpeas

Did you know that you can lower and manage your cholesterol with diet? Fiber in the diet is key! But.. WHAT IS FIBER?

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Plants contain materials that our bodies are unable to digest and that material is what we call FIBER! Fiber is in all plant sources such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

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Best known for its ability to relieve and prevent constipation, Insoluble fibers are course, chewy materials that adds bulk to our diet, leaving us more satisfied after a meal. They are often referred to as roughage. These fibers help improve motility and has been shown to help decrease you risk for intestinal cancer by increasing the movement of foods and toxins through your digestive tract, leaving less time for harmful substances to build.
Soluble fibers form sticky substances such as gums and gels. These fibers slow the movement of food through the digestive tract often helping to control blood sugar levels after meals. They have also been shown to be beneficial in lowering LDL or “bad” cholesterol in our body. This can help lower your risk for heart disease.

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The American Dietetic Association recommends Americans eat at least 22-38 grams of fiber a day. The average American is eating a lot less, around 10-15 grams of dietary fiber a day!

Increasing your fiber intake may be easier than you think! Here are a few ideas to get you thinking of ways to incorporate fiber in your diet:

• Instead of white rice and pasta, mix brown and long grain rice or try whole grain or whole wheat pasta/tortilla for a new flavor that’s loaded with nutrients!
• Don’t peel your fruits and vegetables. The skin contains fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.
• Switch to 100% whole wheat bread, bagels, crackers, etc.
• Add on a “fist-full” or more of vegetables to your evening meal.
• Try rolled oats or crushed, unsweetened whole grain cereal as breading for baked chicken, fish, veal, or eggplant Parmesan, or mixed into meatloaf or my Parmesan Meatballs
• Try to include three fruit servings as dessert, snacks, or with breakfast. (ex. Apple w/ peanut butter, yogurt w/ berries, dried fruit in salads, cereal with milk and bananas.)
• Look for stone ground whole wheat, whole wheat flour, whole oat flour, or whole grain wheat as the first ingredient in your bread.

As you begin to increase fiber in your diet, the rule of thumb is to increase your water intake as well. Fiber has the ability to absorb water, therefore as you increase the fiber in your diet, be sure to increase the amount of fluids you consume.  Your tummy with thank you (and you will thank me!)

Salad Greens
with Barley and Chickpeas

1 cup uncooked pearl barley
2 cups fat free, low sodium vegetable (or chicken) broth
1 cup mixed salad greens 
1 cup finely red or orange bell pepper, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil
1 (15 1/2-ounce) canchickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped pistachios

Cook barley according to package directions, using vegetable broth; omitting salt. Combine barley, bell pepper, tomatoes, and chickpeas in a large bowl. Gently toss with salad greens.

Combine lemon juice, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over barley mixture, and toss. Sprinkle with pistachios. 

Nutrition Information:
Serves 4; 1 1/2 cup each
Calories: 370
Fat: 10 g
Carbohydrates: 60 g
Fiber: 12.4 g
Protein: 10.1 g

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