Bean and Barley Salad Recipe: Healthy and Diabetes-Friendly

Barley salad is perfect for the warmer weather! And this tasty recipe is good for the heart and good for your blood sugar. Basically, that means that it’s good for all of us and especially for people with diabetes or prediabetes. Beans and barley both top my list of foods for blood sugar and cholesterol management. And here’s why.

Bean and Barley Salad Recipe with Lemon

Such a refreshing salad!

Studies show that eating beans and other legumes is good for fasting blood sugar in both the short-term and the long-term. Not only are legumes full of plant protein, they also contain the blood pressure-friendly minerals potassium and magnesium. Plus they have B vitamins and dietary fiber, including a special type called resistant starch. When our gut bacteria get hold of resistant starch, they produce compounds that improve the way we use insulin.

Barley contains another important type of fiber. This one is beta-glucan, a soluble fiber which improves insulin action and lowers blood sugar levels. It also lowers blood cholesterol levels by sweeping cholesterol from your digestive tract. Want to know how to get the other types of fiber that we need? Check out What You Need to Know about High-Fiber Foods.

Beans, barley and vegetables: a trifecta of foods for #prediabetes and #diabetesClick To Tweet

A slightly different version of this bean and barley salad first appeared in Diabetes Weight Loss – Week by Week, my first book. I’ve made minor changes in this one, including shrinking the portion size. Feel free, however, to serve up a larger portion as a main dish salad.

Bean and Barley Salad in Bowls

Bean and Barley Salad Recipe: Healthy and Diabetes-Friendly

When you drain and rinse canned beans, you wash away about 40% of the sodium. I prefer long-cooking barley because I think it tastes better, but if you have a preferred brand of fast-cooking barley, feel free to use it. If you use the diabetes exchanges for meal planning, count them this way: 1 Starch, 1 Fat
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Course: Salad: Side Dish or Main Dish
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 10 side salads
Calories: 145kcal
Author: Jill Weisenberger MS, RDN, CDE, FAND


  • 2 cups cooked pearled, barley (prepared without salt)
  • 3 ounces baby spinach, torn (about 4 - 5 cups whole baby spinach leaves), remove tough stems if any
  • 1 6- ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (about ¾ cup chopped)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (about 5 - 6 ounces)
  • 1 15- ounce can white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or chopped
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled


  • In a large bowl, mix together the cooked barley, spinach, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and beans.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the oil, lemon juice, garlic and pepper.
  • Pour the dressing over the barley, beans and vegetables and mix well. Chill several hours. Before serving, sprinkle with the feta cheese and mix gently.
  • Variation: Feel free to add any vegetable you like. Shredded carrots are very pretty in this dish.


Serving: 3/4 cup | Calories: 145kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 230mg | Fiber: 4g

Do you have a favorite way to usher in the warmer weather? Let us know!

Cheers to a delicious, happy spring and summer!

Jill Weisenberger

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND, is a Nutrition, Culinary & Diabetes Expert, Wellcoach®-certified health and wellness coach, Freelance Writer, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's also the author of four books, including a best-seller. She's a nationally-recognized media expert in high demand for print and online interviews, as well as corporate and one-on-one nutritional counseling. Jill's philosophy is that nutrition science should be understandable, realistic and oh so delicious.

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Like most of my patients and clients, I lead a busy life. You probably do too. Fortunately, you don’t need weeks, days or even hours to start living better and healthier. This blog offers timesaving strategies and bite-sized nutrition and health information. Come by often for tips and inspiration to healthy living – no matter how busy you are. I am a registered dietitian nutritionist offering credible, practical nutrition advice to keep busy people healthy. Yes indeed, we can be both busy and healthy.

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