Canadian researchers have highlighted barley's positive impact on the cholesterol that is bad for us. They found that this fiber-rich cereal brings about a 7 per cent reduction in two types of bad cholesterol -- LDL and non-HDL -- that are associated with cardiovascular risk.

According to a recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, barley acts in a similar way to oats in that it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease linked to two types of bad cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and non-high density lipoprotein (non-HDL).

The study, which covered seven countries, suggests that the cholesterol-lowering effect of this fiber-rich cereal could be of particular benefit to type 2 diabetes sufferers who have high levels of cholesterol -- particularly non-HDL -- but also healthy people.

Barley has twice as much protein and half the calories of oats, which could be an important consideration for people who have weight or dietary concerns.

Both of these cereals have high levels of beta-glucan, a viscous soluble fiber. Just 3g of this fiber per day (equivalent to 30-40g of oats or barley) has a lowering effect on total cholesterol and LDL.

The 14 clinical trials carried out in seven different countries showed that patients' levels of bad cholesterol were lowered by 7 per cent.

Over the past ten years, barley consumption has dropped by 35% worldwide. Canada is one of the world's top five barley producers with almost 10 megatonnes per year -- but human consumption only accounts for 2 per cent of production. Barley is part of the Canadian strategy for reducing cardiovascular risk.

Oats and barley, which are also packed with vitamins and minerals, are available in various forms: bran, flour, whole or crushed grains, and flakes. They can be worked into any meal of the day. Recommended fiber consumption is an average is of 30g per day.

Eating fiber-rich bread is another option. To meet the recommended daily requirements, only 10% of the wheat flour in bread needs to be replaced by barley bran.