Looking at the fiber as a whole, only around five percent of Americans eat the recommended daily amount according to national consumer surveys. You can bet beta glucan intake is much lower than that.
The world of fiber is wide—There are many different types, each with its own health benefits. Eating enough of each type will help you reach your total daily fiber goals, reaping all those important benefits for heart and gut health.
How beta glucan benefits your health
First things first: fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is mainly divided into two groups: insoluble and soluble. When consumed, insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and moves through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract intact. Soluble fiber, on the other hand, dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance as it moves through the GI tract. Both types of fiber serve very important purposes and improve health in unique ways. More on that later.
Beta glucan is a type of soluble fiber that is normally found in the cell walls of fungi, bacteria, yeast, and some plants. It is also a polysaccharide, which is a long-chain carbohydrate and the most abundant type of carbohydrate found in food.
So what is all this hype about? Beta glucan has been It has been shown to benefit our health in a variety of ways.. One of which is the maintenance and improvement of heart health. Like other types of soluble fiber, beta glucan actually binds to cholesterol in the small intestine, moves through the rest of the GI tract, and is eliminated, rather than absorbed by the body. Beta glucan intake has also been associated with lowering blood pressure.
Beta glucan is also a powerful immune booster. As a type of fiber, it helps build a healthy gut microbiome, which we know is a key component to overall immune health. Beta glucan has also been used as an effective aid in the treatment of wound healing, allergies, respiratory infections, and even cancer. So much so that beta glucan isolates were licensed as immunoadjuvant therapy drugs for cancer in Japan in 1980 and are still used today.
Furthermore, beta glucan is associated with better outcomes for people with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. This is because it increases insulin sensitivity and reduces spikes in blood sugar after eating. Beta glucan also contributes to overall glycemic control, meaning that people who consume this type of fiber tend to have an easier time controlling their blood sugar levels over an extended period of time.
Due to these findings, beta glucan has become a nutritional recommendation for metabolic syndrome, cancer, diabetes, heart disease treatment, and more. But it is what’s more a great dietary supplement for those who already lead a healthy and disease-free lifestyle.
Foods rich in beta-glucan
Depending on your goals, you should ideally consume at least four to eight grams of beta glucan per day. While there are beta glucan supplements available, it’s always best to get your daily dose from food. Here are six foods that will help you do just that.
Mushrooms are really getting the attention they deserve these days. Packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and unique compounds like adaptogens, there are plenty of reasons to include them in your diet. Reishi and shiitake mushrooms are particularly rich in beta-glucans, providing up to half a gram per 3/4 cup (uncooked).
As if you needed any more reasons to love your morning bowl of oatmeal, oats are one of the most nutrient-dense foods out there. In addition to beta glucan, oatmeal is loaded with protein, B vitamins like folate and thiamin, and minerals like manganese, phosphorous, and magnesium. This combination offers lasting energy and optimal health. Oatmeal is also one of the best sources of beta glucan available to us, with three grams per 1 1/2 cups cooked.
Your favorite popcorn topping has so much more to offer than just a dairy-free cheese flavor. It is very popular with vegans because it provides important B vitamins that are hard to find outside of animal products, such as riboflavin, vitamin B6, niacin, and especially vitamin B12. As little as two tablespoons of nutritional yeast can offer up to half a gram of beta glucan.
Wheat has gotten a bad rap over the years; the important nutrients it provides are often overlooked. For those who can tolerate gluten, wheat is packed with manganese, B vitamins, and the ever-elusive selenium. Plus, it’s an excellent source of beta glucan, with a cup of whole wheat flour providing an impressive two grams. Drink hot for those who are sensitive (not allergic!) to gluten: try sourdough bread. The fermentation process helps predigest gluten, making it much easier on the stomach.
Seaweed is in fashion right now, And for good reason. From nori to wakame, kombu to seaweed, sea lettuce to spirulina and everything in between, it’s undeniable that seaweed is downright delicious. But beyond its taste, edible seaweed is incredibly good for us. Seaweed is actually one of the best available sources of iodine, essential for healthy thyroid function. It is also, of course, a great source of beta glucan, and the amount depends on the type of seaweed and how it was grown.
It’s time to get that barley out of the bottom of the pantry, because it has one of the best sources of beta glucan available to us. Its beta glucan content can be up to 11.5 percent of the total volume, with one cup of cooked barley containing two and a half grams of beta glucan. Plus, it’s packed with antioxidants, making barley a powerhouse for immune health.
With all the benefits it offers, it would be foolish not to bet on beta glucan for your health. Start by trying to include at least one beta-glucan-rich food in your diet each day.