Beta-Glucan: Your Daily Bread
Health conscious eaters have many different dietary needs. Whether you're gluten-free, vegan, or just trying to avoid a sugar overload in your diet, one staple that may help is beta glucan powder.
Beta-Glucan: What Is It?
Beta glucan is a type of soluble fiber which is readily found in oat and barley grain as well as some types of mushrooms and algaes. Like all fibers, it forms a natural component of cell walls and is largely indigestible. Because fiber is not digested in the stomach, it passes through the body’s digestive tract without being absorbed. This allows it to play several key roles in maintaining general health.
Beta Glucans are the Superstars of Fiber
If you’ve done any research about dietary fiber, you probably know that it comes in two varieties: soluble and insoluble. Both of these are valuable and important parts of a healthy diet, and yet many people don’t understand the difference between them.
When soluble fiber enters our stomach, it dissolves and forms a sort of gel. Imagine squeezing toothpaste through a hose. What would happen? Well, you might get most of the toothpaste out the other end, but some would remain behind, coating the interior of the hose. In essence, this is how soluble fiber acts as it passes through our digestive tract.
Beta glucan is a soluble fiber.
As its name implies, insoluble fiber does not dissolve. As insoluble fiber passes through our digestive tract, it attracts water to the stool like a sponge, making it easier to pass. Getting enough insoluble fiber in your diet can help promote bowel health and regularity as well as general gut health.
3 Health Benefits of Beta Glucans
Regulate Your Blood Sugar with Beta Glucan
After being broken down in the stomach, our food passes through our digestive tract where nutrients are absorbed into our systems. However, you’ll remember that soluble fibers such as beta glucan apply a gel-like coating to the interior of our digestive tract. This coating slows absorption, including that of sugars, into the bloodstream.
This can be helpful for people with diabetes or who are looking to avoid diabetes. According to one study, “Increased consumption of cereal [dietary fiber] significantly reduced diabetes risk. . . [and] a 2-serving-per-day increment in whole grain consumption may reduce diabetes risk by 21%.”
Eat Oats for Reduced Cholesterol Levels
The benefits of beta glucan for cholesterol regulation are widely understood. If you’ve ever seen a box of cereal or oatmeal with a big heart on it labeling the product as “heart healthy,” it’s likely that the product is in beta glucans. In fact, the FDA has approved the claim that beta glucans can lower cholesterol by 5-8%.
How Beta Glucan Helps You Lose Weight
Because beta glucan slows digestion, it can also lead to a longer lasting feeling of fullness after eating. This means less cravings, less grazing and snacking, and less calories consumed without having to feel like you’re starving yourself.
One study found that increasing daily fiber intake by only 12g was associated with a 10% reduction in calorie intake. In other words, when you get more fiber, you eat less without even thinking about it!
Other studies suggest an inverse relationship between fiber intake and body weight. English please! All this means is that as your fiber intake goes up, your body weight is likely to go down! But remember, all things in moderation. There is definitely such a thing as getting too much fiber.
If you want to increase your fiber intake, the best way to do it is gradually. Little by little, add more fiber to your diet and don’t forget to drink plenty of water as you do!
Are You Getting Enough Beta-Glucan?
Dietary sources of beta glucans include:
- Oats and whole grains
- Reishi, maitake, and shiitake mushrooms
For those looking to increase their beta glucan intake without adding a second bowl or breakfast cereal or oatmeal to your routine, supplements are available as a quick and easy way to make sure that you’re getting what you need.
Beta-Glucan Fiber for Improved Health
Getting enough fiber is a huge part of living a healthy life. It helps our bodies maintain healthy levels of blood sugar and cholesterol and promotes gut health and regularity.