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Beta glucans are a form of naturally occurring fibre which is found in the cell walls of foods such as oats, algae, mushrooms, barley and rye. One of the most soluble forms of fibre in your diet, they’re gel-like in texture and can also be found in the pectin in fruit. Soluble brand, in addition to the ‘roughage’ we’ve been told is good for our health, is also necessary for a healthy diet – this form dissolves and passes through the gut more easily. So, why do we need beta glucans? It’s been proven that they can help to lower cholesterol, as the gel-like texture helps to bind cholesterol together in the gut so that it can be passed through the digestive tract as waste.
Beta glucans have many more health benefits besides just aiding cholesterol. They’ve also been proven to help balance blood sugars, through slowing down the absorption of sugars from food, which can be useful to those trying to manage their insulin levels. People with metabolic syndrome, which has a variety of symptoms including high blood pressure, high insulin levels and high blood sugars, could also benefit from beta glucans.
If you’re already on medication, you should ensure that the changes to your diet are gradual. There are many ways you can add beta glucans to your diet, such as added a few tablespoons of pearl barley to stews and casseroles. Heat and moisture can damage the beta glucans, so you should process them as little as possible – rolling and flaking are thought to cause the least amount of damage. You could also opt for muesli for breakfast, which is made up of oats, as well as adding them to other cereals. You could also look out for speciality breads, or snack on oatcakes.