It turns out fiber is not as easy as soluble versus insoluble. There are several different types of fibers that fall under each category, all varying at the molecular level. They even vary in terms of their health benefits. One type of fiber researchers have been focusing on lately for its blood glucose and cholesterol lowering effects is beta-glucan.
Beta-glucan is a polymer found in cereal cell walls, such as oats and barley, mushrooms, such as reishi, shiitake, maitake, or yeasts, seaweed, and algae.
How They Work?
As they pass through the small intestine, you can say beta-glucans kill two birds with one stone: they regulate the immune system and your blood sugar.
The digestive tract can accurately be named the headquarters of the immune system. This is where the majority of our immunity comes from and this is where beta-glucans concentrate their efforts. Although beta-glucans are known for fighting cancer and infections, they don’t directly kill cancer cells. Beta-glucans tune up the immune system as they pass through the intestinal tract. Like a motivational company supervisor, they inspect, interact with, and stimulate the immune system cells directly. This contributes to a more efficient workforce of macrophages and white blood cells (called lymphocytes). For example, shitake mushrooms have a type of beta-glucan called lentinan that is believed to slow down or stop tumor growth.
In the process, they also form a gel in the small intestine like most soluble fibers do. This gel formation helps delay the delivery of glucose to the bloodstream, thus preventing a spike in insulin. Studies have shown that beta-glucans can also lower blood cholesterol levels by 5-8%.
Compared to a diet with no beta-glucans, beta-glucans can also reduce appetite and increase satiety after a meal.
How to get it?
Beta-glucans aren’t the only secret weapon to solving every health problem. However, they are a crucial weapon in the fight against disease. It’s easy to get an adequate supply of beta-glucans if you eat a diet free of processed carbohydrates. Oats and barley are the most abundant sources. Even algae has been shown to contain beta-glucans. To help make plant fibers part of your daily diet, EnergyFirst’s Greenergy powder has a good source of dietary plant fiber from an overwhelming list of green superfoods, include barley grass, organic kale, organic spinach, spirulina, and algae.
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