Intelligent ageing from the inside out, as naturopathic nutritional therapist Bex Sullivan muses over the health benefits of including beta-glucans in your diet.

Thanks to the deluge of advertisements we are subjected to on the goggle box, you may have heard of the cardiovascular health benefits of eating beta-glucans. This nutrient crops up time and time again on adverts for breakfast cereals and porridge, but do these increasingly well known nutrients actually live up to the hype surrounding them?

shiitake-mushrooms-fresh-wholeWell, yes indeed they do! Beta-glucans are actually a very diverse group of polysacharrides. There are two main types of beta-glucan we get from our diet and both have pretty superb health benefits. They are both a type of fibre, but with very different structures and properties.

Oats, barley and other whole grains contain beta 1-3 1-4 glucan which does a pretty effective job of lowering LDL cholesterol levels (the not so favourable one). This soluble fibre dissolves in the digestive tract forming a thick gel which then by binds to the excess cholesterol in the gut preventing the body from reabsorbing it. In-fact, eating just three grams a day of this soluble fibre can help to reduce cholesterol levels by 5-10% and also go some way to lowering blood pressure too. A double health whammy for cardiovascular health!

And there’s more… This viscous gel also slows down the uptake of nutrients from food in the small intestine, including glucose. This helps prevent a spike in blood sugar and insulin production and so may help in the management of diabetes type two and other insulin resistant conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome. A stable blood sugar level also helps to keep energy levels up throughout the day and promotes a good night sleep.

All great stuff so far and the health benefits of a diet rich in beta glucans doesn’t stop here. Unlike the soluble type found in oats and whole grains the beta 1-3 1-6 glucan is an insoluble fibre and has very different health promoting properties.

This beta-glucan is found most abundantly in the cell walls of bakers yeast (yes the stuff used to leaven bread) and some mushrooms like reishi, shiitake and maitake. Many studies have been carried out on this brilliant carb and it has been proven to stimulate the immune system giving our bodies greater ability to fight pathogens such as the flu virus. Further studies are currently being carried out to investigate the potential cancer fighting properties this type of beta-glucan may have. So far the results have been very promising.

So try starting your day with a bowl of steaming porridge or a more summer friendly bowl of bircher muesli and follow that up with a colourful stir-fry full of delicious shiitake and reishi mushrooms for lunch. You’ll be giving your heart and immune system a real kick start in the right direction! A diet rich in the different types of beta-glucan is an easy and delicious way to really boost your overall health, so go for it and start feeling the benefits!

Thanks for your top nosh tips on how to eat your way to ‘intelligent ageing’ Bex! If you fancy making your own muesli, click here for a recipe I prepared earlier 😉 

If you have any questions for Bex or, would like her to investigate a naturopathic nutritional therapy topic in the name of ‘intelligent ageing’, please leave your comment below.



**If you’d like a private consultation with Bex, she can be contacted at**

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