Beta glucans are a type of fiber that provides many health benefits. They are found in foods like oats, wheat, and barley.
Specifically, beta glucans may be able to support the immune system thanks to its unique makeup.
This article will explain what beta glucans are, why they benefit our health, how they help immune function, as well as ways to add beta glucans into your diet.
What is a Beta Glucan?
Before understanding what a beta glucan is, it’s important to have an understanding of the two main types of fiber: soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance that can help digestion, reduce cholesterol, and help manage blood sugar levels. On the other hand, insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water but draws water into the intestines to help bulk up stool.
Beta glucan is a specific type of soluble dietary fiber.
Once in the digestive tract, most beta glucans are fermentable and act as a prebiotic, which means they feed the good gut bacteria and stimulate the growth and flora of the intestinal bacteria. A healthy gut bacteria environment is a key component of optimal health and immunity.
The beta glucan molecule itself is a polysaccharide, meaning it’s a large molecule made of many smaller sugar molecules.
Are Beta Glucans Good for the Immune System?
In short, the answer is yes. Beta glucans have been shown to boost the immune system in a variety of ways, which will be explained below.
Although more research is needed, there’s promising research to suggest that beta glucans may be one of the top immune-supporting phytonutrients. Largely due to their bioactive properties, beta glucans can directly target the immune system in a few ways.
In fact, it’s been found that beta glucans can activate important immune cells and protect the body against infections (1).
How Do Beta Glucans Work for Immunity?
Research shows that beta glucans are rich in antioxidants and have a special ability to help modulate the immune system. This helps strengthen our body’s immune defense by improving the function of immune cells to fight off disease (2).
What’s more, beta glucans can help reduce inflammation which is a key factor in keeping the immune system strong. With less inflammation, the body’s immune system can work more efficiently (3).
Additionally, studies show that beta glucans increase immune cell activity by ramping up certain immune cells like macrophages and neutrophils.
Other Health Benefits of Beta Glucans
Improving gut health is likely one of the most stand-out benefits of beta glucans. Certain beta glucans – such as those from oats and barley – are soluble fibers and therefore support regular digestion.
Plus, beta glucans contain prebiotics which feeds the good gut bacteria in the intestines and help support a healthy bacterial environment.
Some studies show that beta glucans can help improve gas and bloating in those with Irritable bowel syndrome, however, more research is needed (4).
Improves Blood Sugar
Similar to other types of fibers, beta glucans have also been shown to help manage healthy blood sugar levels. Beta glucans can improve fasting blood sugar and improve long-term blood sugar regulation (5, 6).
Consuming beta glucans may even be associated with a reduced risk for developing type 2 diabetes (7).
How exactly do beta glucans improve blood sugar?
This largely comes down to how they are absorbed and digested. Because beta glucans move slowly through the gastrointestinal tract, the absorption into the bloodstream is, therefore, more gradual, and causes less of a spike in blood sugar.
It’s also been found that adding beta-glucans to meals that contain carbohydrates can lower blood sugar and insulin levels (8).
In addition to keeping blood sugar in check, beta glucans may help improve heart health and protect against heart disease (9).
This is mainly because the fiber in beta glucans has a specific impact on reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol, and it’s known that lower LDL levels are associated with a reduced risk for heart disease.
Like other sources of soluble fiber, when beta glucans are moving slowly through the intestines, they can carry excess cholesterol out with it.
It was found that just consuming 3 grams of beta glucans daily resulted in a reduction in both LDL and total cholesterol (10).
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Consuming beta glucans can also help you maintain a healthy weight.
Thanks to the high fiber content, beta glucans will help keep you full and satisfied. One study found that those who consume beta glucans from breakfast cereal had lower body weight compared to those who didn’t consume beta glucans (11).
Additionally, beta glucans are rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds which can be supportive of a healthy metabolism and healthy weight. It’s been found that higher levels of inflammation – especially in the gut – may be associated with weight gain (12).
What are Good Sources of Beta-Glucans?
There are several foods that contain beta glucans. It’s also quite simple to consume beta glucans from supplements as well.
Beta glucans are found in several cereals and grains, as well as yeasts and some mushrooms.
Here is a list of foods that are good sources of beta glucans (13):
It can be challenging to consume adequate beta glucans from food sources, especially for someone with an allergy to wheat or gluten, for example.
Luckily, it’s super simple to consume beta glucans in supplement form. Our immunity and wellness formula is a blend of immune-boosting ingredients and contains 500mg of beta glucans from Brewer’s Yeast.
The powerful properties of the beta glucans are enhanced from the immune-boosting vitamins, minerals, and reishi mushrooms.
The Bottom line on Beta Glucans and Immunity
Beta glucans are a type of soluble fiber that have many health benefits ranging from improving heart health, managing blood sugar, enhancing gut health, and of course boosting immunity.
Beta glucans can be consumed from food sources like oats or barley, as well as in supplement form.
While more research needs to be done to better understand the impact of beta glucans on the immune system, the current evidence is promising that beta glucans can strengthen the body’s immune response.
Thanks to beta glucans’ ability to activate immune cells, reduce inflammation, and provide immune-supporting phytonutrients, they definitely play an important role in keeping us strong and healthy.
While it’s most important to consume a diet that provides adequate energy and nutrients, adding beta glucans to your diet or supplement routine may offer an added boost to your health and well-being.