Given it is Valentines day, I thought it only be fitting to discuss protecting our heart from any pain. I thought going on from last weeks post around heart healthy foods, we would take it one step deeper and discuss how exactly some of these foods work in our body to help our heart. It can’t hurt to understand the physiology a little more can it?
You may be wondering what the big deal is about this so called ‘beta-glucan’. If you flip over a box of cereal containing oats, I can almost guarantee that there will be a claim around it! (please do not hold that against me if you do not see one though!) There has been a lot of hype about how it can help your heart by helping reduce blood cholesterol and boosting your immune system, which clearly is all great news! But what exactly is it?
Beta glucan is a soluble fibre (which simply means it binds to the bile acid in the gut known as LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and limits its absorption back into the body). The soluble fibre that binds to the bile acid passes through the digestive tract and is eliminated as body waste. This means less bad cholesterol circulating in your body and less risk of developing heart disease in the future. Souble fibre also slows down stomach emptying and will make you feel fuller for longer.
So where can you get it from? Well, beta-glucan can be found in all cereal wholegrains, but the best source comes from the wholegrains barley and oats. Australia currently has no recommended daily intake set for beta- glucan, although in the US and UK the recommendations for beta glucan are set at 3g each day (to give you a rough estimate-100g of rolled wholegrain oats contain approximately 4g of beta-glucan).
Some easy and practical ways to increase your intake of beta-glucan in your diet include; choosing breakfast cereals and breads that contain oats and/or barley (Goodness Superfoods Heart 1st breakfast cereal is specifically formulated to be particularly high in both these grains). Add oats into your baking- they work great in muffins, biscuits, crumbles and slices. Or add barley into hearty savoury dishes, as they work great in these, for example in chunky soups and casseroles.
So in a nutshell by eating foods containing beta- glucan (oats and barley) you will be looking after your health- especially your heart health. The other health benefits you may experience include better digestive regularity (which is important for maintaining good gut health and will assist in the removal of bad toxins in your body. It can even reduce your risk of some cancers (stomach and colon cancer). Aim to increase your intake of beta-glucan and know that you are looking after your health. Here is a link to one of Niel Perrys bircher muesli recipes containing oats .
How do you get your beta glucan in every day?