Mushrooms are some of the most nutritionally dense and healthiest foods you can eat! One of the main reasons that mushrooms are so healthy is due to their high concentration of mushroom beta glucans. Mushroom beta glucans provide a lot of benefits, from helping boost immunity to promoting heart health. Read on to learn more about beta glucans benefits and how you can incorporate mushroom beta glucans into your diet.
What are beta glucans?
Beta glucans are a type of soluble fiber that are found in cell walls of a variety of foods such as certain yeasts, bacteria, fungi, algae (like seaweed), along with other plants like oats, barley, wheat, rye, and mushrooms. Medicinal mushrooms like reishi, turkey tail, shiitake and maitake.
are prized for their high concentration of beta glucans. As a soluble fiber, beta glucans turn into gel as they dissolve in the digestive tract. As such, ingesting beta glucans helps to slow the passage of food through the digestive tract, giving your body the time it needs to break down and assimilate nutrients from your foods.
Beta Glucan Benefits
Boosts Immune Health
Beta glucans have been found in both the bacterial and fungal cell walls of mushrooms, and have been shown to initiate an antimicrobial immune response. Specifically, beta glucans, typically called Biological Response Modifiers, act on immune receptors to trigger production and activity of immune cells like macrophages, neutrophils, monocytes, and natural killer cells. This means that both innate and adaptive immunity are affected. Biological Response Modifiers can help spur immune activity in response to a pathological threat, and turn down overactive immune systems as seen in folks with autoimmune conditions.
The immunomodulatory properties from beta glucans primarily depend on the source they have been extracted from, and the delivery mechanism. Studies show that oral consumption of mushroom beta glucans offers the best delivery, and is able to stimulate not only immunity;, but metabolic activity as well.
Additionally, some research on medicinal mushrooms and their link in preventing or treating cancer has focused on the different active compounds within the mushrooms, including specifically beta glucans and their immunomodulatory mechanisms. In one study, beta glucan rich reishi mushroom was used as an alternative therapy for treating cancer. Researchers believe that the mechanism of action is both through the immunomodulatory actions and direct cytotoxic effect on cancer cells.
Improved Gut Health
Beta glucan benefits also includes support for gut health. As a soluble fiber, when mushroom beta glucans pass through our digestive tract, they help bulk up stools, promoting regularity. Additionally, beta glucans are prebiotics, helping to feed the good bacteria and modulate healthy gut flora and microbiome.
Gut flora are actually responsible for producing many of the chemicals that regulate physiological and mental processes, including making most of the serotonin our body creates. So, supplementing with beta glucans can also help regulate our mood!
Helps Regulate Blood Sugar Levels
Beta glucans can also help slow the absorption of both sugar and fats into the bloodstream which can assist in the modulation of both blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels. Specifically, mushroom derived beta glucan has been shown to reduce blood sugar concentrations after oral administration, helping stabilize blood sugar over time.
Another beta glucan benefit is that by reducing blood sugar concentrations, beta glucans can help lower the feeling of hunger and decrease appetite, something that is helpful to diabetics and anyone who is looking to control their appetite.
Improved Heart Health
Mushroom beta-glucans can help improve heart health in several ways. First of all, beta-glucans have been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol and increase HDL, ultimately helping to support healthy cholesterol levels. Additionally, Shiitake derived Beta-glucan has been shown as helpful in reducing hypertension. In one study, scientists found that consumption of the whole shiitake mushrooms in addition to a water extract was helpful in decreasing blood pressure.
Additional research on dietary intake of beta-glucans in relation to diabetes has found that supplementing with beta-glucans can help reduce the risk factors for diabetes, and can benefit the treatment of both the illness and its related symptoms such as diabetic retinopathy, nephropathy, and neuropathy and heart disease and cerebrovascular and peripheral vascular disease. One study gave patients beta glucan for six weeks and found that it helped to modulate the pro-cytokines that increase obesity, reduced blood pressure and waist circumference- all strong risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.
And, another beta glucans benefit is that it can even help with exercise recovery. Studies on mushroom beta glucan supplementation showed reduced recovery time from exercise, as well as increased oxygen uptake both during and after exercise.
How To Add Mushroom Beta Glucans To Your Diet
Some of the highest sources of mushroom beta glucans are shiitake, maitake, reishi, shimeji and oyster varieties. There are lots of healthy and delicious ways to add these mushrooms to your diets-from soups to stir fries. Another way to get mushroom beta glucans is in powdered form or in supplements. These can be taken orally or mixed into smoothies, coffees or hot water.
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